Archive for the ‘service design’ Category

Designers win medals too

Friday, September 19th, 2008

This is something I wrote for the study guide for my Design History, Theory and Practice (DHTP) module which starts next week. The first lecture asks “what’s the point of DHTP?” and I try to head off the usual complaints about having to write and read and go to the library. I’ve found spending the first lecture on making the case for approaching design from an intellectual point of view not only saves time later, it tends to improve attendance and grades!

Plus, I happen to believe in it.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics offered a showcase not just of excellence in sport, but in design as well. Everything from the equipment being used to the garments being worn was designed. Ask the average person what we mean by this and they will undoubtedly talk about what things look like – the ‘style’ of the outfits, the shape of the bikes and so on.

brennan_sydney_main.jpgBut to take a view like that is to miss what we might arguably call the ‘real’ design, the design that’s the product of years (if not decades) of intense research into textiles, alloys, aerodynamics, ergonomics and more. When people talk of the millions of pounds spent on sports in the UK, they may think that all gets spent on training. But it doesn’t. Chris Hoy’s bike, Rebbeca Adlington’s swimming costume, Charlotte Burgess’s bow, and Deborah Brennan’s wheelchair are all the result of investment worldwide in design research.

And then there are the games themselves – everything from the obvious opening and closing ceremonies to the transport networks, the global television feeds, the ticketing systems, the catering, even the queues — all designed.

Design history and theory are no longer simply endless slideshows of the great and the good; pictures of this designer and that piece. Over the next three years you’ll be exposed to, and encouraged to discover, not what’s gone before but what’s possible. DHTP is about the future as much as it’s about the past. It’s also about broadening your view of what design is, from the ‘man on the street’ idea of design as style to something a little more ambitious and all-encompassing. And it’s about encouraging you to pursue a role in the cutting edge through your own research.

If I get the time, I’m going to do a video to go with it too…

Choosing water suppliers – when is a service not a service?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Talking of service design, the news this morning carried a story saying that businesses in the UK are now able to choose their water suppliers.

The presenter on the radio asked the question that crossed my mind: if it’s the same pipe, and the same water as before, how can you change ‘suppliers’.
The answer was that you’re not paying for product, you’re paying for the service.

I had a bit of trouble understanding this. In fact I’ve been wondering about this ever since you could change gas and electricity suppliers. My gas comes down the same pipe as my next door neighbour’s gas. But he’s with British Gas and I’m with E.On. Same with the electricity.

My tiny little brain assumes that when I use a kiloWatt of electricity, my supplier puts a kiloWatt into a big vat of energy, and when my neighbour uses two kiloWatts, his supplier puts that amount in the vat. I may get some of the energy his supplier has put in, but I pay my supplier not his.

What the guy this morning was saying is what we’re really paying for is not the stuff in the vat, it’s the service that goes with it. In the case of water this would be cleaning the water (a national standard meaning cheaper doesn’t mean worse quality but better efficiency), fixing the pipe outside my home if it bursts, and sending me a bill. If they can do these things as well as (or better than) the competitors for a lower price, I win. If not, I change ‘supplier’.

I think I’m beginning to work this out. The problem is, why do we call them ‘suppliers’ at all? There must be a better name because at the moment if my water turns brown my ‘supplier’ can easily claim it’s nothing to do with them, because it’s my neighbour’s pipe that’s broken, and they don’t ‘supply’ him. ‘Service provider’ is a slightly better term.

This has other ramifications. Last night I rang BA to change the booking from my cancelled flight to the one before. I was told I had to go through the travel agent I’d booked with as until I started my journey, my contract was with them, not BA. This is despite the fact that a) I bought a seat on a BA plane, b) BA cancelled the flight, c) I only found out it was cancelled by good fortune, d) the travel agent was shut and e) it made no sense whatsoever.

What was the service here? And who was the ‘supplier’?
According to BA the service is the booking, and the supplier is the agent.
But to me, the service is a flight, and the supplier is BA.