5 x 5 - Taking Issue, Jess Poole

Interview with Jess Poole, Lead Design Strategist at Level Studios

by Thomas Brandenburg

Because service design often uses aggregation of experiences in tools like journeys, personas and JTBD, to enable decision making, we can sometimes lose the trees for the forest. We need to find a way to address the commonalities in human behavior and needs without getting overwhelmed, while taking diversity and inclusion into consideration.

1.What kind of hybrid communication tools have you seen or been asked to create? For instance, service blueprints that show journey stages, or journey maps that show blueprint visualizations. Do you think mixing different tools into one visualization is a good idea?

I see and use hybrid communication tools all the time, the exact hybrid will depend on the needs of the project but some ones I’ve used in the past are service blueprints that include information about information architecture and UX frameworks, journeys that include information about business processes, personas that contain KPIs and other business data like wallet share. I’ve always been pretty fluid with the deliverables I create, the important consideration has always been whether the deliverable supports the outcomes of that project. Even visualizations that stick to the traditional definition of a particular tool will be unsuccessful if they don’t do that.

2. Do you think Design Thinking has gotten more traction in the business world than Service Design? If so, why?

Definitely, Design Thinking has got more brand recognition and hype at executive levels because it is a simple, well branded concept that promises great rewards. In its most basic form it asks very little of the business. Sure, if you were to embed Design Thinking into every aspect of a business it would require a huge shift at every level, but at an aspirational level it doesn’t require that.

Service Design is trickier, in some ways because it is more practically targeted. Service Design promises results by getting involved in the nitty gritty of your business, not just in one department but across many. Where Design Thinking sounds shiny and exciting, Service Design can sound difficult, messy and painful. On top of that, the word ‘service’ really gets in the way. There are as many definitions of ‘service’ out there as there are companies and that’s without even tackling the definition of "product".

3. Where is service design not happening? Why?

I don’t see a lot of service design happening is the San Francisco Bay Area. There are pockets where service design is gaining some traction; financial services, local government, healthcare and social services, but the bulk of industries here, especially the big tech companies, aren’t doing anything close to service design. Interestingly, there’s a lot more service design being done in Australia, where I lived until about a year ago. I think there are a few reasons why this is the case in the SF Bay Area; even those companies that provide services consider themselves product companies, service design requires you to be a generalist and generalists are not valued in the job market and design is not associated with planning and strategy activities here.

4. Given the attention to topics of demographic diversity and a culture of inclusion in design, do you think enough is being done, especially regarding the field of service design?

Yes, we definitely should be considering demographic diversity and creating a culture of inclusion in all design work and I don’t think we have worked out exactly what that looks like in service design. Because service design often uses aggregation of experiences in tools like journeys, personas and JTBD, to enable decision making, we can sometimes lose the trees for the forest. We need to find a way to address the commonalities in human behavior and needs without getting overwhelmed, while taking diversity and inclusion into consideration.

5. Thinking about the “dark front stage” of service design, created to trick and manipulate the customer—do you think this is a creeping trend for service design in the same way dark patterns have been for UX?

Honestly, no. I think culturally people are more prepared for some level of deception when it comes to services, the stereotype of the pushy salesman is still very real. That, coupled with exposure to the digital versions of those behaviors, the dark patterns in UX, increases the savviness of the consumer. That’s not to say that service design can’t be used for evil, the potential is there and some will try it, but it’s up to us, as service designers, to not be a party to that. Service design, applied practically in both the design and ongoing maintenance phases of a service give us the data we need to be able to make a strong case against manipulating customers. Services require ongoing relationships and manipulation is not a great basis for building that.

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