Before we started Service Innovation Labs more than three years ago, Lukas and I had the chance to explain our understanding of design and illustrate how it shapes our service development process. The following marks the start of a series of blog posts that will look into the development of service design in recent years, how it evolved into a multi-faceted discipline and where it might take us in the time ahead.
The following is an edited excerpt from an interview with our founders in the movie “Design the New Business” (04:19 – 07:40)
When most people think about design – for example in the automobile industry – they think about the looks of a car, details of the interior and exterior, the leather stitching of the steering wheel, the size and shape of the radiator grille.
Our understanding of design is fundamentally different. We are opposed to the view that design is just one more function in the marketing and sales process. Design is more than defining form, shape and functionality. For us, it is a holistic practice that starts at the very beginning of developing a service and ends at the very last detail of the user experience.
Doing research is key to enable and kick-start this process. Before we think about a new service, we find it crucially important to widen our perspective and explore the wishes, goals and objects that are part of people’s everyday life. Only then, when we get a real understanding of the hidden needs and motivations, we begin to think about possible solutions. That puts us in a very a different position than most classical design approaches, that usually focus on the development of an object for an already specified goal.
There is this generation, called ‘Generation Golf’, because everyone owned this one car. It truly became the symbol of a generation. These days however, people’s needs and lifestyles become increasingly diverse – there are rarely any ‘one size fits all’ solutions existing anymore. By looking for user patterns, our approach gives credit to this development and allows us to perceive subtle differences between an increasing number of groups of people. To design and develop useful and successful services and products there is no way around a clear understanding of the users themselves.
UNITING USER NEEDS AND BUSINESS GOALS
For us, a sound designer is someone who excels at bridging different contexts — translating a need or desire of a customer into a business proposition, trying to convert a business capability into a product for users. It always is about balancing different perspectives, different aspects and shifting between different domains and areas. This, in essence, is our understanding of design.
It is about creating novel and original solutions, not designing or styling existing objects. We think of us as entrepreneurs who create ventures to provide new solutions. For us, design does not conflict with business. Both coexist and amplify each other, creating an interplay that leads to exciting developments that are useful, and viable.
Watch the movie “Design the New Business.” It is an excellent collection of interviews, exploring the influence of design in multinational corporations and giving a glimpse into how change agents are using design methods to change well-established organizations.
Editors note: The interview was conducted in 2011 when Benjamin N. N. Schulz and Lukas Golyszny were with the Volkswagen Service Innovation Team of Volkswagen Group Research at Wolfsburg, Germany.