Design, Design Strategy, Optimization, UI Design, UX Design

The Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design: 3-day Service Design Through Experience Prototyping 

Written by Meghan Young, Service designer at Backelite Malmö, Sweden

Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
When: April 18-20th


Day one turned out to the be the first sunny day Scandinavia had seen in months. With the sun shining we took to our desks and began the first activity: Sketching the complete strangers sitting next to us. With our left hands. It was a great warm-up exercise and an even better reminder that our drawing skills weren’t all that bad. More on that later…

In our newly formed groups of four we were given the design challenge: Design a travel service that helps now and future Copenhagen reduce their total carbon emissions. (Copenhagen city has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2025, so this challenge felt relevant and timely.)

My group began by splitting into two pairs to explore what the city had to offer today in terms of travel. We focused on the water bus, or harbour bus just around the corner from the school. Our other half tried out the rental Donkey bikes peppered around the city.

Sitting on the bench waiting for the boat to arrive, we discussed the best ways of interrupting strangers to ask them about their travel habits in the city. A great tip from the facilitators was to just begin speaking to people as if you had already begun the conversation. For instance, if you’re looking at the same map, asking them how to get where you’re going without introducing yourself as the first moment of contact. Don’t bother with the formalities. It worked very well in Copenhagen but I’m not sure it would work as well in other areas with different cultural norms.

We rode the boat the whole line and back, sitting next to different groups of travellers and asking about their habits. We spoke to the drivers or captains. We met tourists and locals. We experienced the commute ourselves, noting different emotions and highlights as we went.

We returned to the school and met with the rest of our group. They’d had issues getting the app, unlocking the bike and finding current users to interview.

Once we shared our information we furiously wrote down whatever quotes that stuck with us, our learnings and other things we observed on sticky notes and put them on to our group’s A3 poster. Then we organised them into related subject and topics.

Finally, we created customer journeys based on our own experiences, mapping our emotional highs and lows. Though we had travelled the same route and in each other’s company, my partner and I had somewhat different experiences.



On day two we met in the SAPS Copenhagen office, a beautiful building down by the water, in a room with floor to ceiling windows. It was time to create our insights.

We had a few:

Tourists want to travel like locals and locals want to travel like tourists.
Going from bus to boat to train is easier if everything looks the same.
Commuters want/need transportation that supports work and life balance.
In order to reduce, we must inspire and reward


Using these insights we came up with our How might we… questions:

How might we create continuity between transportation methods in Copenhagen?
How might we communicate mobility options for travellers?
How might we educate about the carbon emissions of a variety of travel methods while encouraging and rewarding travellers for making a greener choice?


We brainstormed using the Crazy Eights method, sketching out 8 ideas in 8 minutes. This put our drawing abilities to the test. For some, it granted the freedom to be messy and just let the ideas flow. But for others, it was a huge mental block and they felt stifled. A good learning in terms of future facilitations.

It was then time to group our ideas, vote on our favourites and discuss what our idea would be moving forward. This resulted in a combination of a few ideas into a service app.



Day three started off in a rush as we were creating our first prototype. We had access to foam board, cardboard boxes, pens, post-its, coloured paper, exacto knives, glitter glue and more. We wanted to iterate quickly, basing as much as we could on feedback from testing. So we used foam board to represent a journey through the app. We set a simple task for our testers so we could predict where they would end up and arranged the boards to support it.

We started iterating before we even left the classroom. Out in the street, we spoke to anyone who would listen. Speaking english wasn’t a hindrance, in fact I think it was just the icebreaker we needed to get people to stop, pay attention and come out of their shells enough to try our app.

We got so many “yesses” that the occasional no didn’t even register. The good weather was a huge factor, elevating people’s moods and making them more willing to participate. We iterated a few times, making buttons bolder and changing the text a few times to make our idea concrete and easy to grasp.

Probably the most valuable things we learned came when we spoke with ‘real people’, through our interviews and testing. Nailing our insights into memorable sayings and working with clear How might we questions meant we strove to meet and answer them in every iteration.

In the end, we presented our findings and went through our process as a timeline. It was amazing to think we had come so far in just three days.

My biggest takeaway was probably how easy it was to create a prototype and how difficult it was to determine what kind of prototype would best test the type of question or concern we had.


Overall, it was a great experience for the process and learnings as well as for networking with other people in the area.