Sunday, November 15, 2009

Learning Log IX: Designing Services

In light of our latest project, the redesign of the 11th and 12th floors in Terra, Dan Saffer's passage about "Service Design" in DFI has much to reveal. In a way this reading connects our field work with that of the digital realm and also to the work of more prominent designers. The same problems we had to look out for - low affordances, contrasting visuals, lack of information - are issues that continue to plague both the digital world and modern real-world services. The author diagrams several services moment by moment and uses this process to identify issues that we can fix. In this reading it's revealed that designing for interaction, especially with services in mind, is far more troubling than we'd expect.

The reading both intimidated me and brought out a greater appreciation for interface designers. As a graphic design major, we worry about much smaller and specialized aspects of design, focusing entirely on visuals. What font we use, the color of an element, the placement of a picture or the structure of an image are some of the things we're concerned with. Meanwhile, interface designers have to worry about individual moments in time and how a user reacts to any element, whether it be the type of button or the simple order of events.

The process of service design (and the service string in particular) can be likened to storyboarding for a film, but in this case the consequences are far more severe. Saffer even mentions storyboarding in the passage. For a director, the goal is to set up the structure of the movie and place all aspects in their right location for ideal storytelling and artistic effect. In contrast, service designers are setting up the structure of an event, something that a user may pay for or have to live with every day of their life.

This process reminds me that many designers aren't spending enough time on their service designs, focusing on technology or aesthetic more than functionality. As generic of a statement as this may be, our interfaces would work far better and serve our interests more if companies spent more time on the prototyping aspect of their product creation. Saffer states that sometimes low cost solutions can greatly improve a service, as with the example of water bottles on an airplane, so why aren't there more simple, convenient solutions to design errors? Why do some of these errors even get past their creators?

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