It’s a beautiful autumn day outside, top of 4 degrees today and slightly overcast . I see college students (super intelligent) criss-crossing the green lawn, kicking the brownish leaves, on their way to class. An American flag gently waves in the background. This is what an American college campus feels like, and I love it!
Since arriving at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, I’ve been warmly embraced into this campus life. I’ve literally jumped into classes, often not knowing exactly what the classes are or what I was required to do, but its often (thankfully) turned out ok. The two classes I’ve been in so far has been ones where there’s a mixture of student levels – from undergrad, postgrad and research candidates. What seems like a pedagogical nightmare to me, fellow colleagues shrug and accept this as how it is here. The breadth and depth that the students are required to perform at is also very interesting. For example, I took part in a class run by Kristin Hughes, Bruce Hanington and Tim (forgot his last name). This class is called “Design and Policy for Humanitarian Impact”. It has 20 students split into 8 project teams, a mix of design grad and undergrads, and some from the Heinz school of public policy, and a few from HCI, Engineering, etc. The inter-disciplinary mix was fascinating to see, and each group had to research an issue of their choice, which was very meaty and rich. I was really impressed by the quality of their work and the insights they’ve gained already, though was concerned how they would manage such a huge task in a short timeframe. Big issues like enabling teenagers to discuss sexuality with family members; creating hands-on extra-curricula activities for high schools; combined sewage overflow; addressing cross-cultural discrimination between black African Americans and Black Africans… that the students weren’t afraid to tackle these ‘real-world’ problems was great to see.
I also got to see Aisling’s class on Critical Design. Students had to create a fictitious campaign on any issue of their choice. Many of these were imbued with a wicked sense of humour (’Design your ideal man’ or ‘Electric shocks from a guitar to make you practice to perfection’, ‘A mirror that records and plays back’), and produced very convincingly. Some of them sparked discussions and questions about gender, race, values, privacy, identity… it was all fascinating. I was really amazed by the way the design students weren’t pushed in providing ’solutions’, and as research, provoke questionings and open further avenues. These are great projects that I could learn from.
The presentations I did briefly in Kirstin’s class, Jodi Forlizzi’s class on Service Design, and in Laurene’s class on research methods was received well (I think). In these presentations, I had aimed to emphasise the ‘imperfection’ of methods, showing instances where things went wrong and having to improvise but what you can learn from making those mistakes. Another bug-bear of mine that I spoke about was that methods aren’t always replicable and generalisable. I feel that some of the critique I made, especially about service design had ruffled some feathers… perhaps in a good way?
What is it to be a designer..?
When I was in London recently, Alison and I had a mammoth discussion in the British Library about service design (since we were attempting to write a paper together) and one of the things we touched on is something that I’d like to write more about another day – so here’s some thoughts to get me going (for later).
I can’t quite remember how our conversation began, possibly from me recounting the discussion from PDC12 where there was a concern about the literal separation between ‘designers’ and ‘users’ (and even the term ‘users’ is also problematic, but this will do for now). There is an underlying ideology in participatory design that desires ‘users’ to become ‘designers’, so that the ‘users’ can design for their own context and keep designing after the ‘designers’ exit. This is seen as a form of empowerment.
Alison, in her classic ways, then took a whole detour telling me about her encounter with a dad in Scotland – he was massively overweight, Yorkshire working class, unemployed, chaotic, loud but friendly, his wife also had all sorts of health-problems – long and short of the story is that a middle-class impression of this man could pull him down as a parent lacking aspirational qualities, but he adored his children and they were bright as a button. And here was Alison who had come to the library with me for most of the day, leaving Tate and Flo at home alone, and one could say that she’s not a good parent if asked, what’s more important? In fact she’s a fantastic parent and her brilliant kids are a testament to that. Notions of ‘what is a good parent’ is shaped by class and culture (again – Bourdieu). Alison’s role as a ‘parent’ are qualities that you can’t separate out objectively to name it as a ‘parentness’ thing. Its not fixed.
Could the same be said about ‘what is it to be a designer’? We are shaped by so many things (remember the stew / bolognese pasta sauce analogy) and so how can one separate out certain bits like choice cuts in beef – rump, oyster blade – its not that simple in a person. So, when ‘users’ and ‘designers’ are separated out, I think similar things happen. We point at things as if they can be separated. Sure, technical skills and experiences in designing do count. But when it comes to closely examining what is really design and what is it to be a ‘designer’, I reckon we are deluded by thinking that it can be pointed at. When in fact, its design, because it can’t…?
Just found this really interesting article on ‘public wayfinding’ guerilla signages in N. Carolina.
Service Design conference, Melbourne 2012
The irony of service design is that its so good at selling itself that it doesn’t see that its not very good at being critical of itself (I’ve blogged this elsewhere – SD conference in Oslo, and the SD talk by Shelley Evenson at AIGA, Raleigh, US for example). I think this is symptomatic of a predominantly business-oriented-and-led field, and perhaps a more naive attitude towards research. Since service design (esp. its methods) is centred on design research, I think the lack of understanding and training in research impacts on the designer’s ability to uncover and illuminate insights, and also worryingly threatens to embed their (or their stakeholders) assumptions and biases into the design process and outcome. This can be problematic. It was interesting that a point was made at the conference about not ’showing post-it note pictures’, and its true, that simply showing these doesn’t reveal much. But I think the point is that we do need to be critical and inquisitive in trying to understand what is going on in those ‘post-it’ moments in design. This kinda tells me that we (as designers) are still very poor in doing design research, research of and with others, as well as research on our own practices.
Service design is a pretty demanding field in terms of the skills, experience and training for designers. They’re required to undertake facilitation with people; demonstrate exquisite visualisation and problem-exploration skills; be an persuasive communicator; possess knowledge in marketing, business and organisational (change) management; undertake intuitive thinking married with real-world applied understanding; unravel complexity through systems thinking; and if that’s not enough, be an advocate of ‘customers’, ‘users’, ’stakeholders’, ‘participants’, ‘community members’ – whatever the label applies – in being human-centred. Is to be a service designer akin to being an expert-jack-of-all-trades designer too, and is this really possible? It seems like the ‘T-shape’ person analogy may not be enough.
The ‘feral-ness’ that I referred to in the SD12 talk wasn’t meant to be taken as a negative – and I hope it wasn’t. In fact, I thought that was what made Australia’s SD community interesting and vibrant. It is a wild, rough, ‘frontier’ that is still being carved out by practitioners who have learnt their skills through the ’school of hard knocks’, rather than being taught ‘formally’ through an education system. It is as diverse as the number of designers practicing in them, and they bring their own unique ‘take’ on it. The sense I get from Europe (esp. Scandinavians, who love purity of methodology) likes to define ‘what is’ and ‘what isn’t’ service design, and though that’s a start to an interesting polemic discussion, it actually ends up with a form of ‘elitism’ that excludes things that don’t ‘fit’ neatly into pre-defined fields. If service design is truly human-centred, it will naturally reflect the ‘messiness’ of it too. Because design can dangerously over-emphasise uniformity, efficiency and productivity, I think ‘feral-ness’ is a great balance in promoting diversity. I’m a big fan of diversity!
I’ve been ‘banging’ on about the uniqueness of this corner of the world, which I think is really obvious to outsiders (though I’d like to think I’m an ‘adopted Australian’). SMEs being a bigger segment of the economy make it an ideal condition for ’start-ups’ to get going, including designers forming their own businesses (and perhaps this is indicative of the rapid growth in SD). There is a strong willingness to embrace multi-culturalism, which brings a different kind of issues related to human-centredness, say, in comparison to places like Scandinavia where its relatively homogeneous. There is stronger awareness on environmental issues, concern for energy use and connection to the land and country than any other developed nations, and we see this surfacing commonly in every-day conversations. Worryingly, there is more ‘anti-intellectualism’ that’s prevalent here than any other places I experienced, which can often paint academics in a negative light (which is a stark contrast to a place like Japan where they’re often ‘worshipped’) – and could this be impacting on a) designers valuing a postgraduate qualification b) critical thinking is not strongly reflected in practice and c) going back to my original concern about the lack of design research skills in service design? It seems to perpetuate a negative cycle if we are unaware of the important things that’s going on in practice if practice is the only (best) way we can learn about service design.
Dialogue and reflective practice is good way to short-circuit this cycle and begin a process of self/collective awareness-rasiing. I found these blogs to be quite refreshing in their candidness in capturing the service design conference.
Penny Hagen’s smallfire blog
Trent Mankelow from Optimal Usability
Mel Edwards and Justin Barrie from DMA
What more does design education need to do…?
We all agree, by now, that in design education, simply teaching methods and technical skill are not enough. Reading this line in ‘This is Service Design Thinking’ (Stickdorn & Schneider 2010) section by Renato Troncon, spun off a few thoughts. He says ‘It is crucial not to teach students only how to make gloves without ever telling them to practice by shaking hands with their neighbours, or carelessly removing their gloves with the indolence of a great theatre actress; or to study interior furnishing without ever visiting the cell of the historically seminal monk and reformer Savonarola…’ (p. 320) led me to think, then, ‘where do you draw the line’? Life experiences enriches a designer’s approach to design – undergraduate students are often not emotionally ready to engage with certain things – its just that simple. If extra-curricular activities are encouraged at school, why not at Uni/College?
A few other things also came up during the Service Design Network Melbourne Q+A discussion where Michelle stated that design education ‘doesn’t teach implementation’, but my thoughts were, ‘how can it be taught’? Some things are better understood outside of ‘formalised’ classrooms, or taking the apprenticeship model, by simply learning these contexts by jumping into actual work with others. By no means, I am not being defensive – most design undergraduate programs are woeful (and that’s another whole blog post that I can dedicate to) and much work is needed to improve their standards – so I come back to my opening question – where do you draw the line?
What’s so attractive about Service Design?
Why is Service Design attracting so much attention? I thought of several reasons:
1. It’s new – people love anything new and novel.
2. It’s an attempt to situate design firmly as an interdisciplinary practice – not limited by individual disciplinary practices that can only go so far in addressing the complexity inherent in any project scope. It marries the natural synergies that were there before.
3. It’s practical – the emphasis it gives to tools and methods provides a practical approach for designers (and others like service marketing, managers etc) to ‘enter’ into this complexity. It works really well because it provides a sense of simplicity without overwhelming people with the complexity of the ‘wicked problem’. Tools are necessarily stripped of its context to provide that look of simplicity.
4. It ’sells’ – because of the aforementioned points, service design makes tangible the intangible, thereby making it easier for clients to understand the value of. But its not as restrictive as the paradigm used in the traditional disciplines of graphic design or product design where they also prided and valued their tangibility. Service Design adds the extra value because of the value associated with the process, rather than the outcome. Process is far harder to articulate and make sense of – and Service Design has not only given the language to describe it, but had polished the tools to explain and explore it in a nicer, shinier way.
5. Sounds more ‘human’ – Service Design emphasises users, customers, stakeholders a great deal in their rhetoric. True, marketing have talked about them, branding have talked about them, and in many instances, all disciplines of design more or less have talked about them. Though Service Design has really re-oriented itself around people much more – and not for touchy-feely reasons but firmly connected the value of putting people central to the design process as a smart, economic importance to clients. It now makes much more sense to them.
I can probably think of more, but it might be splitting hairs and become a bit repetitive anyway.
So, for those who are already familiar with discourses, case studies, research in Interaction Design, Experience Design, HCI, CSCW, Design ethnography, User-centred Design, Human-centred Design, Participatory Design, Co-design… Service Design is NOT new. Many researchers and practitioners simply roll their eyes at it because what it lacks is depth. Depth is yet to come in Service Design, but the depth that Service Design will reach will not be as great as the depth that has already been reached in all the other fields (whose been doing it since the 60s – both the thinking, the doing, and the debating). This depth is the messy human-dimensions and systemic stuff and probably much more – the stuff that clients can’t pay for (because research is expensive and open-ended) and its often up to the design researchers / academics to study it and articulate it. So what is needed in Service Design is the acknowledgment of (or even integration of) the parallel discourses that are taking place that can inform, accelerate, overcome barriers, make sense of, emphasise, provoke, the new findings and learnings that come out from Service Design. Smart ones are already doing this anyway. The silly ones aggrandises and over-states the value of Service Design (and in the same breath, themselves)…!
What I worry, sometimes, is whether Service Design might end up as a ‘fad’, because it lacks this depth. Or, will there be enough commercial incentive and track-record to survive?
Participatory Design Conference, Sydney 2010
Just came back from a pretty intense but enjoyable PD conference in Sydney. I was really struck by the strong sense of ‘community’ and how people were very supportive of one another. In the closing speech, Toni Robinson (conference chair, UTS) remarked how nervous she was that no one would come to a PDC that is so far away, and that she really apprecaited people from Europe and America in flying this far. Having the opportunity to meet people like Lucy Suchman and Pelle Ehn was fantastic.
What I was also struck by was how open the PD community were in willing to listen to, and to discuss the problematic challenges of PD. This openness was refreshing and totally changed my view from past impression of their exclusive, defensive and rather ‘traditional’ views and approaches. There had been several ‘take home’ thoughts that would be good to mull over and think through more over the next year or so:
Participation is the new black: Technology is facilitating easier, fun and user-led ways for participation. But what is this really enabling? The public are becoming weary of tokenistic ways of participating in projects/decision-making, and that they expect it to be done well. This places more pressure on PD practitioners to ensure that those who are participating are clear in what they are ‘gaining’ or ‘benefiting’ from, and who are they representing/advocating…
Acceptance of complexity: Finally! What we’ve begun seeing is the acknolwedgement of PD (or, just design actually) being messy business. Literal, mechanical framing of design is problematic. Design is inherently complex, serendipitious, uncertain – if attempts were made to rigidly lock it down into a ‘method/ology’ (for it to be sanctioned as PD, for example), you can ‘kill’ what should be adaptive, organic, agile ways of engaging with a complex world. Those in PD are now on the same wavelength – yay! Penny made a really good point on how ‘emergence is hard to sell’ – so when design is based on the unknown and allowing the emergent to take place – how can other stakeholders understand the value of your involvement?
Tensions between user-initiated change and over-facilitation: There was interesting spectrum of papers that talked of projects where they were happy to let things unfold, to projects that had technology that over-facilitated the user-engagement. Interestingly, there were very few papers on the subject of mobilising users (of the Manzini kind) through peer-to-peer facilitation. Majority were ones where participation was actively sought and arranged. In the Service Design panel session, there was a good discussion on ownership, activism and empowerment – how do you catalyse / scaffold synergies for this to happen for true change to take place?
One thing that had really struck me was that we need to take these conversations out into other fields, rather than it remaining only in this PD / design field. Many of the issues driving this is concerns and passion for humanity, active citizenship, respect, social justice and empowerment – all that matters to every sector of our lives. Mariesa (from Inspire) and I had a good chat about this.
Ina Wagners closing key note was particularly interesting in this regard. She questioned what the politics and ‘utopian moments’ that PD is now moving towards. She introduced concepts of creating a ‘civil society’ where ‘residual categories’ (those who are usually marginalised – the very young, the very old, female, poor, disabled, low status groups) and to give voice to them through participation. In that sense, designers are also political and are moral agents, though she pointed out the logistical challenges of being involved in a project long-term – unless your position is institutionalised (eg. in a hospital or a particular organisation). Hence ‘fleeting’ dipping in-and-out of orgs/projects can’t achieve the change that are desired. I was also interested in how she talked about the ‘utopian moment’ – a horizon that is beyond reach, but within view – the creation of a vision/goal can be achieved by imagining an alternative future and distancing oneself from the constraints of the pragmatic and consensual.
Stop doing a Cameron Tonkinwise..!
I should learn to hold my tongue and consider what benefit my critique/comments have to those who I offer it to. I went to a talk by Sarah Schulman and Chris Vanstone today – they used to be a Participle and Red Studios, and now working with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) – a fab new initiative, which Australia so desperately needs – and working on really interesting projects. They were presenting their work and critique of past projects and what they’ve learnt from them, to an audience largely made up of policy makers, to either educate/introduce them to a non-policy-maker way of doing this ie ‘doing things backwards’ (in their words). This ‘backwards’ thing could’ve been made stronger in the introduction by pointing out the ‘normative’ processes of how policy people attempt to solve problems – but anyway, I missed that point until Sarah clarified it through a question that I asked.
The first exercise we were asked to do was to sort through a deck of cards with questions, methodological terminologies, processes and contexts, and to determine whether we have used them or not, and having determined whether we had, to sort them in the order of beginning, middle and end.
It was an interesting ice-breaker that could’ve been better. There was far too many cards to sort from first of all, and many of them had terminologies that could’ve been interpreted in different ways, depending on your familiarity with them. Dianne and I were familiar with most, but the other lady on our group had little knowledge of ‘paper prototyping’, or ’service blue-printing’ etc… making me wonder what the purpose was, if the audience (largely, policy people) didn’t really understand what they were. Some terms, like ‘ethnography’ has a long history and have many contested perspectives – so what does it represent when its printed in DIN Medium on a card?
What could’ve been far more productive (the single-minded propositions!) was to focus on key few methods/processes and describe the value/benefit of them from the actual case studies. Of which they had – they drew on very strong testimonials, observations and learnings that made us believe the power of their story. Clearly, there were rich stories that these methods were used within. Though, it got too much ‘jumbled’ up in the terminologies – and then, far too much emphasis was placed on the linearity of the process on ‘beginning’, ‘middle’, and the ‘end’ of a project, when much of what made their work ’successful’, was the cyclical, iterative process that took place at each stage.
I also had a ‘go’ at this ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’ to indicate that projects can’t often be defined that way – how long is a piece of string and from whose perspective – though Sarah pushed back at this to say that there is often quite a strong sense of this embedded in a project. That’s true – if projects are defined by when the funding is released, and when the funding ends, that’s a really simple timeline of the start and the end. So, if that was how it was going to be framed, clarifying that at the beginning would’ve helped.
I’m not sure if my critique was put well – now that I’ve stepped back, my comments may have been put too strongly as a ‘negative’ critique of what they do, rather than framing it so it can draw out the real richness and insights they were generously trying to impart to the audience. The way they presented their knowledge just needed clarification. Tweaking. Highlighting. Stronger framing. Not to be shot down by me. Bugger.
Its my fault. Too many familiar buttons were pushed – particularly my pet hate with exportable methods, cards and all the rest…! Am I going to continue standing on the outside barracking at these people? Dianne laughed at me after we left, as I regretted that I did a ‘Cameron Tonkinwise’ just then – often ‘correct’ but sometimes not needed or productive.
I hope we get to talk more about this – our community needs to talk more about how to improve the way we promote, present and frame the value of design|research to others.
The AIGA conference
The AIGA is hosting a conference called New Contexts / New Practices based on a discussion and proposition model to discuss the future of design education. This model sounds strangely familiar (New Views 2..?) but what is quite different is the strategic role of people and activities they’ve put in place that will make this quite an exciting one to attend.
My contribution/provocation is on design research :
Design Research – the big ‘R’ and the little ‘r’ – and its integration in design education
Design research can often be perceived as ‘antithetical’ to the purpose and process of design practice. ‘To design’ is interpreted ‘to plan’ or ‘to provide a description’ (Cross 2006). Designing is a way to fulfill a plan and to provide a description to the client and the public of what is to be expected in the outcome. Professional practice places emphasis on delivering answers to problems brought by clients. The designers’ professional competency is judged on their ability to advise, guide, provide knowledge and be an expert in presenting communication solutions to such problems. Contrary to this positioning, there is an argument that states that design research approach requires the designer to explore a context with an open, inquiry-led mind, and to assume nothing. Such designer surrenders to the ‘unknown’, embrace uncertainty, and they are there to learn, understand and explore possibilities. It is a position that many design practitioners will feel ‘contradictory’ to their purpose and professionalism.
Instead of perpetuating the perceived distance between design research and design practice, the provocation of this paper raises issues and offer potentials of integrating design research as a core driver in assisting design students to understand and explore what design is, what it could be and what it can contribute to our engagement with and understanding of the world. In other words, design research can be a tool, a vehicle and an approach that can open up future possibilities for design practice.
One of the first hurdles in bridging the distance is to understand two different takes on research – the big ‘R’ and the little ‘r’. Much of design research taught in undergraduate design classes is the big ‘R’. Emphasis is placed on researching information in order to undertake and support designing and the creation of the designed outcome. Such parameters can also include collection of material and data, ethnography-based methods of interviews, surveys and focus groups, general reading of books and journals or first-hand observations and documentations. This approach to research has been termed ‘research-oriented design’ (Fallman 2005) or ‘research for design’ (Downton 2003) and translates well into how design practitioners research facts and contexts of the clients’ problem to offer solutions. Yet, there is another, lesser known, but growing in adoption of design research by industry that emphasises knowledge creation through the process of design. This is the little ‘r’. Research through design (Downton 2003) uses the method, language, material and practice of design to create knowledge that transforms understanding of the possibilities of the discipline (Haseman 2006). This approach has been discussed as ‘design-oriented research’ (Fallman 2005). Research through design integrates the process of designing and research as one.
Knowledge created through design has strengths to contribute back to practice again, due to familiar modes and language of enquiry – design is a doing, thinking and making activity. Design, by its nature, is future-oriented. The role of design research can ‘evoke discussion of how the world could be’ (Grocott 2005, p. 2) rather than reflecting on how the world is. Instead of privileging knowledge that is retrospective, design practice can create knowledge that is ‘lying in the future, possessed by the uncertainties of the future… disposed to bring into being – not only as provocation or reflection on our world – but in order to make the world or a small measure of it differently’ (Rosenburg 2006, p. 4).
There is a robust academic discourse on different definitions of design knowledge (eg, PhD design discussion list hosted by the Design Research Society or Research Into Practice conference in the UK), however, this discourse fails to engage many designers or extend out towards industry. Challenges in nurturing a research-led culture in design education can be caused by a variety of issues. Several causes and propositions of how they can be addressed are proposed here to begin the discussion:
• Questioning a ‘defensive’ mindset by both design educators and design professionals. Nabeel Hamdi (2010) describes this defensiveness expressed as experts with a ‘territory’ that they ‘own’ excellence in, which is defended by rejecting knowledge that cannot be understood or explained. It can also be seen in ways that professionals oversimplify complex problems to a single objective that can be ’solved’, turning a process into a product to be designed in their field. A defensive approach makes it difficult to open up new ways of doing and thinking design. This critique and examination necessarily start with ourselves, to question and break down a mindset that we each may carry from our professional fields into education.
• Selection criterias for educators can no longer be based solely on professional practice or teaching experience. Additional skill-sets and knowledge is required, particularly for critical thinking and inquiry-led process, to equip graduates with strengths in research. This is beginning to happen in many Australian academic institutions where educators are required to have a postgraduate research qualification as mandatory. They are also supported and encouraged to have an active research practice, enabling them greater opportunities to foster design research projects as vehicles for understanding and learning about design.
• Education needs to work with the current practices and application of research in design industry, to contribute towards new and emerging conversations on design research. To foster better understanding by design professionals, greater attempt is needed and for design research to be presented, framed and promoted through the language of design. Design research must be packaged as tangible, practical and applicable ‘case studies’, with strengths in critical examination and exploration of opportunities to contribute to practice, business, communities and society as a whole.
Cross, N 2006, Designerly Ways of Knowing. Springer London, viewed 28 June 2007,<http://www.springerlink.com/content/h1w58u/>.
Downton, P 2003, Design Research, RMIT University Press, Melbourne.
Fallman, D 2005, ‘Why Research-oriented Design Isn’t Design-oriented Research’, Nordic design research conference ‘In The Making’, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 29-31, 2005.
Grocott, L 2005, ‘Promoting Potential: the dissemination and reception of practitioner-led design research’, Design Perspectives Conference, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico, October 26-28, 2005.
Hamdi, N 2010, ‘Nabeel Hamdi on Small Change and Re-Thinking Education’, Nabeel Hamdi Interview with Andy Polaine on COTEN discussion forum, viewed 9 May 2010, <http://project.creativewaves-coten.com/modules/lectures/article.php?id_articles=1>
Haseman, B 2006, ‘A Manifesto for Performative Research’, Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy, vol. 118, pp. 98-106.
Rosenberg, T 2006, ‘Designs on Critical Practice?’, Reflections on Creativity Conference, Dundee, Scotland, April 21-22, 2006, unpublished paper.
When talking to Jeremy about this provocation, we touched on how industry/business are starting to realise the value of design research for what they do. The interesting bit is that design research – by being labeled as ’service design’ or ‘interaction design’ or ‘user-experience’ – is becoming more valued. Its interesting that the product-ification (if there is such a word – ‘to make into a product’) is a characteristic of industry/business. By making it into a commodity, it can be ‘added-on’, bought, shared, examined… but somehow sanitized. This explains the over-emphasis on methods, tools, touchpoints…. as a sub-productification of service design as opposed to design research true characteristic as a nebulous, gnarly, complex and, in some ways, one that is still confronting new territory… its all about packaging!
More than experience, more than behaviour change
Upon reading Ben Reason’s post on the COTEN forum, where he was ‘dissatisfied with the catch all term experience’. He categorised different types of experiences, like user experience, human experience, customer experience etc – and from my reading, it seems to go from a relatively functional/usability framed ‘experience’, to a broader, deeper experience. I thought that was a good point. I also thought service design (or, my thinking of design, whether its service or not) is more than just experience.
So this is what I posted:
“It was a fantastic illustration of how we can really empathise and understand his experience, even though I never had the same particular experience myself. I’m reminded of Dewey (1934, p. 44), who talks about experience in terms of our perception of the relationship between ‘undergoing and doing’. Action and their consequences, or the perception of this relationship – in other words, you experience it ‘for real’, or you imagine the consequences that relies on prior experience of similar circumstances. Experience then becomes the ability to perceive the consequences of the real or imagined actions in that circumstance.
I agree that describing or defining ‘experience’ is extremely complex, and this understanding is fortunately expanding. As many have said before (eg. Liz Sanders and Liz Danzico), we cannot design experiences, as it is all relative and contextual. What I seem to be noticing more in the whole experience discourse and design is that we are only beginning to understand and able to articulate the agency of design, whether they are through artefacts, services or systems in impacting, changing and creating the way we are (as in, being, and this is Anne Marie-Willis & Tony Fry’s thing about ontology of design – we design, and in turn design designs us)
So, following on from that thought, I think design is so much more than just ‘experiences’ or Andy’s question about ‘long-term experiences’ – again, that seems to be too arbitrary and simplistic. This might just be me with quite a specific world-view (Japanese, Shinto/Zen, and I doTai Chi) in seeing everything connected – you, me, the eucaplypt tree, the cars on the street, etc – and on it goes – the complex, inter-connected web of the universe and everything, all impacting, changing and creating the way we are in this world and what/who/how/why/where we want to be in the future. This inter-connected world sounds like hippie-crap, but we see it used crudely in the argument in tackling climate change.
We cannot isolate design as the cartesian ’cause and effect’ anymore, highlighted by Andy’s question. The interest I have with what we call ’service design’ is the acknowledgement of the systemic, inter-related complexities as integral to design – and figuring out what the hell we do among the ‘messiness’! Its certainly not the way I was taught how to design, or to expect what design ‘ought to do’. The only way I’ve begun thinking about this is to apply zen/taoist philosophy and manifesting certain concerns and values through every-day practice – and not just reserving it to when I teach, or when I do ’service design’ projects.”
The more I think about it, the terms ‘experience’, or ‘behaviour change’, are foot-holds on a ladder that enables us to build up the description of what design is doing. My critique that ‘its more than experience’ can be problematic because we can’t just be saying ‘its everything – the whole kit and caboodle’. That’s lazy – doesn’t take us anywhere. So, what else does design do?
Alters our value system (yes)
Impacts on the way we see the world, like world view or perspective (yes)
Shapes and confronts our ideology of who we are and what we want / ought to be (yes)
Operates on a subliminal and conscious level (yes)
Informs our belief system (yes)
For something that is so fundamental, we use words like ’strategy’, ‘touchpoints’, ‘journey’, ’services’, ‘experience’ – is this co-opting of language by business and corporate culture (Don Watson – Death Sentences)? As designers are moving increasingly away from artefacts/products to the intangible interactions between people, are we struggling to find our ‘words’, our ‘tools’, and our ‘way’ that designers have to rely on corporate language to keep abreast of the shifting sands? Like interaction design, service design has trail-blazers in industry that are carving the way. Academics like us are trying to keep up from behind, but our role is to enrich the discourse with the concepts, the language, the ‘foot-holds’ and not let it be so defined by business talk. There is so much more to service design, we’ve only just begun scratching the surface and connecting the dots.