5 x 5 - Taking Issue, Jessica Weeden

Interview with Jessica Weeden, Service Designer at Philips

by Thomas Brandenburg

Of all the fields of design, I believe service design is most closely tied to a company’s culture, and can most influence and shape a company’s culture.

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’m a big believer in adapting tools to accomplish at any given time. Blueprinting, for me, has been a way to get it all out on paper so the team has a common reference point. As a project progresses, the team can come back to the blueprint and layer on new information, and take information out, to highlight the current conversation that needs to be had. I have had teams explore the user’s journey as well as the frontline employee journey on the blueprint. For new-to-the-world services, we even mapped our current capabilities and products that may be applied in new ways to help deliver the service.

For me, it’s not so much about creating hybrid tools as creating dynamic visuals to guide a team. I see any of the traditional tools as a starting off point.

2. Do you think design thinking has gotten more traction in the business world than service design? If so, why?

Absolutely. When I talk to people I meet out in the wild, I have greater confidence they will recognize the term design thinking before they recognize ‘service design.’ My husband who is in education even came across an article on design thinking for high schools in a professional journal. It’s pretty thoroughly permeated the business world at this point.

In some ways, I think this may be a false distinction though. Design thinking has been packaged and marketed better as something oriented around improving profits. However, this message belies the complexity inherent in the design approach. I view service design, and really all human-centered design disciplines, as the deeper, richer version of design thinking. And that’s why dedicated designers are needed to navigate when the waters get murky.

So we can use design thinking as a way to get a foot in the door and then bring the richer world of service design to a project or team.

3. Where is service design not happening? Why?

Lots of places! Most places! I think we are seeing it pop up across a wide variety of industries, from travel to healthcare to financial services to the public sector, but it doesn’t seem to be trickling down or spreading out yet. I’d love to see service design become a necessary facet of all of these industries.

I also think where it is happening, service design isn’t always happening as fully as it could be. Individual services may have been designed thoughtfully, but for service design to be most effective, I think it needs to permeate throughout a company– a much bigger ask and a much harder sell.

I’d love to see more conversations about service design projects focusing on internal operations where the focus in on the employees in the warehouse or processing returns and not necessarily dealing directly with consumers. In time I think that would affect a great deal more about how the company delivers a service.

It’s so important that we’re having this conversation, but I’ve yet to really see it go beyond conversation. Everyone seems to have mastered the talk, but we’re not quite walking the walk yet.


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?

It’s so important that we’re having this conversation, but I’ve yet to really see it go beyond conversation. Everyone seems to have mastered the talk, but we’re not quite walking the walk yet.

I think we need to effect more of a mindset shift. I think hiring managers need to be explicit when talking to their teams about what to look for in recruitment, and to potential hires about the value of having a diverse team. I think we could do better to call out our own mistakes that have become apparent through not having a diverse team or a diverse group of research participants. I would love to see these things become standard practice for the design community.

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

It is our responsibility as designers to always question the ethics of the work we’re doing.

Of all the fields of design, I believe service design is most closely tied to a company’s culture, and can most influence and shape a company’s culture. When structuring services, it’s important to understand what incentives you may be creating, or what employees may perceive them to be, so that you can begin to mitigate unintended consequences. This is true for potential harm to the consumer, but also communities or the environment. It’s important to be explicit about these decisions and push for the conversations when others won’t.

As service designers, we’re focused on understanding the human side of the whole journey which uniquely positions us think through those things, and we should view it as crucial to our job as any other aspect.

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