Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 3

Emerging design disciplines - interaction design, service design, and design for sustainability

Image credit: D'Arcy Norman

If the 20th century was about industrial and product design, this century is likely to be one in which the emerging disciplines of interaction, service and experience design stabilise, and in which the challenges brought about by climate change lead to new ways of doing design. This class introduced students to current thinking and practice.

One resource we used was Bill Moggridge's website Designing Interactions, which has short videos featuring some of the leading names involved in the development of human-computer interaction. Things like drop-down menus and the computer mouse - which are now mundane, everyday devices - required a great deal of design effort. Interaction design today is not just about computers and screens but about engagements with objects in which there is embedded, networked intelligence. In service design, the design challenge is how to offer stakeholders a meaningful and consistent experience across different touchpoints arranged in time and space, with the organizational resources aligned to deliver it. People involved in thinking about the role of design in sustainability have moved from the well-established arguments that we should reduce, re-use and recycle to think of designing products and services that are nutrients (McDonough and Braungart) or attempt to manufacture objects which we can have emotionally durable connections with, so we don't throw them away so quickly (Chapman).

Our guest speaker was Chris Downs, co-founder and director of live|work, a service innovation and design consultancy of 26 people with offices in London and Oslo. When Chris did a Google search on "service design" in 2001, there were no search results. His company is one of the leading consultancies in this fast-growing field. Coming from a product design background, Chris talked us through the realizations that got him to the point that he and his co-founders concluded that products don't work economically, environmentally and socially. His company's goal is to enable a shift from products to services which are more financially, socially and environmentally sustainable; to promote use over consumption; and to make more with less. Using examples of services live|work has designed for organizations such as Norwich Union, Experian and the public sector, Chris provided a provocative narrative of the opportunities - and frustrations - of design-led innovation in services.

In product manufacturing, the designer's job might well be done once the specification is complete. But service designers have to work closely with the organization to help it turn prototypes and specifications into live services. With their inherent variability, services are harder to standardize, especially if they involve people, which means the design of the service must also involve the design of the service system - so designers (of the customer experience through their engagement with touchpoints) need to work closely with managers and service providers (who need to organize everything required to deliver the touchpoints). Service designers are challenging not just established ideas about the scope of design, but also their clients' understandings about service innovation too.

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