The Appearance of Organization

Is key. At least, that’s how it appears to be. But the truth is that we live in an impossible, ridiculously complicated reality that’s just as difficult to map as it is to comprehend sometimes. We’re all just flailing around, trying to make the most of the time we have, and do it in the most convenient and rewarding way. But the only way we have to explain that to anyone else is to over-simplify, to streamline, to make information understandable… but do we loose meaning in this cut down version of reality? Is there a way to keep important and difficult information in a type of representation, and not get too complicated? Well, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in a Service Design class at SCAD titled “Idea Visualization”.

According to Google, “Service design is a form of conceptual design which involves the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers”. That’s a very organized, simple, capital-oriented way of looking at it. That doesn’t make it an any less useful or true definition, using Service Design Thinking and tools provide the opportunity to improve experiences for the benefit of the customer (and therefor the provider as well). A common tool of understanding and improving a service is the blueprint, an operational planning tool that allows the mapping of a service to be easily digestible that shows customers, employees, physical objects, and interactions in a linear fashion. It looks something like this:

A blueprint I helped draft for the experience in a Civil Rights Museum
How we present the experience on the left, and how we really try to map it on the right.

My professor, Maruicio Manheas, would argue that Service Design (when considering common ontology of the chaotic universe we’re in) serves to create new forms of augmenting the potential to act for people and organizations. It’s often used to beautify traditional forms of pampering people with luxury experiences, but it is better served to create new and innovative ways to give human beings (users, providers, stakeholders) the potential to act and co-create a service where everyone can make the most out of the effort they are putting forth.

When you try to look at the design of services this way, the traditional blueprint starts to look pretty oversimplified, even though it’s still too complicated for the average person to just read or understand at first glance.

So, we’re redesigning the blueprint, and it is a lot more complicated than I anticipated.

A slightly developed draft of a new blueprint method ft. my thumb

Most of the contemporary service blueprinting techniques available are based on the “line of visibility” chart, and are based in linear time. But, time-based experiences are not what the offering of a service fundamentally is about anymore. Tools that are structured based on pre-service, service and post-service periods, such as the Encounter Map (my example of this seen above) do not capture the possibilities of a dematerialized, un-mappable, big-data-revolutionized world. The problem is that the tools we use today still focus on interpreting the present with perceptions based on the past of a Goods-Dominant Logic, and do not capture the possibilities found in the dematerialized, data-driven world we live in. The foundations of those tools were created before the work of Professors Robert Lusch and Steve Vargo proposing the Service-Dominant Logic in 2004, that focuses on intangible resources, the co-creation of value, and relationship between the user and the provider. Using these principles, we are tasked with designing what a modern day blueprint tool should look like, to better align with reality as well as to serve as a better tool to propose and understand the new types of services we’re encountering today.

The problem is, no matter how hard we try, it always ends up looking like a traditional blueprint.

It turns out, the concept of time is something that’s difficult to step away from since we, you know, base our entire understanding off of it.

Based off of this, we’ve established some key terms in the taxonomy of service design that need to be included in our new blueprint: relationship, co-creation, quality, motivation, effort. But, we also have to consider traditional elements to make it any sort of sensical for a third party business viewer: provider, user, operand/operant resources, physical items, and augmenting actions.

And now we’ve got this crazy thing going on:

In the words of my good friend Willy Wonka, “there’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going”… but at least we’re going somewhere. Updates on this impossible task to come.