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Service Design at Halogen – How user journeys and systemic perspectives lead to innovation

In recent years, the field of service design has developed at a rapid pace. 10-15 years ago, service design was primarily about understanding the user’s experience of a single service. Today, service design is also concerned with the systems behind the service.

Service design has consequently gained wider impact, and both the designer and the methods have changed in response to greater and more complex challenges. In Halogen, service design is an integral part of a number of different projects, and the solutions always have one thing in common: they are based on knowledge of the user experience as part of a holistic system.

Insight that matters

The purpose of service design is to make services useful, user friendly, attractive and efficient. To deliver relevant services and solutions, we work by these five principles:

  • User-centric
  • Co-creating
  • Holistic
  • Visual
  • Tested

We start our projects by first defining the most important problem in a relevant context, before we try to solve the problem. Many of our projects are therefore based on a model known as the double diamond. The model helps us to alternate between exploring and testing, and to ensure that we understand the context before we start exploring possible solutions.

Service designers rarely work alone, and user involvement is central to our work. Often, these processes take place in one or more so-called workshops. A workshop is an intense and engaging work session, where the goal can be to collaborate on producing knowledge and ideas. Often we use plenty of Post-it notes and large blank sheets to sort, organise and explore together.

We use conversations, interviews, observation, and questionnaires to gather insight about who, what, how, and why. The resulting insight gives us a better understanding of the users and the services, and lets us see new connections, uncover problem areas, and explore new solutions. That is when it is extra fun to be a service designer.

The double diamond consists of two phases where we diverge and converge to finally deliver the service.

From user journey to service system

Most people use many different services every day, throughout their lives. We order food via an app on our phone, we visit art museums and we receive mail from public agencies. Each of these can be described as a service, a situation where we have physical or digital contact with something or someone to obtain a product, have an experience or retrieve information.

A few years ago, most service designers focused mainly on the actions and experiences of users. Do they find the right buttons in the mobile app?Are they greeted by a nice guide at the museum? Do they understand what the letter from NAV says?

The classic service design tool is an illustrated user journey that shows when, where and how the user interacts with different parts of the service. The user journey provides insights that can help make the service itself better for users.

The user journey shows how a user meets the various parts of the service over time.

The value of a systemic overview

However, a user journey is rarely sufficient to design and improve the systems around the service. This is especially true when the services cross different domains, include many people, or are composed of many large and small-scale services; what we call wicked problems (floker in Norwegian)

It can take a long time to get the food delivered to your door, even if the ordering app is good. On some days, both museum guides are busy with school classes, so they have little time to answer questions and deal with other visitors. And what should you do if the information in the letter from NAV doesn't seem to correspond with the information you have received by phone?

In Halogen we use service design as a window to see the inside of organisations and businesses, in order to solve complex challenges. When we combine user journeys with a holistic understanding of systems, the insights can have unprecedented consequences for both small and large organisations.

System changes and increased competence

Insights from mapping and analysis, idea generation and user testing provide a solid and relevant knowledge base for decision makers. At Halogen, we are particularly concerned that knowledge should not just be documentation and forgotten, but that insight should support good decisions. We contribute with hypotheses, issues, ideas and approaches, and also support the organisations to share the new knowledge with the rest of their colleagues.

The aim is to make the services easier and better to use, while adapting the inside of the organization to support the user experience. For example, the app can help users order food from nearby restaurants, thereby reducing delivery times. Changes in visiting hours for school classes can give tour guides more time to receive and answer questions from tourists. Increased internal communication and more detailed explanations in the letter from NAV can reduce misunderstandings and the need for user support.

The three services improve because the systems are changing, not just the interface between the user and service.

In addition to enabling customer satisfaction and supporting systems to work better together, organisations also benefit from working with service designers. Participants challenge their mindsets, build new relationships and gain experience in design methodologies. These competencies enable them to continue thinking creatively and critically when finding and solving relevant challenges. In this way, service design contributes to drive innovation in practice.

A workshop facilitated by experienced service designers is both intense, creative and a place to learn and explore.

Five questions and answers about service design

1. What is service design?
Service design means using design methodologies to design, develop and improve services.

2. What does a service designer do?
A service designer talks to users and employees in organisations to identify how services and systems work and can be improved.

3. What characterises a service designer?
Our colleagues are curious, open-minded and analytical. They are happy to work across disciplines and like to use visual methods to understand and explore contexts.

4. What will be the result?
Knowledge (in the form of overview, insight, experience and relationships) that helps people make good decisions about development and innovation.

5. Who needs service design?
Both start-ups and public sector organisations that aim to develop and deliver good services. We are happy to help!

For more information, please contact

Gunnar Bothner-By
Studio manager
+47 92 01 37 89