5 x 5 - Taking Issue, Kate Gabel

Interview with Kate Gabel, Service Designer at Fjord

by Thomas Brandenburg

“The power of strong design can shift behavior for good or bad. The “bad” or dark side is certainly something we as designers need to be aware of.”

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?

Blueprint-journey-roadmap with concept visuals… In an effort to be efficient with what we create and deliver to our clients we often combine too many tools/visualizations into one. Clients often think the more you communicate all at once the better the output will be. Not the case! Blueprints and journeys, for example, have different intents, so combining them can muddle the message and detract from strong design work. That said, it’s important that we continue to innovate and improve the tools we’re using and delivering. We should push ourselves to create more informative tools and deliverables that rethink traditional methods of visualizing. Through very intentional consideration and design, you can successfully incorporate an element or two from one tool into another tool. But be careful - it’s a slippery slope!

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

Design thinking is an approach, an approach that is used in designing services. They are not one and the same. Service design has been practiced in the U.S. for years, but without the formality of the European practice. Understanding complicated ecosystems and how services can be better designed to positively affect an ecosystem is nothing new. We’ve simply formalized and put degree programs in place to better equip designers to design services.

As far as traction goes, while it took many years and much persuasion I believe design thinking has a decently strong foothold in the business world now. I often find clients specifically asking for a design (thinking) approach whereas years ago they simply thought updated visuals would solve their problems. Enough companies have seen quantifiable results from design thinking that there's less apprehension nowadays. However, that doesn’t mean we stop advocating!

3. Where is service design not happening? Why?

Any company or industry where consumer and business needs are not appropriately designed for and the universe (in which the “service” lives) is not considered - service design is not present. Clients understand more discrete areas of design, such as product design or visual design. But, service design is all encompassing, it includes product, interaction and visual (to name a few). As a company it can be difficult to wrap your head around the idea that you need to consider and design for all aspects of your business, the ecosystem in which it lives and the variety of players affected.

In thinking about some industries ripe with design challenges, insurance, healthcare and government come to mind.

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?

Inclusion and diversity have been issues for decades. Because of that they’re not issues that will be resolved overnight unfortunately. The fact that a spotlight is shone on these topics of late is fantastic. Companies are being held accountable and are rethinking who they hire, promote and how to truly engage and support everyone.

Regarding design, at it’s core design is inclusive. It’s about making a better world for everyone. Or it should be. We as designers often make design exclusive either intentionally or unintentionally. Designing with a mindset of inclusion and diversity expands our thinking and ultimately allows us to create more impactful solutions.

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?

The power of strong design can shift behavior for good or bad. The “bad” or dark side is certainly something we as designers need to be aware of. When working with our clients we need to be cognizant that the solutions we’re designing have a truly positive effect on people and that we’re educating, nudging, compelling people effectively and responsibly.

To see Kate Gabel or participate in her workshop register here for the SDN US National Conference

Check out other 5 x 5s