Education, Service design

This is service design doing

By Katie Lindstrom, Visual Designer at Backelite Malmö


This is service design doing is not only the headline of this article but also what the 3-day service design course I attended in New York was called. The name of the course sure gave me an idea of what to expect.

I expected a very tactile and hands-on course and it didn’t disappoint. The course included 3 days of very practical, hands-on and tactile learning.

So, what is service design doing? What did I end up learning and was it any different from the yearly 3-day Backelite Service Design Jam? This very generic article outlines my three biggest takeaways from the course and how it varied from my previous experience with BK Jams.


1. When to use personas, and when not to


I remember my first Backelite Service Design Jam in 2017, hosted in Malta, where senior UX Designers and Service Designers from the different BK studios battled each other and debated whether or not creating personas was a good research method. Can personas really help in the research phase? I ended up agreeing on both points.

At the TISDD course, we got to dig even deeper into the subject. Once again, I was taught that personas can help you find the best solution based upon the research made, and not upon your assumptions. An example that was given in the course was to always work on the persona template from the bottom to the top. We all commonly failed that one part at the first try. We were taught to start off with the most common assumptions like the name and origin before working our way up to the harder ones such as statements. Remember: your persona is alive and is constantly changing.


2. boom, wow, Wow, WOW, BOOM, mhm (and not the other way around)


Not everything is an elevator pitch even though I tend to “sell” my ideas that way as a visual designer. Sometimes there’s no need to pitch if the value is very clear, especially when it comes to emotionally driven solutions. At the BK Jam, my team focused on road traffic, finding friction points by walking around the main island and talking to locals. We learnt that the local transportation was privatised and outsourced, which created communication difficulties between users and the service. Since buses would often not show up, some locals were at times not able to see their families without owning a private vehicle. We decided to co-create the user journey with locals and got a huge amount of insights based upon our IRL conversations. A service might sound great but without user insights, a crucial part of the service would not be taken into consideration.

What I learned to add to my journey during the course was the “emotional scale mapping”, showing the emotional state of the user during the journey. The scale ranging between -2 to +2 for every key activity. This could show everything from a harmonious to a rocky scale of emotions.  We aimed to create a solution where the emotional journey would have the correct scale and level of impact at the right time to create the most value. Just like you wouldn’t start a song with a “chorus”, it’s about having a clear structure with a beginning, a middle and an end. But since nothing’s ever black and white, there are always exceptions, just like in Dolly Parton’s song “Jolene”, which starts with the chorus.



3. That first shitty draft is supposed to be shitty


Being a visual designer, I often get caught up in pixels, lines and details. When using service design methods, you start out with a whole lot of research, which is then to be visualised and tested through a Lo-Fi prototype. This gave me a little headache at the 2017 Jam as I wanted to spend time finalising details, and not just finalise what I could 10 minutes before the presentation. What I’ve learned since then, and practised during the course, was not to let my designer ego get in the way of the potential prototype – one that could become something better over time. The devil sure is in the details, but service design doing teaches us to take a broad approach at the start before narrowing our focus.  

“The sum of the cardamom” as we Swedish people say: if you’re not a service designer but would love to get to know some of the methods, invest in this course. And if your bank account is running rather dry you can always read the book the course is based upon (and written by its facilitators). For more information: