Every proper Service Design project starts in the empathise phase, where you deep-dive into the context and behavior of the users. Design Research techniques like interviewing, observations or Contextmapping provide you with lots of data about the service and its users. The more different techniques you use, the more extensively you empathise, the more you’ll find out and the more you’ll diverge.
The define phase is all about making sense of the data in order to make the right choices. You simply can’t solve every problem you encounter. That’s why you need to focus. What is my target group? What is the most important problem I’m going to solve? What is the biggest need I’m trying to fulfil? Service Design offers lots of tools that can help you answer these questions.
For example, Need Based Personas and Value Propositions help to define what’s important for which target group. Also, a Customer Journey is an excellent tool to structure and prioritise findings. You end the define phase with a couple of ‘How Might We’ questions, clearly outlining the new definition of the biggest opportunities for innovation.
During the ideate phase, you try to come up with as many solutions as possible. Focus on your desired target group and biggest problem or need. Especially in the beginning, it’s all about quantity. Bad ideas can inspire good ideas and the only way to have a good idea is to have many ideas. Make sure you involve a multi-disciplinary team, so you get input from all possible perspectives.
In the prototype and test phase, we want to select the best ideas and validate if they actually solve the problem for the envisioned target group. Now is the time to find out if your most important assumptions are actually true. Because – as you might know – assumptions are the mother of all f*ck ups. We often use a Design Sprints in which we prototype and user test ideas. The best part of this phase is that it forces you to make solutions really concrete. It helps you to find out what works and what doesn’t, without making big investments.
Iteration is key
In reality, service design projects are not as linear as described here. When you’re in the define phase and you’re missing data, go back to the empathize phase! If you find out your solution is not fixing the problem in the right way, go back to ideate! As mentioned, it’s a learning process. And these iterations – going back and forth – help you make different choices the next time because you’ve learned and reduced uncertainty.