Storytelling stitches it all together

I have been contacting quite a few designers, companies and writers who I have come across throughout the project. People who I have read about, watched presentations by, come across in articles. I drew them up in a list and sent out an email with a little synopsis of where I was and what I was thinking :

I received quite a lot of replies, more than I was expecting. Certainly more than I have received in other projects. Here’s what I picked up on and where I think I will head.

From Stefan Moritz, who presented a Design Management Keynote ‘Hug the Future’ to the Service Experience and Design Management Conference, Cologne 2008 in which he spoke about designs imminent need to fulfil users needs in context and on demand, understand new forms of organisation, management and cu and go beyond the expected and create ways to add new levels of mutual value.

Stefan believes that it is important to get the business community engaged, that service design should really practice what you preach.

meaning that the introduction to service design,it’s explanation should be “tangible, usable, useful and desirable” in its delivery.

Ré Dubhthaigh from Radarstation very kindly shared some of his time and thoughts on the future of Service Design. I had met him once before on our 2nd year trip to London to visit some consultancies, it was really good to hear  him talking about the same values and beliefs two and a half years on ( I looked up my 2nd year sketchbook after getting off the phone, what Ré was talking about contextualising and using a woven language from the two collaborating parties is pretty much identical to what he said back then. Isn’t that wonderful?)

We spent quite a bit of time talking about tools, their uses and their creation. Tools are usually created ‘in the field’, they are responses to challenges faced in a part of the project. They are very much set in context and quite often are specific to that project, they are non-transferable. Designers also come across tools from other designers, tweaking them to make them fit their own needs. Tools are often also adapted from other disciplines – marketing and ethnography to name a few.  I’ve learnt that there is often an overemphasis put on the role of tools in the design industry, they seem to have created a bit of a hype about themselves. Tools, by their very meaning, are used, utilised at different points in the design process to find answers, fix problems, ask questions. They are pieces of the puzzle, but they do not make up the whole picture. The design process is formed from the decisions and directions taken between the use of tools, they just aid you in getting to the next chapter.

We also talked also about how the increase in business collaborations will affect the way in which service designer will work, how they will explain the discipline, show the benefits of this. Designers are good at communicating visually, showing people our work is often the best route to take. There is also quite a scope for the future of amalgamated language, combining design vocabulary with business. I see it as both parties weaving together, meeting in the middle instead of stepping in to one another’s worlds completely. 

Daniela Sangiorgi from the Lancaster Service Design Research Institute and laboratory has expressed her interest in the project, and would like to know if I would like to take part in their blogging scheme. This might be a very good idea later in the project to get a bit of broadcasting, I’ll have to get better at blogging first!

Jamin Hegeman who I came across through his blog, when reading an entry marked ‘Service Design: an Interaction Design Perspective’ works for Nokia, I believe, in SF. He immediately linked my thinking to his Thesis Paper from the Carnegie Mellon University entitled The Thinking Behind Design’ which aimed to understand what was really going on so designers could better communicate what we do. 

It was good to get some feedback on the storytelling aspect of the project, something I hope will play an important role, Storytelling to stitch it all together. Jamin said;” storytelling plays a strong role (in my experience) both in the design process and also as a communication tool. As designers increasingly collaborate with others, working with non designers and facilitating those groups becomes very important. But your question makes me wonder how important it is to communicate the tools and methods. In my experience, the best way to help people understand what you’re doing is to share your work, your thoughts, and have them participate. Though the latter isn’t always necessary for them to see the value of design, and how it differs from their own approach. Kind of the show don’t tell approach.” It seems a simple idea, but it;s the simple ideas which require the most thinking to pull off, right?

I later came across a discussion panel at the 2008 s.d. conference in Amsterdam, which Jamin facilitated. He prompted the question asking if case studies and examples were the best way to show service design in action – was there another way to do this? The question was met with some uncertainty, that perhaps it is the designers role to come up with new methods of explaining and showing the value of service design. I am currently in contact with one of the panel members Jukka Ojasalo, to ask what sort of methods might be possible. It’s an area that really intrigues me.

Marc Fonteijn from 31 Volts in Amsterdam gave me quite a bit of food for thought with his message saying; ” I think the ultimate goal of (service) designer is to make them self obsolete. The role of designers right now is translating needs into solutions. They are the “middle-man”.
We’re moving to a world where anyone will be able to create adhoc solutions that fit their specific situation. What’s happening right now on the web is a good example. API’s enable non-programmers to create mashups services and share them with the rest of the world.

So this is not a specific answer to the future of service design but more a general vision on design in general.”

Thinking that designers, service designers included, are working to set up an economy, a business world in which they are not needed, where the corporations and organisations can design for themselves? Where everyone is a design thinker? I’m starting to consider an option where service designers can prepare the story of service design, divided into it’s relevant chapters and uses, to hand over to the corporations, complete with tools and methodologies. Sort of a DIY kit.

It’s a bizarre thought to have, that the design world I am preparing to jump in to might not be there in 10-15-20 years time, because of the work I have done, that I will eventually make myself obsolete.
I’d love to see what you’ve been thinking.

Tomorrow I will speak to either Richard or Daniel from UserVoice, who made an interesting presentation at the 2009 Conference in Oslo (thanks to Stuart for the links). UserVoice are excellent in targeting an organisations users, and extracting the information needed to provide coherent, effective changes in that particular organisation. The example in the presentation which richard White gave was one of using online forums and feedback questions, I’m intrigued as to how they work differently with an online/offline audience. Does what they learn from face-to-face interviews affect how they communicate with ‘faceless’ users? Richard also spoke about the subtleties of language used when communicating with a specific group of customers. I’m keen to learn more from them.

Tomorrow means more learning, more building up of ideas. I’m keen to investigate this DIY kit, this tool of parts, dividing the story up into chapters. I wonder how that could manifest itself, how best to tell the story? If I am considering where service design is heading should I not also consider where storytelling is heading, to make sure the two match up. Storytelling is growing, it looks bright, exciting and multi-faceted. Long gone are the traditional ideals of campfire tales and myths, modern storytelling is full of computer animation, mock-ups, political advertising. A Renaissance in storytelling is upon us.



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