As the field of service design evolves so do the tools. At Adaptive Path we often find ourselves debating the form and definition of service design artifacts.
I was curious to see how a new crop of interaction designers might interpret the journey map. Luckily I had access to an army of fresh thinkers when I co-taught an undergrad Visual Interaction Design class at the California College of the Arts this past year.
One thing that struck me about the CCA undergrads was their natural ability to think cross-functionally. It was clear that they have grown up immersed in technology-driven ecosystems. So, it seemed like a natural step to introduce them to the concept of service design.
I took the students on a good old fashioned field trip to Adaptive Path and recruited six colleagues to help me guide them through a journey mapping activity. I was interested in how a group of designers who had very little exposure to industry standards would interpret a journey map and how approaching the tool from a visual design point of view would influence the outcome.
In small groups the students were tasked with documenting the experience of using public transportation. One student in each group was identified as the research subject and told the story of a specific experience that he or she had riding BART or MUNI. Group members captured key people, actions, emotions, things, and contexts that the storyteller mentioned on post-its, a different color for each category. They then organized the post-its, identifying major stages the journey.
After rearranging, editing, and speculating insights, the students then had to create maps for their homework. We challenged them to consider new paradigms for visualizing experiences.
Synthesize, analyze, create a functional/aesthetically compelling map and challenge current paradigms? In one week? Tall order. But, not surprisingly, they dove right in.
The students had very different takes on when the journey began and ended (looking up the schedule? leaving school? boarding the bus?). Some visualizations were linear, others circular or winding, and some thoroughly abstract. Many chose to focus on riders' emotional experience (a promising sign for the future wave of empathetic designers). One student used patterns to indicate moments of dense or sparse human interaction throughout the trip. Several graphed significant highs and lows in mood. Another created a swirling wash of colors that illustrated rider actions and emotions. She explained that rider emotions could not be isolated into distinct stages but were layered and blended. I couldn't argue with her there.
Some visualizations were clearly more successful than others as a tool for making design decisions. I recognize that a client faced with some of these examples would question the sanity of the company they just hired. However, one of the reasons that I teach is to have students kick me out of my preconceived notions of industry methods.
Approaching this assignment from a visual point of view seemed to encourage students to focus more on emotion and storytelling. They considered the emotional implications of specific colors and typefaces. Working out information hierarchy made the stories immediately clearer and more glance-able. We encouraged the students to take an editorial approach to the data they had collected which I realize is unconventional for journey maps. Yet the result, in most cases, were more stripped down and impactful from a communication point of view. Significant points in the experience emerged through the layers of information.
I would recommend this exercise for anyone experimenting with either teaching or learning service design or visual interaction design. Here’s an overview to help you plan your own version.
What is the purpose of the journey map and who is it for? Will a design or engineering team use it to build out a service? Or is it a tool for executives to socialize a concept throughout the company? Is it intended to be tactical or inspirational?
Create hierarchy by prioritizing. There tends to be a desire to document everything in a journey map, especially if it’s intended to be a tactical tool. But is there an aspect of the experience that is most important to elevate? The emotional highs and lows? The “break points” (points when users disengage with the service)? Use of media and devices?
How do visual hierarchy, typography, color, scale, space and dimension impact communication of the story? What associations do people already have with certain colors? Are there opportunities to use symbols over words? How do you indicate where the journey begins and ends or the most critical moments?
How are these visual choices appropriate for the audience and purpose of the map? How will the typography and hierarchy differ if it’s an inspirational poster versus a something that will be printed and referred to daily?
(adapted from Jamin Hegman and Jared Cole’s service design workshop)
- Introduce the concept of service design. Some great resources include: servicedesigntools.org, thisisservicedesignthinking.com/, servicedesignbooks.org
- Identify a familiar service as the focus for the activity.
- Have one member of each team describe a specific experience they had with that service.
- As the “research subject” is talking, other members of the team capture key people, actions, emotions, things and contexts that they hear in the story on post-its. Use a different color for each category.
- Group the captured notes on butcher paper and identify key stages of the journey. Do meaningful patterns emerge? Is there anything surprising?
- Do rapid sketching of possible visualizations and share with the larger group.
- Refine through digital visualizations. Emphasize that the goal is to not only to document the experience but provide insight into user needs and identify design opportunities for improving or evolving the service.