Thursday, 26 November 2009

Nordic Service Design Conference 09

My horribly busy writing schedule has kept me from doing many things that I should have done for weeks, and... this is one of them... I haven't got time around to report any thoughts on the conference, well, now much of them are already lost in the mist of my memory.

But, there are three good blogposts of this conference online now from others:

1. Jeff Howard's Design for Service: some useful links of presentation and pictures from the conference, and most recently a post about the Service Design Touch-point cards.

2. there is a round-up one the Service Innovation blog - the host of the conference.

3. This one is from a friend of mine (shared with Lauren Tan and JB!) Joyce Lee from the Northumbria University. We met at the conference and made dinner together - the good old days, now seem so far away!

Some materials from me if you are curious what happened:

[some really nice picture of service designers co-creating their own dinner at the conference!]
[here are all the conference papers, I found some really good ones, already used in my thesis as quotes!]

and finally my PPT presentation available here:

Monday, 23 November 2009

sweet sweet gifts

To be honest, I was quite impressed by the organisation of Nordic SD Conference - received this little pack shortly after arriving at the hotel. Couple cute gifts from the organisor, including a pair of over-shoes to 'protect your favourit e shoes regardless of weather conditions' (shame that my Timberland seem too big for them...) and a set of design cards around touch-points from the AT-ONE project.

It seems that card making is the new 'black' in Design now. we all know the famous IDEO cards, as far as in Service Design, I know of two other sets of cards. One is the SILK method cards made by Engine with Kent city council. The other one was Lauren (Redjotter)'s Master project: Making Service Sense, a set of postcards of SD case samples. Both brilliant projects - I would love to see more likely projects, and also see these methods find their way into organisations and make tangible differences. It would be great if the use of design card becomes as normal as using SWOT Analysis. well... if you know of any other similar card sets, I would love to hear from you!

I mean it's a good thing. It's a sign that designers are preparing to share the authority of being the 'gifted ones' with more people and moving into a facilitating role in order to encourage innovation at larger scale, well and democracy as well. I consider it as a sign of this profession becoming more and more matured, and am happy to see that Service Design is honest to what it claims to be: co-design, and empower others.

Really look forward to tomorrow, yet, have to prepare for my own speech first... left the speech notes in the UK, so gotta work from scratch again... Well, let's enjoy the next three days!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

two questions to Service Designers...

After trying gto put an conclusion down on paper for the past weeks, I still have two questions in my mind. Think it might be a good idea to share with you guys to see what you think... Let gather the brain power around the world, and see what we get!

1. How far should service designer go in service implementation?

For my research, I interviewed a couple of service designers. It seems that not all designers actually are actually designing the touch points or carry out training workshops. Many service designers work only in the research stage of a service development project and then hand it over to other people - either the client or the so-called ‘traditional’ designers - to deliver the implementation stages.

I had an interesting conversation with one of my participants who was a practicing service design about this. It seemed that the designer was fairly happy to stay as a mainly researcher role rather than getting into the details of designing the actual touch-points or running trainings for the client. Of course I am not saying it represents what all service designers are thinking, but it did make me think how far would and should service designer, as a professional, go in service implementation?

Hypothetically, there is a role of actual producing in service development, either producing the actual touch-points (physical products or it is a piece of software) or producing the process of implementation details (the criteria of the service or a roadmap of how change would be carried out in the organisation). But in the case studies out there, I did not see a whole lot of stories about how the implementation is carried out. So why? Well, it can be that service designers do not consider the producing as Service Design job, even though they sometimes does it, they would rather let ‘traditional’ designers to do it. Or… they cannot do it, because they do not have the skill to produce. Let’s be honest, roadmap of organisational change is not really in designer’s skill set, isn’t it? Of course there is a third option that the client does not want designer to be involved in the implementation – if so, how do we overcome it?

So, my question is… if you happen to practice as a service designer, how far do you normally go in service implementation? Or, how far you think service designers should go?

2. How is Service Design related to knowledge creation and diffusion?

One thing I often hear service design say about their project is to ‘change people’s perception of service’. Service, like branding, is socially constructed in people’s mind.

Developing a new service obviously involves creating new recognitions of that service among different stakeholders, and new knowledge about how to delivery, market, operate it. And that knowledge has no value unless it is diffused to all parts involved in day-to-day service delivery. After all, designers are not the ones who handle the users or supply materials/information in the backstage. Then the ultimate goal of designing service is actually about creating and diffusing the knowledge about a new service. Visual methods, blueprints, workshops, whatever service designers use, they are just means to let the knowledge flow.

So… it seems that Service Design is actually closely related to managing knowledge creation and diffusion. But so far, Knowledge Management does not seem to be a popular topic in Service Design... I found Debowski’s Knowledge Management theory interesting. It suggests that building capacity in knowledge development can be influenced by social capacity (e.g. organisational culture), technological skills (like IT systems), leadership (vision, and strategic stuff) and project/problem-based learning (that involves designer and all stakeholders I suppose).

Have any of you guys used any similar structure to analyse or plan your Service Design projects? Say, like evaluate or predict the social capacity of the service provider while putting together the blueprint?

Or… maybe you guys have some practical tactics to go about understand knowledge creation and diffusion in Service Design process. Care to share the trick please?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

a heaven of design concepts - beautiful and insightful

Maybe I am not the first one to discover it or to be impressed by it, anyway, I am so happy that I saw it today!!! and can't wait to share with you~

I rememeber years ago I came across a report produced by Debberly Design Office (ddo) on design process and was impressed by the nice way they articulated the evolving complexity embedded in different proposals of design process.

Guess now I am off to have a close look at all these diagrams - have to say as an information architect I love diagrams ;-)

By the way, this one is my favourite - was looking for something that present a rather distributed pattern for design process, and it's there~ right there~

image from Dubberly Design Office website, access via

Thesis 3.0 ?!

I was writing the Research Design chapter last night and had a sudden panic - realized that I will need a third round of sampling ( well... theoretical sampling this time) to further some inquires around the recognition of KM in SD practice... Still working on the best way to ask these questions... trying to find a way to grab some data quickly by the end of this year :-S

Any suggestions on how to do it? I am thinking of skyp interviews or email interviews... maybe kidnap some people on SDThink night on 19th Nov will be another solution ;-) By the way, anyone who is going that night (and perhaps want to be kidnapped as well...)?

Good news is that the categorise are coming together - slowly... my god... time, time, time...

Last week, I made a revisit to the thesis structure and here we go, a thesis 3.0:

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Interdisciplinary Discovery Through Design

This workshop was hold on 28 September by the Design for 21st Century in the Imperial War Museum. The workshop aimed to collect the diverse knowledge in the room to contribute ideas for developing new design policies by (1) presenting five design research project in the Design for 21st Century initiative to share their empirical learning (2) stimulate discussions about topics of the contribution of design researchers on reflections of these five projects and in general.

Amongst the five project presentations in the morning - all interesting projects - I was especially impressed by two.

The BikeOff project was based on the idea of design against crime. The project looked at design for bike riders' security issues, and developed ideas that can go on to further commissions in manufacturing. At first glance, it was a typical multi-disciplinary design project with inputs from crime scientist, designer, engineers, social scientist and many other extended stakeholders. What I find interesting is the way the project was managed with what they called 'An Open Innovation Research Approach'. The project demonstrated how using overlapping research processes carried out by different stakeholder groups achieved the transformation from multi-disciplinary to inter-disciplinary, where the hybrid ideas start to emerge in prototyping stages, and also the design outputs became more diverse. Especially the approach was good at efficiently develop product (perhaps services as well) to explore unrealized marketing needs, rather than develop predicted outputs as planned in the first place. Guess this is what was missing in many NPD and NSD literature. We were taught to be so busy controlling and defining the process of design that it becomes so easy to forget to enjoy the discovery, the iterative exploration that leads to new territories.

The other one was the Design for Services project presented by Lucy Kimbell – I believe most of you guysa are familiar with this project. In her presentation, Lucy talked about the designer’s unique approach to generate knowledge through practice, which was not really discussed much in other of her publications. Although I temporary moved my research focus a bit away from the whole knowledge creation literautre, it was still nice to hear other's reflections on a similar subject.

We were then asked to discuss in groups and to fill in paper that describes the contribution of ‘design researcher’ – and somehow this is a confusing term. As some people in the room came from an academic background, thus researcher means ‘people who studies design’, but others (like our group) saw the role expended into the researchers who actually worked in design processes and contribute to the design outcome. If we look at the five projects presented in the room, all reflected a part of knowledge on the ‘study of design’, but most of these learning come from actually conducting the design practice. So did it mean ‘design research = design’ then?!

Out of all the answers we put on the paper, I personally found ‘giving people a voice’ is the one that capture design reearcher's perspective the best. As it could suggest the use of visualisation but keep the empathy and the central focus on people (either as user, stakeholder, or research subjects…) When one of the participants in the final discussion part pointed out that ‘imagination or creativity’ is missing from the key skills of designers. Is that we are just too close and we don’t see it anymore? No, I don’t think design profession is all about creativity or imagination. Everyone is creative and imaginary if they have the confidence and the voice to communicate, to share, and to impress. The value many of the pioneering designers in the field – a lot of them in Service Design but also many from other design areas – is to give people the voice and the confidence to be creative and imaginary so that they can see, create and implement solution for their own problems.

One of the highlight of the event to me, personally, was actually meet many of old friends who share a similar interest in Design and Research. Lauren Tan, a PhD in Service Design as well as good friend also blogged her thoughts on her blog. A pleasant surprise was to meet Ahmad Beltagui from Nottingham University Business School at the event, who then introduced me to a really helpful paper on 'What is not a Grounded Theory', which motivated me to kick off the Research Design chapter this week. Sometime, I do wonder why we keep going all over place to attend these events and perhaps we thought we know the presentations so well already. But what I often found out is that when a group of people with a similar interest were put in a room under a certain task, good stuff do come out from somewhere we didn’t expect.

... more picutres on Flickr ...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Take a bow

I still remember the night, it was a Friday just like today.

I was standing in the crowds in the Lower Gallery when Lily went up to me and said: 'would you like to work for MDes as a teaching fellow?' I said 'yes' - which is one of the best decisions I have ever made. That was my own year of graduating Master of Design, and the night was the Master exhibition openning. I was simply enjoying the celebration and looking forward to the back-pack trip around Europe the next week. At that time, I perhaps didn't yet realize that what happened after I got back to Dundee was better than the most amazing journey I have ever dreamed of.

It was exactly three years ago.

Tonight I am witnessing a new group of 13 students enjoying their celebration and planning for their next step. So am I. This is my final week of being the ‘teaching fellow’ of MDes at the University of Dundee. Again I am at the point of facing a new journey in front of me. I am so happy that I still have courage to step into all the unknowns of my life, to make changes and to look forward to adventures.

Master of Design has been and will always be part of me. I had truly enjoyed every minutes spent with my brilliant colleagues and my inspiring students. I hope that they had enjoyed my company as well.

It is the time, the time to take my bow and start a new journey, maybe a completely different one but I know I will enjoy it just as I have enjoyed this one.

the end of design? the re-brith of design!

Yesterday we had a truly inspiring lecture from my brilliant colleagues Tom Inns and Mike Press in University of Dundee, as part of the Master of Design student project exhibition opening.

Tom took us back to his river of Design History. He also predicted that the sunny but highly pressured area of emerging design archipelago (service design included of course) which looks at real issues in our complex life is suggesting a re-birth of Design as a discipline. The world is witnessing an revolution brought about by new ways of communication, of living with the natural and artificial environment around us and of operating corporate, thus new generation of designers are exploring their ways into the challenging but exciting future – the best examples of which is right here on the Master’s exhibition.

Mike suggested that we were here not looking at the end of a master programme, or the end of design, but were celebrating the new beginning of a different journey ahead of our Master graduates, as well as us as designers and design researchers. Design is about the vision, the imagination of what the world was like, should be like and could be like. Mike introduced some of his design heroes (well, in fact most of them were not really recognized as ‘designers’… ) who believed that design is valuable to improve life by different means of, for example public services, engagement and empathy. ‘Nothing was too good for the public’ as Mike stated in his speech, there was a time when designers and artists were actively engaged in communities in public services to deliver effective, efficient and empathic solutions and motivations. It is time we look back upon these heroes, and set out a new phase of design which described as ‘Social Design’ by Mike. How do we create alternatives to social issues? There were principles suggested in last night’s presentation as:

  • Empathy and user-centred,
  • Co-creation and co-design,
  • Service focused,
  • Cultural inclusion,
  • Socially engaged,
  • Empathasis on well-being, and
  • Connected.

These principles as well set out the guidance of the 13 projects undertook by the Master of Design students for the past year. If you are interested in having a look at these projects in more details, please visit

As well for more information about the Master of Design course at the University of Dundee, please visit

The one-hour lecture was videoed and it is expected to be made available online soon. I am providing a lecture note just to easy your waiting ;-]

Monday, 31 August 2009

The End of Design

I had a really busy but exciting start of the week today, we are puting together the Master of Design Exhibition!

Here is an invitation for all:

you are invited to an exclusive preview evening showcasing the work of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design Master of Design students alongside an exciting lecture by Professors Tom Inns and Mike Press.

Drinks Reception & Exhibition Preview 10th September, 2009, 5.15pm – Lecture 6-7pm – Dalhousie Building

Modern design has run its course. The challenges of our age demands a new design; in place of designing for desire we should design for inclusion, understanding and real world problem solving. The power of design thinking presents us with new opportunities for the future.

As Scotland's top rated institution for research design, the University of Dundee is uniquely placed to set out a new vision for the future of design. In this special lecture, Professors Tom Inns and Mike Press - both internationally acknowledged writers, researchers and broadcasters on design - provide a provocative and visionary of design in the 21st Century.

Evidence of this new design is seen in the work of this year's graduating Masters of Design students. The lecture accompanies their masters exhibition, providing vital contexts and insights into their work. Together, the lecture and exhibition emphasise Dundee's unique approach to the research and practice of design.

Don't worry if you can't make it, there is the project profile that will give an overview of what we are doing up here~ Enjoy!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

PhD summer school

I was in the PhD Summer School last week for four days, had a nice eye-opening on the PhD projects going on in Dundee and also couple of from elsewhere in Britain. The first day we were asked to bring in a poster, thus, there is my homework:

On the second day we watched a video explainning the process of viva, and it was really great to see how the process is likely to be and what are the tips we can take. I am only writing up, but it's always good to know the next step.

I also did a 10 min presentation on the project, and got a lot of feedbacks - especially useful comments from Seaton. He also commented on the idea of 'unity of the diversity' - exactlly what I was look for in the case studies, that holding idea that makes Service Design Service Design, it can be a ideology or just a believe... mmnnn... Eva who did her PhD on craft and visualisation was saying 'to craftman the craft practice is a lifestyle', so what is Service Design to service designers?

We had two finishing PhD coming in talking about thesis writing and viva experience as well. Some good tips here:
* add a biographical note - it's nice to let the readers 'know' you as a human and understand how many decisions in the research process are influenced by where you come from;
* have a thesis outline as part of the introduction - I have done that, and my supervisors and I are using it as a graph tool to communicate the achieves of my writing, it works really well!
* bring evidence to viva - one of the outstanding characteristics of Art and Design research lies in the visual thinking process, therefore, it is reasonable to show that process as supporting material in the viva. I guess all my big big A1 sheets and wallpapers are getting into the room with me!
* prepare some tea or coffee, make sure the viva environment is as comfortable for conversation as possible. Sometimes viva can go over 2 hours, so having some water by hand is always handy (for you and the for your examiners...) also it is ture that the purpose of viva is to give the candidate the chance to indicate their ability of taking part in academic debate and defencing their arguement, so it is more like a discussion you can pick up in the conference rather than a question-answer type of interview.

Well... the future seems bright so far... Aiming at first draft before November, so... go go go~ this week I hope to hit at 20,000 words!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

a bit of travelling this winter in Scandinavian area

Got a bit planning going on - just to relax my fingures from writing...

Am off to Oslo for the conference 24-26, and will be spending 23th -28th there... gotta enjoy the city, don't I?

And I also got a really lovely invitation from Katarina Wetter Edman to visit the Service Research Center - CTF at Karlstad University... excited! So spending two days there will be my plan.

After Karlstad, I quite fancy heading to Stockholm and maybe spend 4-5 days there, just wondering around the Christmas markets!

So basically I have about 3 days free in Oslo and 4-5 days free in Stockholm…

To be honest, I don’t know these areas quite well, so any of you have suggestions of must-visit-places? Or even another invitation to show me around your place?

Definitely would love to make some new friends as well ;-]

Got another invitation to visit Fabian Segelström in Linköping - this journey is becoming more and more exciting now!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

people centered design - a bit discovery

just found this very informative blog:

First time I came across the term 'people centered design' was in the conference in Beijing, I think one of the presenter was talking about the different among co-design, participantry design, user centered design, people centered design and a lot of other weird-named design approaches... well, this reminds me that I haven't got the time to read through that really thick conference procedings yet... eh... more readings, more readings...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Thesis Outline ver2

Here is an update of the thesis outline, after a really helpful chat with my dear supervisors.

We had a in-depth discussion on Research Questions: what are they for in a thesis - I mean after I have done all that research, it is not simply where I started, it is somehow where I will end up going back to discuss in the final chapter as well. I, guess as well as many PhD researchers, started with a huge research question collection in the first year into the research, then we somehow end up focusing down a bit in order to concentrate our energy in actually carrying out some sort of actions to find out answers to some of the questions – well, whether we find the answer is another story yet. But when it comes to write up, it is about telling the story of this journey of finding, which means the research question here serves a different purpose. Somehow we are post-rationalize our research and try to make sense of it with very limited time and materials as we could manage to achieve in three years of learning-by-doing. It doesn’t mean that the answers we could find shapes the questions, but they do influence how we select the research questions to present in a 80,000 words thesis.

As I sign posted in this image, the literature give birth to research questions, so when we write up, each piece of literature we quoted has an aim and the findings point at the questions, which then will be structured and lead to Research Design – sometimes called the methodological approach in some thesis. The findings answer a selected group of these question collection, the discussion structure the answers again. So in terms of writing, it is very likely that we actually start from the answers and return to the questions – not that we invent research questions along the way, we select and refine them. The criteria is that they are important, they are relvant and they are interesting to read!

Any writing is about telling a story, sometimes we can start from the end of the story rather than from the start.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

PhD Thesis & Originality

I spent the whole day re-structuring my thesis outline. Here is a taste of the result:

I was told that writing up process is tough, but I have a really ambitious deadline and am still confident in achieving it. I felt very lucky that I have friends to discuss different views and progress about writing up ‘the big book’. The other day, Lauren and I talked about the originality of a PhD in our email exchanges. To be honest, I have never really seriously think of ‘protecting’ my thinking or my PhD progress – tell me that I am wrong and maybe I am! But I do consciously select things that I would like to tell in this blog, simply because I don’t want to cause misunderstanding due to the immaturity in my thinking. Originality in a topic like Service Design seems to be easier, compared with working in a well-established knowledge, as the theoretical models and concepts are relatively underdeveloped, and most importantly people are more open to new suggestions and research approaches. My understanding of originality is that if you can *prove* that your thesis is original then it is fine. I mean we all know that our research question and its landscape changes, especially in a project lasted for 2-3 years it’s almost impossible that no other individual in the world, at certain point, had a similar idea to what we are doing. But our literature review suggests our originality of the inquires, our empirical studies ensure the originality of our findings. Nobody knows my research better than me. Even if there are others out there doing similar research, there is always something original about all these works. We just need to be confident enough to claim it and work hard enough to prove it. After all, PhD is a learning process as well as a research process, we are not working towards Nobel Prize level breaking throughs…

Well, I don’t really know what I am saying here is right or wrong… if you have done a PhD already, maybe it would be great to hear what you say about this matter.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Re-public's special issue: Innovative Service Design for All

I got a paper published on Re-public's special issue of their online journal: Innovative Service Design for All. The title of my article is 'Mind the Gap: Theories and practices in managing stakeholders in the service design process'.

All the articles are very interesting, two draws my attention especially:

Nicola Morelli's 'Beyond the experience: In search of an operative paradigm for the industrialisation of services' , which talks about the industrialisation of services in the public sector. Morelli says:
"The process of building the service starting from the customers’ experience can
be compared with a process of reverse engineering of such experience. The
experience is de-composed in elementary modules. A set of competences, knowledge and technologies is associated to each of those modules. [...] The
disaggregation of service systems in modular structures makes it possible to
shift the production process for those services from a centralised and vertical
logic to a decentralised and horizontal one."
This is very true in some of my case study experience, and also interestingly ties into the three themes of my findings: People, Process and Knolwedge. although mine still needs a bit thought-through ;-]

Soumitri Varadarajan proposed a design for the new university design programme of Service Design in India. A nice piece to read if you have the ambition to set up Service Design programme in your own university or maybe like what we do here in Dundee - integrate the elements of Service Design into the teaching of all kinds of design courses.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Service Design reading list

I was building up my Endnote database yesterday to get ready for writing up 'the big book' - yes, welcome to hell...

Not very surprisingly, my database covers a lot of management books, some design books, some experience books and couple of economic books... it makes me wonder if you are a Service Designer/student, what kind of books are you reading?

So here I would like to collect your comments on a reading list for people who are interested in Service Design and maybe want to do a bit reading for it. It would be great if you could spare 2 seconds recommend two books (or journal articles) you think every Service Designer should read - not have to be Design books, can be anything really!

Think I might kick off first here:
Bernd Schmitt,
Customer Experience Management - not exactly a Service book or a Design book, but it presents a very interesting framework to build 'experience platform' which then spread the seeds of customer experience into different business functions.

Bill Hollins,
Total Design. Perhaps also couple of his more recent books... to be honest, although I am not a big believer of standardisation, this little book does provid a nice flavour of the many other issues along with the design process that any development processes will have. Plus, it is a small book that doesn't look scary!

This list will go to our librarian for furture purchase and I will keep update the comments into this post here!

Alright, you turn now... Thank you in advance!

From Arne Van Oosterom (DesignThinkers):
Linked , Albert-László Barabási
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

From Tom Allen:
A summary of the past thirty years of service design literature.

From Nick Marsh (Engine):
These are two pretty heavy going books that are worth getting:
Here's more:

From Deborah Szebeko (ThinkPublic):
The Tipping Point -Malcolm Galdwell
It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be – Paul Arden

From Ben Reason(Livework):
Natural Capitalism - Paul Hawkin et al
Reassembling the Social - Bruno Latour

From Todd Johnston:
The Timeless Way of Building (Alexander),
Biomimicry (Benyus),
Out of Control (Kelly)

Lauren Tan:
I would recommend the
Designing for Services reader that was distributed in the early stages of the project and also the report which combines reflections on the project from the designers, academics and the project leads (Lucy Kimbell and Victor Seidel).

Designing for Services - Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Proceedings from the Exploratory Project on Designing for Services in Science and Technology-based Enterprises, Saïd Business School (2008) Edited by Lucy Kimbell and Victor P. Seidel

I would also highly recommend:
Boland, J., Collopy, F., Ed. (2005).
Managing as designing. California, Stanford University Press.
This book is more general in terms of design in a business and management context but very helpful where ever design is crossing into other disciplines.

Richard Randolph:
The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. This is the one that started it all.
Experiential Marketing, by Bernd H. Schmitt
The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What To Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound by Martin Lindstrom

Tom Kiehl:
My view is that good service design must balance customer satisifaction, profitability, and associate morale, particularly in businesses where front line associates are key to delivering service.
Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right by Frances X. Frei, Harvard Business Review, April 2008
Zero Defections, Quality Comes to Services by Frederick Reichheld and Earl Sasser, HBR, Sept-Oct 1990
The Trader Joe's Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon by Len Lewis
Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin Freiberg and Kevin Freiberg

James Samperi (Engine):
2 books which aren't focused on 'design' but any service 'designer needs to understand and know about. The latter book is comprehensive and pretty accessible - i can't vouch for the first but recommended by my colleague.
New Service Development and Innovation in the New Economy

From Products to Services: Insights and experiences from companies which have embraced the service economy.

Sarah Drummond:
simplicity- edward de bono
'In an increasingly complex world 'simplicity' is going to be a key value. The pace of change is not going to stop so we have to make a conscious effort to make things simpler.'

Marc Fonteijn(31VOLTS):
The experience economy
Subject to Change
Everything is miscellaneous
10 faces of innovation
The knowing-doing gap
And I second Sarah with
simplicity as a must read

proto partners:
Wired to Care by Dev Patnaik and Pete Mortensen of Jump Associates,
The Loyalty Effect from Fred Reicheld

Lucy Kimbell:
Vargo, S. and R. Lusch (2004), “Evolving to a new dominant logic in Marketing,” /Journal of Marketing, /68, 1-17
Vargo, Stephen L. and Lusch Robert (2008), "
Service-dominant logic: continuing the evolution," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36 (1), 1-10.

Jeff Howard:
John Thackara's book "
In The Bubble: Designing in a Complex World" and a bi-monthly magazine published in Los Angeles called "Good."

Isaac Arthur:
Adaptive Path's 'Subject to Change' is the best all around service design book I've found,
Neumeier's 'Brand Gap' and 'Zag' are indispensable books for all designers, regardless of their specific discipline'
And a great article from NextD on design 3.0 (transferable philosophies and processes to service design)

Paul Thurston(ThinkPublic):
Designing Services with Innovation Methods

Garrick Wood:
'How Designers Think: The Process Demystified' by Bryan Lawson
'What Designers Know' by Bryan Lawson

Lorne Mithell:
One of the main folk I track in this area is John Seddon (Vanguard Consulting) who is visiting Professor at Cardiff University. He has adapted the Demming/Ohno Toyota Production System philosophy to Service Design in both the Private and, more recently, Public sectors. He is an excellent speaker as well. You can get his material at Vanguard Consulting - and you can see him on video at:

Bhavna Bahr
In the Bubble - John Thackara
Naked Brain - Richard Restak
Buyology - Martin Lindstorm
Why We Buy - Paco Underkill
The Hidden Dimension - Edward T Hall
How Customers Think - Gerald Zaltman
Universal Principles of Design
Ten Faces of Innovation - Tom Kelly
Visual Ethnography - Sarah Pink

Jonathan Norman:
Maybe too far off for your pusposes but we are publishing: Design for Services, edited by Dr Anna Meroni and Dr. Daniela Sangiorgi in March 2010

Birgit Mager
Touchpoint . The Journal of Service Design, Köln: Köln Interntional School of Design
Miettinen, Satu / Koivisto, Mikko (Hrsg.): 28Designing Services with Innovative Methods, Keuruu: Otava Book Printing,

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

any Service Design in China?

I was looking at this world map of Service Design activities [via Jeff's blog], and was surprised that there is nothing about Service Design from mainland China...
I notice some visit of this blog from Shanghai and Beijing... so... anyone know anything like that happening in China?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Service Design Research

Nice that the research people are getting actions as well :)

You can find some really interesting interviews on the Service Design Research website! Hopefully there will be more good stuff like that in the future.

Thanks to Jonathan for the information.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

what is Social Innovation?

Find this very interesting article online that reports some inspiring reflections on what is going on in the Social Innovation in the UK. Thanks to Redjotter for the link :)

Also, i was very impressed by the really powerful Google Translation function for webpages!

process, people and knowledge

I have been avoiding blogging for a while - just try to concentrate on the project. After all, I am now officially in my final year…

Although away from the internet, but I was working as hard as always~ Firstly, big big ‘thank you’ to all the inspiring conversations I had with the brilliant designers from Livework, Engine, Plot in London, We Are Curious in Glasgow and Professor Alan McKinley in St Andrews!

This morning I was editing the article for Re-public's special issue on Service Design, which hopefully is going to be published soon online!

As usually… the discussion/conclusion paragraphs got me dead… and as usually I start to doodle on post-it notes

Process can be a chain of stages where people feed their relationships and knowledge into.

Process can be carried out in such ways that it actively form itself to fit into people’s relationship and capture their knowledge.

Maybe there should be a third one:
Process can be guiding people through to build new relationships and create new knowledge.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

D2B2 impression

I presented a paper  in the D2B2 Design Management conference in Beijing last week and also heard a lot of very interesting speech from presentors from all over the world.  Together with the keynote speakers, there were over 50 presentations in total, covering topics from branding to sustainability to a bit of Service Design. Most of the presentations are inspiring, although I guess the use of double languages (Chinese and English) makes it a bit complex when it comes to question time. Happy that I actually benefited from both languages- ain't doing a degree abroad for nothing ;] 

One of the most impressive presentation might be James Woudhuysen's critical insights towards  Design Management by saying" design is not going to save the world, technology and science might save the world, but design can help them". I can't say that I completely agree with him, but I do admire the courage to start a contradictory argument in a conference basically show casing the benefit of design to business. However, it is true that we not only study what design can do, but also study what design cannot do. The role of design is changing, which is also true to many other professions in the world, but it doesn't mean that we can either over or under estimate what design can do. 

This reminds me of John Thackra's talk on Design Council's podcast suggests three lessons they learnt from DOTT, which might give us some thoughts on what design might become.
1. We are not going to innovate in the desert. It's already here. In the country our job is to discovery and accelerate the existing grass-root innovation by bring in design skills, bring in technology platforms, bring in resources s and when they are needed.

2. Build unlikely connection (innovation!) and build trust.

3. Think about how do we want to live. Start conversations at local, not telling people how they want to live. "

By the way, James Woudhuysen is having a new booking coming... Energise! it is about energy, science, and our future society. I have not read it yet though... let me know what you think if you did ;]

Thursday, 9 April 2009

a mind explosion on Service Design

This is a quick thoughts dumping before I go off to holiday and forget everything I have in my mind now... it's a bit long and chaotic... but... enjoy!

I had a great time in London - lots of interesting conversations with lots of inspiring minds! About half way through my PhD we had a break through point to narrow down the research focus to the stakeholder management in SD process. (I always like to use 'we', as many decisions are made through discussions with my dear supervisors, don’t think that I can take all the credits here! ) Often ideas and thoughts got shaped during the conversation with inspiring minds from all sorts of backgrounds, I guess my PhD is really a collective work in a way. Therefore, I would love to share some reflections I collected along the two weeks via different means. To be honest, there is no statement or conclusion here, everything is pretty random and always open to discussion.

The management/transformation of knowledge gets a lot of attention recently. Hugo Raaijmakers started a heated conversations on the LinkedIn discussion board on SD methodology and there are also some very interesting thing going about the challenge to define SD in relations to the existing design disciplines or even at a broader sense, the existing knowledge, in the PhD Design mailing list. Today I got an email from a PhD peers, Fabian Segelström urging us SD PhDers to share some thoughts on this matter. (Thanks Fabian, I seem to need couple of these kicks to get me to writ my thoughts down!) Fabian pointed out that the matter of articulating the implicit knowledge barriered in SD practice needs to be explicited and linked back to existing concepts and literatures. I am with Fabian here. How do we know we are not reinventing the wheel? How do we know that we are actually making a difference and even improvement by introducing methods and methodologies to service organizations and public audience?

It is really important that we as researchers hold the critical point while exam the practice and learn from it at the same time. But it is turethat the knowledge base of SD is really unclear and I do have a feeling that a lot of established literatures in management, consulting and policy development are overlooked (agree with Nick @LinkedIn discussion). Maybe it is time to go back and try to make some sense of SD in a larger sense outside the design domain. If we are talking about SD as a main response to the notion of inter-disciplinary work, then understand where SD fit with other disciplines is crucial to any research or practice. Do we know who are the giants whose shoulders we are standing on? Do we have a clear idea of the knowledge structure of SD so far?

Some very interesting insights came from Engine while I talked to Nick, Erick and Jo earlier about how Engine (could) manage the knowledge internally. I was really amazed by the dynamic interactions and the knowledge transformation going on in that small group. It was a pity that this is not the focus of my current research, but there is potentially a very innovative business model for SD there with all the practice they have explored by themselves initially. While Re from Radastation also told me a lot about the networking nature of how he works with other SDers and various clients. Maybe there are couple of future research topics on business model innovation for design consulting there!

Last week I had a very interesting conversation with Lucy Kimbell (she organised the D4S research project in Oxford, possibly the first SD research in the UK). One of the very interesting came off during the conversation was that, there might be no SD in 5 or 10years... it becomes a concept rather than a discipline. But it can be a positive thing that SD becomes part of something that is more powerful but may not under the name of design anymore, or it can be picked up by other more established discipline as a means to move forward. Well, if you think this one is too critical, read the next one...

Maybe doing research on SD is not about service at all. I don't know if it is because of the nature of my own research or is there any other researchers in the field share a similar feeling as mine. We study a lot about design itself, its tools, its process, the experiential bit about design, and knowledge management in consulting environment, how many of us really talk about service? The service provides a context for design. Is it possible that we might have been rushed a bit trying to establish generable process, methodologies or even theories while forget the fact that concepts and tools have to work and should be studies in its context? So how much do we actually understand our context?

Well, finally, finally… guess I might raise some arguments here, but told you, I am really thinking and talking on the fly… have to admit there are a lot of self-criticize here as well... would love to hear what you say :)

Monday, 30 March 2009

Has Design Thinking got a problem?

Came across this piece on Sam Ladner’s blog 'Design Research', talking about Design Thinking's Big Problem. Sam says

'So-called “design thinking” is the new It-Girl of management theory. It purports to provide new ways for managers and companies to provide innovative, creative solutions to old problems. But design thinking alone will not solve these problems because a lack of creativity was never the issue.

The real issue is one of power.

[...] '

I am not going to say that I totally agree with Sam, but I like the way she talked about power, as it seems to be something designer try to avoid talking about. Designers love creating, some of them love thinking as well. The power of creating is so familiar to designers, that they don't see it anymore. I came across service designers talking about change people's mind or people's perception of problem solving and being creative, surprisingly, few of them mention power. Designer holds the power - the power to change people's mind simply by amazing them with the process of creating, by getting them involved in the journey of discovering the stories of a product or a service, by sharing tool to create the life they wanted. It may not be hug step forward but at least they nudge - small change make big differences. But somehow the recognition of such power was often underestimated by designer themselves, a strategic approach to claim that power, therefore, gets neglected along the way.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Exciting Glasgow

Spend whole day walking around Glasgow yesterday... the weather was pretty good!

Went to a workshop in Hub in the morning, the Technologie Strategy Board (TSB) is giving out a good amount of money to fund projects that 'accessing and commercialising content in a digitally networked world', the deadline is 23 April. Great chance if you have digital/communication related ideas to commercialise. To apply:

Met up with Florence for a wee chat and accidentally found out that Distence Lab is having a event in Lighthouse in the evening. It was a showcase of couple of very interesting projects going on in Distence Lab, all somehow related to the idea of 'distence communication'. Couple of ideas are very experiental while the others are really practical. My personal faviourt is the 'boxing over a distance', we shall get one for the studio!!!!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

the new world of working

Had a interesting converstion with Arne at DesignThinkers today... and one thing leads to another, Arne send over a link of Work 2.0 then I find another little piece of video from Lisa Bodell from FutureThink, talking about emerging concepts in Human Capital Management from an innovation perspective. Well... to be honest, I am not really such a big fan of getting Gen Y standing stand out from all other generations, as I kinda consider it more of a marketing invention to make more money out of us... but I do believe that our working is changing, no matter it is for good or for bad. Let's see what Lisa says...

Monday, 16 March 2009


NESTA launched THE LAB to encourage projects around public service innovation.
"The Lab provides the freedom, flexible capital and expertise to undertake radical experiments. It tests out new ways of finding and spreading the best ideas - this might be by running a challenge prize, building a social ventures incubator, or creating powerful new teams of users, front-line staff and decision-makers."

THE LAB has three main part:
  • challenge lab: explores how innovation can help services respond to critical social and economic issues, starting with ageing, climate change and health;
  • methods lab:puts radical thinking into action and is where we test and assess the best ways of fostering public service innovation;
  • and learning lab: helps you to apply and spread what we learn.
Seems to a place for funding and possibly will prodcut interesting projects in the future... worth keeping an eye on it :)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

visiting around

Have a lot of visiting around this month, wonder if anyone would like to meet up for a cup of coffee in my destination city?

Newcastle - going this Friday to carry out my pilot study and also to fix my little watch... will have the whole afternoon for myself... don't know the place very well... any gallery suggested?

Glasgow - for the 'Partnering for Innovation' in Glasgow on 19th March, Thursday. Anybody goes as well?

London - always exciting and welcoming- planning to visit and stay in London on both 25th and 26th, meeting lots of old, new and virtual friends. Let me know if you are around and wanna meet up for a chat or something… I have both mornings booked now but still have some time slot to wonder around! Who wants to join me watching Dirty Dancing??

wee update here: places to visit while in London...
Design Museum, BRIT INSURANCE : DESIGNS OF THE YEAR 2009, 28 Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YD
the School of Life , 70 Marchmont, London, WC1N 1AB

mmnn... where else shall I visit?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Introduction to Service Design

Find this interesting site for Service Design beginners...

public service - universal design

If we investigate our campus like this as a student group project, the result should be interesting... new workshop coming up ;o)

[thanks to DesignThinkers for the resource]

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

a holistic view for (service) design team

image from Boxes and Arrows

After reading Joseph Selbie's post 'Bring Holistic Awareness to Your Design' on Boxes and Arrows, I quickly made this graph here and start to wonder what is a holistic view for Serivce Design team? What's interesting is that in Joseph devide the role in the design team as Stakeholder Champion, Project Manager, Busines Analyst, User Representatives, UI Developer, Programming Lead. Although Joseph is talking about using user-central approach in web designing, I can instently see characters being reflected in many other design practice that uses a user-central approach...

What in fact bugs me a bit is the right corner circle, and I wonder if that is more of the role that service designer will play as facilitator/navigator rather than as a technology expert. But then I add on 'tool' here... in many cases service designers act as the observer or the researcher using enthnographic tools, but they also act as visual tool creator as well, eh, well that kind of fit back into the facilitator's role, isn't it? I am a bit confused here, and wonder if any of you guys has an oppinon on it?

If we step back and have a look at the 'holistic picture', we might be able to get a sense of the wholeness of all three parties. This model can be an interesting starting point to interpret the dynamic roles of people who are involved in a design project - that many of them play multiple roles at different stage or even simultaneousluy. Whomever is involved in a process at a certain stage is there for a reason, they either has certain knowledge, skill or technique to contribute, or can be benefited from the participation. Design process is often an intensive knowledge exchange, even knowledge integrating process where designer often achieve a certain level of 'inaugurative learning' (Jevnaker, 1993) with the client. So in Service Design, firstly, what is the definition of a design team? What do service designers benefit when people are involved in a project? How they make the decisions of when certain stakeholders should be getting on board, when to leave them aside? What communication techniques are used if team members come from a different background and has different purpose to join the project?

Friday, 20 February 2009

we are curious

This morning I had an interesting chat with Florence Andrews, co-founder of We Are Curious, at the Lighthouse Cafe in the gray rainy Glasgow. We Are Curious might be the only British Service Design cosultancy not located in London. (please let me know if you know of any other examples outside London!) Florence simply said, we don’t want to leave Glasgow to do service design, so we decide to start a business here. The company is established in 2005 with the support of NESTA and so far have developed a rich portfolio of design projects from education to healthcare areas.


Florence describes their work as not strictly service design, they take on many different types of work, but the key is to involve as many people as possible in the design process, especially users. In order to understand user’s needs and the social environment from which these needs emergies, often service designer need to develop a certain level of the regional knowledge that is close to the user’s day-to-day living condition. We Are Curious is very proud of the empathy towards the client organisation and the service user in their practice, especially towards the people in the Glasgow region. This makes me think of the locationlization of service systems. One of the charactieristics of service is the highly customization of cutomer offerings. That understanding of people, their love and sorrows, their dreams and fears, is perhaps the most important transferable knowledge of service designer in their various practicies.


The idea I got today is that maybe we shall encourage our young designers to try and start their service design practices wherever they are living and to seed the idea of ‘serivce thinking’ into whatever projects they are involved no matter where they will be working.

If Service Design, as Buchanan suggests, is about justice. Then justice is needed everywhere, isn’t it?. 

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Silent Design

I spent las night reading this little photocopy of an article from Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas, after weeks of waiting for it to come via the Inter Library Loan from British Library... It is a report on the pilot study they did in London Business School in 1987 on how the enterprise organize itself to make best ue of design, and they proposed a very important concept in that article: Silent Design.

"[...] a great deal of design activity goes on in organizations which is not called design. It is carried out by individuals who are not called designers and who would not consider themselves to be designers. We have called this 'silent design'."

Silent Design is a key concept in my research of service design, as it describes exactly what happens during/after stakehoder's encounter with the design team.

The shame is that I only got this report on the Pilot study in the first year of their three-year project... wonder anyone knows what happened afterwards? It would be very interesting to have a look at the final results and conclusion they got for the whole project. Have anyone got any other publications from Gorb and Dumas on Silent Design around 1990s? Also I guess this report on Design Studies is out of print now as well... I have a scaned PDF copy and not sure if it is legal to spread it online... If you are looking for this report for research and learning purpose, please give me a shout here and I will email you :)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Richard Buchanan on the 'Four Boundaries of Service Design'

< image from Jeff Howard's Design for Service >

Richard Buchanan's closing keynote speech on the Emergence 2007, very insightful.

Just couple of notes and quotes I put down here while listening... would like to hear what you think :)

Buchanan point out Four Boundaries of Service Design as:
1. information visulisation - build conversations following the visual presentation among community that lead to actions;
2. artefact and service - shift the foucs towards the context and consequences of using artefacts;
3. the different between a system designer and a service designer - system design? organisation design? service design? environmental design?
4. service design and management - is good service design good management?

so this is the bit that makes me interested... Buchanan askes what's things that designers do that managers don't do? He talks about the the lost wholeness of organisation operation in management studies... so are we designers getting it back to the service development? Also designer use visualisation to stimulate meaningful communication. Embodyment of the intagibles, designers re-connect the managers to the day-to-day human interactions on the working grounds.

Buchanan then moved on to ask the big question: what is the definition of Service Design? and then he claims that he was not troubled by it, so the anxiety to define it lost its point. He suggests us to be careful about feeling the need to categorising design, but spend time to find out the core quality of design, not the metaphores. As designer, we talk about techniques, talk about methods, what we don't talk about is the strategies that sets above the techniques and the methods. Methods always contains a conceptual framework, often come from another context. Well, the strategy is the art of using methods - how we involve methods and people in our practice.

Value is central in service design, according to Buchanan. One of the central features is about making people more active in their communities, to become agents of change, to be given the power to act. Designer needs to be very self-critical on how much power we retain. It is about justice.

"We can only act well if we have the right information and know how to use it wisely."

"Service design is adding another bit of understanding to this evolving practice of design thinking."

A ture design thinker.