Tuesday, 27 January 2009

US design council?

Interesting example of some new thinking in the US.

Friday, 23 January 2009

How to innovate the pixar way

“Look, this is a young team. As individual animators, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, but if we can interconnect all our strengths, we are collectively the greatest animator on earth. So I want you guys to speak up and drop your drawers. We’re going to look at your scenes in front of everybody. Everyone will get humiliated and encouraged together. If there is a solution, I want everyone to hear the solution, so everyone adds it to their tool kit. I’m going to take my shot at what I think will improve a scene, but if you see something different, go ahead and disagree. I don’t know all the answers.” Brad Bird on how he consistently makes excellent films.

And... "Steve Jobs basically designed [the Pixar] building. In the center, he created this big atrium area, which seems initially like a waste of space. The reason he did it was that everybody goes off and works in their individual areas. People who work on software code are here, people who animate are there, and people who do designs are over there. Steve put the mailboxes, the meetings rooms, the cafeteria, and, most insidiously and brilliantly, the bathrooms in the center—which initially drove us crazy—so that you run into everybody during the course of a day. He realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen. So he made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company."

If you have the money, then why not make the office just as you want it?!

Full article here.


This makes me very angry. Let's hope cheese is top of Obama's list eh...

Monday, 19 January 2009


I like the civic virtue of this campaign from President (Elect still!) Obama. I wonder how many people will sign up. Such a shame that community service is labelled a punishment over here.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Self service

Ikea may have worked out how to do international, graphics-led build instructions, but many others haven't. I spent an hour and a half today connecting two water butts to two drain pipes. The instructions beggared belief. At one point I was required to cut a section of pipe 4 and 5/8ths of an inch in length! Suffice to say, the final result was effective, but quite heath robinson.

I once installed a kitchen bin that slid outwards and opened as the cupboard door was opened and I've had my fair share of hell fitting stair gates. But what made them easier by far, was that the instruction paper itself was a template that you held up to the wall and drilled through. Smart and inventive, although as with all DIY, mostly still a hassle.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Online leading the offline

Choosenick spotted this the other day, an article about sites taking the online experience offline. About the same time, I was watching TV when an Aviva ad came on (Aviva being the expensive new name for Norwich Union) for car insurance. Car insurance must be the most cluttered and clumsy marketplace in the world. If I hear another commitment to quote me less, I'll go mad.

Anyway - the smart guys at Aviva ran an ad saying that when you phone for a quote, they will also give you quotes from their competitors. The ad plays it as if you were the ad executive at Aviva making the suggestion, looking at your colleagues' reaction around the table. They look at you in incredulous silence for two, three seconds - an eternity in TV terms. It's quite powerful, which is an amazing achievement for a car insurance ad.

Aviva are smart because they've accepted that no-one listens to "lower than your currnt quote" pledges any more. They also know that the marketplace is increasingly transparent - with sites like confused.com offering brokerage. So they sensibly expanded their service.

But that's pretty radical. Not many company's will tell you their competitors' prices. It's like the John Lewis "never knowingly undersold" pledge, but taken to new heights. Companies that absorb such digital realities and turn them to their advantage stand a far better chance of success.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Bernard Black

Just watching some old Black Books episodes. The one where Manny turns the book shop into a Borders. Much as I love good service, I also get a lot out of grumpy service. The man old greengrocer. The narky newsagent. Too much service is awful. It's a very British thing to cherish bad service. We need our Bernard Blacks to stem the tide of cheery cloying vacuous customer service.

Find your community

There's been a lot of talk recently about community being the new focus group. See here and here. The argument is: don't create an artificial focus group to represent your users (they probably won't tell you the truth anyway), but instead find out who your community is and listen to them. Actively.

In all the discussions an interesting and common thread seems to be the live essence of the customer relationship. About servicing that customer at that moment in time. This is only successful in companies that give their staff the confidence/ability/flexibility to adapt within procedures to make it happen. It's what IDEO talked about at the Service Design conference in Amsterdam - that customers work well with metascript - a continuum of branded touchpoints that help them do what they need to do. When the metascrip fails - and a company stops holding the customer's hand - they resort to the helpline... or increasingly they just twitter all 300 of their friends instantly. The damage of not knowing your community, listening to them and adapting your service to make it engaging and fun, is likely to be very costly indeed.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Service Science - awful name, interesting idea

IBM have recognised the skills gap of people unqualified to manage service-based institutions. So they created an acronym - SSME - Service Science, Management and Engineering. This is basically service design, but fascinating that a technocratic company like IBM have turned it into a science- based practice. If you were to go now and get a degree in service management - would you expect a Bachelor of Arts, or a Bachelor of Science? Does it matter? I'm an arts grad so to me, yes, it would. And also service is a creative activity, which relies on the service provider creating a good customer experience at every moment, tailored to specific customers. It's not a science.

But let's be honest - IBM's expertise is in selling to their services, and they're savvy enough to know that service "design" would be too fluffy for them to stomach. Make it a science, with predictable process and methods, and then you put your captain of industry clients at rest. But I doubt very much whether SSME could be transformational.

Oh - and they have a pretty good definition of service design. Perhaps we could all sign up to it before the next SD conference! Save ourselves a lot of debate.

God's own service designer

Liked this anecdote about a Philadelphia rector sitting next to a service designer and discussing service design. Interestingly the company writing the blog - Frontier Service Design - are calling themselves the first SD company in America. Can that be right?

Designing for a service economy

This is a pretty interesting article about the massive value service has to our western economies, and yet how little service design is about. Most interesting thing however is that this is a management consultant talking. They have smelt something on the wind...


There are umpteen ways to cook cannelloni. Tonight I'm steering the kitchen through about four different recipes. Some forego the white sauce, others reject spinach. All require a bit of sweetness - a bit of sugar and some cherry tomatoes. For me the best bit about cannelloni - what makes it superior to lasagna - is the separation of ingredients. Where lasagna opts for the geological boredom of strata, cannelloni curls its ingredients in hoops. The result is better all round.

More service less stuff

Heard some interesting discussions on this point over the last couple of days. The shared opinion seems to be that, just as with the 80's recession in the UK, this recession is likely to push us further towards a service economy and away from a manufacturing economy. I guess I buy that, but there is a new shift back to craft - niche producers using online markets to shift their products. Isn't that the new wave of manufacturing - millions of product variations, all wrapped up in a nice service experience?

Friday, 9 January 2009

A customer service service

I love getsatisfaction. An online outsourced customer service service for online services!

From the horse's mouth

Some great testimonials about service design in this Engine video

Transformation - service design in disguise

It all sounds like a 1974 sci-fi short story, but apparently "2009 is all about transformation". Business Week kicked off the debate on 3rd Jan, saying that innovation was dead - a victim of corporate hubris - and my word it hasn't stopped since. Worth a look. Transformation being humanising technology. Letting customers produce your service etc.

Also - editor of industrial design bible Core 77 was quoted as saying that "in 2009... we’re going to see an explosion of Service Design around the world. Many firms are already practicing it, but it will take on a new urgency as more and more people recognize service as the new product." Which is all good too. I took on my new role of Director of Service Design at the Team in November. So I'm hoping they're both right!

Great thing about all of this is that, since 2005, the public sector has been all over transformation. Take a look here to find out. Having failed for years to successfully innovate, they've leapfrogged onto the next big thing. And the remarkable thing? It appears to be working. Although to find out exactly how well, we'll have to wait for the 2008 annual report due later this month.