Design Thinking for Services: Service Design Blueprint Tools

We’ve posted about Service Design tools before, but it seemed worthwhile to share a few more tools from our research on the web and from our other friends in the design world, since people have been asking about it.

We see Design Thinking, Service Design and Experience Design as overlapping so strongly with an underlying process and outlook on users so similar, that we don’t make a strong distinction—it’s just a way of thinking about experiences, with varying inputs and outputs.

Some people think that’s overreach. For us at The Design Gym, Design is Design and the fundamental thought processes are tools that everyone can use to create real change, however they choose to. That process is helped along by the tools of Design Thinking.

tweet-graphic-4The Fundamentals of Service Design Thinking: Map in Flows, Design in Cycles

So…What are the fundamentals of Service Design Thinking?

1. Map, then Design with Flows

One of the most powerful Ideas we’ve learned from Service Design Blueprinting is the concept of a “front” and a “back” of a business. The front is what the user sees and feels, the back is how you make the magic happen. The boundary of seen and unseen is the crucial interface and there’s a lot of design that happens there: the customer experience is defined in that boundary. But exposing deeper, unseen parts of the interaction to the user can change the experience drastically. If you’ve ever sat at a chef’s table in a restaurant, you know what we mean—you see deeper into the creation of the experience you’re having and it changes it for you.

2. Mental Models of how to observe and create experiences

Service Design models give you a lens on the wold of user experience and when you look *through* that lens, you see the world differently. We sometimes use the A-E-I-O-U model: Activities, Experience, Interactions, Objects and Users to help people “see” all the elements of the experience at play. We call it a “low barrier research method” because you can often shadow a process with minimal intrusion.

In the PDF linked below from Izac, a touchpoint palette of People, Props, Place, Partners and Process is described. Is one right? Not at all! Your milage may vary, or you might find one model more appropriate to the culture of your research group. You can download a PDF of his here, and an awesome presentation  of his is below.

3. Experience Cycle Thinking

When designing products, the temptation is to focus on flows…mainly because we are often designing for conversion—that is, we want people to “do” something. Usually that means buying something. But service design thinking borrows from experience design a very important model of engagement that is fundamentally different. Rather than a funnel, we have an experience cycle. The image below is from Izac’s awesome PDF linked above.


When asking people to design services, it’s really powerful to get them to focus on the *whole* cycle as well as to dig into each phase of the experience. This is fractal and holistic thinking and can really transform your design approach. Below is a picture from a workshop where teams mapped positive, neutral and negative experiences across the experience arc—they then used this map to decide where to build a design intervention.





Daniel Stillman
[email protected]

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