Liquid expectations & living services
Fjord, a “design and innovation consultancy” as described by their website, visited my university today. I had never heard of this company before and now, I’m surprised how I hadn’t heard of them. They have over 25 studios with over 1300 employees. Design firms this large rarely exist (IDEO is the obvious example). But, now that I have heard one of their employees speak about the company, I am keenly interested in learning more about what they do.
Randy Rodriguez, the designer from Fjord that spoke to us, talked about many important and fascinating subject areas for modern designers. For me, two clearly stood out among the rest: liquid expectations and living services.
Definitions and Examples
Liquid expectations refers to the ideas that our expectations are constantly molded by services that are provided to us.
A few years ago, the concept of Airbnb was met with disgust. How could someone stay in a stranger’s home? Today, people expect Airbnb to be there for them when searching for lodging. Another great example is the fingerprint scanner or face unlock on mobile devices. A few years ago, these were luxuries on phones, but now they have become a standard across devices of all prices and a necessity to compete in the market. The expectations of consumers are rapidly changing because how the market itself has been growing and changing. There are no set-in-stone set of expectations anymore. Everything can change.
Living services are “branded services that are personalized and change in real-time for every individual wherever they are and whatever they are doing” (as described by Fjord themselves).
Randy described these services as wrapped around an individual.
This phrasing makes a lot of sense. These services rely on our data to give us value but are too subtle to be noticed as a full fledged service. It’s a debatably harmless symbiotic relationship (obviously data is the big concern here).
A very clear example of such a service, as Randy pointed out, is one of the inconspicuous features of Google Maps. Google is able to use your calendar and its Maps platform to inform you when it is time to leave for a meeting. It will even inform you that you will be late if you don’t leave before a certain time. This feature, although simple, requires several data points to reach to its conclusion. It must know your location at all times and what the structure of your day is like.
Where these two come together?
Living services are a large part of why we have liquid expectations now. Because living services are constantly learning and evolving all while remaining subtle, we aren’t given enough time to understand how these services are changing what we expect for both the good and the bad. Think about the people in Wall-E. This scares a lot of people, however the existence of liquid expectations and living services isn’t inherently bad and the concept should be exciting rather than scary.
Nonetheless, this does not take away the need to ask some serious question. With growing adaption of living services, the philosophy and ethics of these services is becoming more and more important. These questions need to be asked today so that we can have a great future. As an aspiring designer, these answers, although unknown, excite me about the work I will be doing and I hope they excite you equally.
Read more about living services: https://livingservices.fjordnet.com/