Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes, even the toilets too

For a while I have been saying that the thing about service designers is that they attend to the mundane details of the service, everything from the design of posters to websites to text messages to physical environments to interactions with people - all of these are to be designed along with the orchestration of the end-user's encounters with them.

I recently had a chance to go visit a design project two friends were involved in. On the way back from a trip to Dorset, a couple of us dropped off at the redesigned Little Chef restaurant, which UK readers will probably remember as a slightly greasy but comforting roadside chain of restaurants. Now, they've been rebranded (I guess) and redesigned, or at least the one at Popham has. And the one we visited was even on TV - with conceptual chef Heston Blumenthal involved in redesigning the menu. And yes, the food was pretty good, still within the realm of fast-ish, roadside drop in eateries, but more locally-sourced, and a bit more for the vegetarians.

But what excited us even more was the re-design of the space by Ab Rogers Design, which included attention to details such as the conventional ones - layout, colour and materials for the restaurant but also the menus, employee uniforms, little comments on the tilling, little plastic flies on the ceiling which is covered with blue skies, and - the best bit - especially since I know the brilliant people who did it - the music in the loos. Tim Olden is a genius at picking bits of quirky and cheeky music, which plays as you enter the loo at the Little Chef in Popham and Dom Robson is a genius about making the technology work. I can't wait to go back.

Ab Rogers Design mostly do exhibition design, and are not particularly visible in the service-design world. But their reconceiving of the Little Chef brand and its service - not just its restaurant - communicates a similar attention to the detail of the visitor/customer/stakeholder experience. Yes - even in the toilets too - but in this case, it's especially the toilets.

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