Service Design enables functioning urban environments

In Helsinki Design Week 2015 I attended City Design Meet-Up on 7th September, an open event arranged by Design Driven City (carrying the legacy of the design capital year 2012) and Forum Virium Helsinki.

What is the so called new design?

What common elements are there in traditional industrial design (such as Kaj Franck’s drinking glasses) and in the new design or service design?  The host of the event pointed out that design has removed itself from the center of attention: the spotlight is now on the users/customers.

In the opening speech the Helsinki city vice mayor Ms Sinnemäki stated the goal of designing the city as creating a space based on openness – a city that belongs to its citizens. The role of service design is to bring together the perspectives of diverse stakeholders and to integrate their planning practices. In city design, the way city inhabitants experience daily life service processes is the focus of attention. City design aims at creating more wellbeing with shrinking resources. City design also contributes from its part in increasing the international interest towards Helsinki as a city that nurtures its Finnish traditions of good design.

In the following speech, a communications expert and representative of Kaskas Media introduced a new web publication bringing forth both Helsinki area’s efforts of urban design via case stories and also clarification of service design terminology to the great public. The publication’s Finnish and English versions can be found at following locations:

www.muotoilutarinat.fi (Finnish version)
designstoriesfromhelsinki.fi (English version)

Service Design as an instrument

The main body of the event consisted of three city designers (engaged in the city of Helsinki projects) representing their insights of using service design in city design. I will introduce here the thoughts of one of them, Mr. Kutvonen. He summarized his insights from three different angles: 1) the journey (Matka) 2) the design (Muotoilu) and 3) the turning point (Murros).

According to Mr. Kutvonen’s experiences, influential persons with a vested interest in the change are needed to accompany the journey. Designers should also always strive to have something concrete to show, for example by using storytelling. Acknowledging unpleasant facts as they emerge during the journey was seen by him as an important skill that service design education does not prepare for. As part of the journey, a radical experimentation questioning the existing patterns of operation in the community should be carried out. Kutvonen experienced that implementing service design is a lesson in leadership in practice. He pointed out that organizations are today faced with being offered separately packaged development solutions of service design, lean development or agile approach – all having similar ideological background. This must be a bit confusing, I wondered. Regarding the emerging need that an organization has for a turning point, service design can serve as the tool for attitude change – by putting the customer needs forth, openly engaging stakeholders to participate and by implementing development through experimenting. City designers reminded the audience also on how crucial it is not to forget joy and playfulness when encouraging innovation.

The skills and abilities of a new generation designer (edited/translated from Mr. Kutvonen’s presentation)

The skills and abilities of a new generation designer (edited/translated from Mr. Kutvonen’s presentation)

The remaining part of the event introduced experiences on implementations of urban service design via case studies. One of them was the smart city project of Kalasatama. The project representative emphasized the importance of human centeredness, being one of service designer’s main responsibilities. According to her, the main benefits of using Kalasatama urban area as a ”laboratory” for service experiments is the instant feedback gained not only from user experience point of view but also the experiences obtained from actually producing the services tested.

(This post contributes to the course of Current Topics in Service Design.)

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