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By Kirsten Van Dam (Service Design Lab at Aalborg University)

At our master’s program in Service Systems Design, we teach students to systematically think about the design of services for companies, government institutions and organizations. Service Design has become more important in recent years, and has now developed into a specific design discipline with its own toolkits, skillset, mindsets and education.

Service design can be applied to many areas of society; the urban context is one of them, which is directly integrated into the objectives of DESIGNSCAPES. Problems targeted by the applicants of the DESIGNSCAPES open calls might include climate change, social integration, aging society, smart and sustainable use of resources, mobility and citizen participation and others. These are crucial challenges, which touch a wide variety of stakeholders with often very different needs, views, interests, objectives. These are “wicked problems” (Rittel & Webber, 1973), with power dynamics over how to control and use resources that are scarce or unevenly distributed.

Addressing these issues require a design perspective that takes into consideration such complexity and the implications of design processes in relation to different social, cultural and economic contexts. This is why the DESIGNSCAPES toolbox include instruments and methods coming from service design (Kimbell, 2014; Polaine et al., 2013). According to the design theorist Birgit Mager, service design “choreographs processes, technologies and interactions within complex systems in order to co-create value for relevant stakeholders”. Service design is particularly equipped to consider this complexity as it adopts a systemic perspective that looks at a design project as emerging from the interaction of a wide variety of stakeholders in relation to specific contexts of application.

To exemplify this, we would like to share one of our urban service design projects. Last year, four of our master students, Sneha, Leah and Nadja and Helena, worked on designing “winter service” for the municipality of Copenhagen to make sure that the city is accessible for everyone throughout the winter. The project was executed in collaboration with Vintertjenesten (the service that is responsible for salting and removing snow from Copenhagen’s roads in winter, and is a department that lies within the Technical and Environmental Administration of Copenhagen Municipality). By contributing to the quality of winter biking infrastructure, Vintertjenesten is an essential actor in facilitating mobility in Copenhagen. The project started with the following problem statement:

“How can Vintertjenesten improve their system so it provides convenient mobility for bike commuters in Copenhagen?”

The project was targeted at bike commuters and the final outcome is a service system called NaVi (combining the words Navigation and Vinter) that, by making use of existing stakeholders, monitors the weather conditions, utilizes the tractor route data collected by Vintertjenesten, and shares it with bike commuters by building on an existing interface — the I Bike CPH app. NaVi is a system that utilizes the tractor route data collected by Vintertjenesten, and shares it with commuters through the I Bike CPH interface in an intuitive way.

How did they do it? Using the iterative Double Diamond process, the project followed various phases and these were some of the service design tools that were used in the design phase that created the final outcome. To name a few:

The Actors Map was used to narrow the focus on the roles and relationship between the actors in NaVi. It illustrates the actors involved in NaVi and the relationships between those that form the service system (Morelli and Tollestrup, 2007).

The System Map provides an overview of NaVi with all the involved actors, their competencies, and the interactions between each other (Morelli & Trollestrup, 2007). It furthermore, shows how they are connected in a distributed system (Manzini, 2015). The arrows represent interactions and dataflows (Fig.03).

A Customer Journey Map (i.e. the representation of the sequence of events in the service) provides a vivid but structured visualisation of a service user’s experience. The touchpoints where users interact with the service are often used in order to construct a “journey” — an engaging story based on their experience” (Stickdorn & Schneider, 2011).

Personas were created through a shared understanding of the bike commuters in Copenhagen, modified user archetypes focusing on service development (Pruitt & Grudin, 2003). The types are created from the insights from our online survey, our interviews, and the statistics.

The above listed tools are also included in the current version of the DESIGNSCAPES toolbox and can easily and rapidly be used and applied to various innovation processes. In the future, services will continue to become more digital, interconnected and complex to design and manage. We will need more creative people that can think and work in multidisciplinary ways, combining technical and creative skill sets with an ability to navigate the uncertainty of tomorrow’s challenges.

For more information on our Service Systems Design masters, please visit Service Systems Design.

[Photo: Cycling in Copenhagen — Max Adulyanukosol]