Design is a central feature of our everyday life. But what is it? How do you define a good design solution? Is it about aesthetics, quality or functionality? How do you develop the creative process and when can you consider yourself a designer?
The discussions, lectures and exercises during the Design Thinking course were aimed at helping us answer all these questions. We were provided with different tools and methods to develop ourselves as designers and contribute to creation of new services.
Researching for inspiration & Benchmarking
The first group exercise started during the first contact session. The theme selected by our group was “Services for Museums” and we had to identify the problems of the current service offering and design new solutions. In groups of 5-6 people, we brainstormed on problems and possible solutions during the first contact day. As our first course assignment, we were asked to research the services that exist on the market, how they are represented in Finland and abroad, and how the services or lack of them affect potential consumers’ daily life.
We had to observe, collect and gather material about the service and its infra by consulting available web resources, as well as by conducting in-situ observation of people’s interaction with the service (spend some time in the place where people meet the service), interviewing service providers or facilitators, and interviewing service users (talk to the ones that are willing to answer your questions while you are at the place). In other words, we had to co-create with potential service users.
We have conducted several interviews with the service providers in Helsinki museums. We have observed service users interacting with the service by spending time in museums and taking notes. In addition, we created an online questionnaire to interview potential service users. It was very helpful to understand how people currently use the services provided by museums. All the materials were collected as “field notes”, which could be found on Slideshare.
Tim Brown’s Design Thinking article helped us with the first task, especially to understand how the first exercise would help us gain inspiration for the other course tasks. The Figure 1 below illustrates the 3-step design process (Inspiration-Ideation-Implementation).
Figure 1. Design Thinking process diagram by Tim Brown, IDEO
Scenarios and Consumer Journeys
During the second contact session of the Design Thinking course we got familiar with creating scenarios and consumer journeys. We had to work on the mood board and create one scenario for one of the target users and present the results to the class on the same day.
Figure 2. Group 5 working on the mood board and scenario
Figure 3. Consumer journey sketches by Jane Vita
Each member of our group chose a character and made one scenario. We had to explore the scenario from the point of view of another user and try to find a good set of characters. In addition, we had to accommodate the concept to serve the needs of the new user.
The group came up with six sets of characters for the service of mobile museum. The characters were an international student, family, young couple, elderly lady, driver and tour guide. Each member of the group took one character and wrote a scenario related to the service. It was required that each character should interact with the other one at least once in the set of scenarios. Following the link below, you will find the combined set of scenarios made by the group on Slideshare. These were presented as a drama performance during the third contact session, where the members of the group performed as the characters they have written the scenario for.
Critical Artefacts Workshop
On the final contact session we went beyond traditional Design Thinking. The method is called Critical Artefact and is used to break boundaries to develop not necessary solutions, but new innovative ideas to provoke designers to create solutions unseen. It’s about going too far and then taking a step back to design a new service.
Figure 4. Critical Artefacts by Marttila & Salgado, 2012
The method is basically coming up with crazy ideas about a service. In our case, the mobile library, it meant that we took over the problems we had found out from the previous tasks concerning our service and started to develop it towards the craziness. We buried the customers, glued them on the side of the truck, dressed them funny, undressed them and finally took them up in the sky and back to the ground in a kangaroo pouch. Out of these we came up with our innovative service: auditorium type of museum in a container 150m above the ground that lights up the sky at night time.
In just 5 minutes we had created many ideas, some undoable, some doable but altogether, the Critical Artefact proved to be very productive method. In our team it was the key method to put our service innovation to its final form. To summarize the method you could use the old phrase from Henry Ford: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.” We couldn’t have said it better.
Read more about Critical Artefacs here.
Conclusions on the Design Process of the Service
During the Design Thinking course, we had an overview of different tools and research methods as part of the design processes. Through research it is possible to identify what problems we have to solve, reducing the risk of surprises towards the end of the design process. The methods and tools that we practiced during the course include critical artifacts, participatory innovation, co-creation, focus groups, individuals interviews, surveys, personas, scenarios, user journeys, mood boards, design probes, prototyping, gathering the data, refining presentation, and ethnographic researches (among many others).
A lot of companies are still behind in Design Thinking, they create products and services based on their own ideas, product-oriented. They set the target groups, but they don’t think about consumers experiences, motivation, needs, and desires; they don’t see with the eyes of their consumer. The goal of Design Thinking is to be closer to consumers, finding better solutions and co-creating the products together with them.
The team has to feel comfortable working together, complementing each other, has to understand the tools and what is needed to reach the best ways to come up with the solutions during different phases of the design process (inspiration, ideation, and implementation). We need to understand the goals of the service or product to best create the plan using the most suitable methods and tools.
To be able to convince companies about the importance of Design Thinking process and also about our solutions we are able to concept, we need to build a bridge between those followings ideas to the implementation and stakeholders, those goals are also part of the project plan and processes.
Conclusions on the Design Thinking Course
The exercises we had during the Design Thinking course were about teamwork. The service concept created, defined and presented by the group didn’t have to be executable, the purpose was to familiarize ourselves with different methods of visualizing and boosting the design process. The teamwork required practical and artistic skills and challenged the creative spirits to be creative together for one shared goal. The assignments weren’t unambiguous, they left a lot of room for negotiation and a possibility to formulate something unheard of.
The development of innovative services represents an opportunity to reduce price erosion in the core business (Dörner, Gassman & Gebauer 2011). In the third sector that means keeping the audience interested in the cause of the organization. A service development process should ensure that the important tasks will be accomplished in time. Successful service innovation can be divided into structural- and people-related factors (Dörner et al. 2011) as teamwork in general. It is critical to clearly define the service concept before and during the design and development of services (Goldstein, Johnston, Duffy & Rao 2002).
Despite of the obvious benefits of Design Thinking, investments in innovative services are scarce, management lacks faith in them and the responsibilities are unclear. The innovation process does not proceed systematically and instead of a source of revenue, the service turns into a cost driver. (Dörner et al. 2011.) According to Goldstein et al. in 2002 the link between business strategy and service design wasn’t adequately studied. The link is also missing from this course, perhaps on purpose.
According to Dörner et al. (2011) the service development process should be divided into phases in order to increase the ability to innovate services. The phases are: defining new services, creation of the service prerequisite and launching new services. The assignments on the course were clearly about the first phase. It would be interesting to apply the Design Thinking into the assessment of the second phase, if at all possible, in the future.
Brown, Tim: Design Thinking. Harward Business Review, 2008.
Dörner, N., Gassmann, O. & Gebauer, H. (2011). Service innovation: why is it so difficult to accomplish? Journal of Business Strategy, 32, 37–46.
Goldstein, S.M., Johnston, R., Duffy, J.A. & Rao J. (2002). The service concept: the missing link in service design research? Journal of Operations Management, 20, 121–134.
Segelström, Raijmakers and Holmlid: Thinking and Doing Ethnography in Service Design.
Simon Bowens: Critical artifacts.