Service design, details, and DesignThinkers

This year, I went to DesignThinkers for the first time. For some reason, I didn’t really feel a connection to DesignThinkers, which actually is odd, but it was something I noticed even before I went, and I talked about it with a couple of my friends in my program afterwards. My current hypothesis (not sure if I’d want to even “test” this) is that I know that as soon as I graduate, my connection to the RGD will be severed: I am a student member only because I am a student in an art school right now, but once I graduate I will no longer qualify for any member category.

Anyway, that’s not what I want to write about. The thing is that when I went to AIGA’s national conference last year the first time, I thought that their program schedule could be better done, and when I went to their design for social value conference this year, I thought that their slides could be “more inclusively” designed. But when I went to DesignThinkers, I found that a lot of details that I have been taking for granted are simply not there.

(One of my classmates told me that, adjusted for the national population sizes, the RGD is an even larger organization than the AIGA. I didn’t know this. But knowing this just makes things feel even more difficult to understand.)

Anyway, the first thing I noticed was the bell, or rather the lack thereof. There were no announcements telling you that a presentation was starting, so you could actually stay outside in the exhibition area without knowing that your favourite presentation had already started 15 minutes ago; in fact you could theoretically stay there for hours without knowing a single presentation had started. At AIGA’s conferences a bell alerts you that a presentation is going to start; that bell sound is missing, and I know that for a theatre like Bassett’s there’s no way the bell sound is not available—that bell sound is used for concerts.

I also find the conference program book a little puzzling. They have thoughtfully provided quite a large number of blank pages inside the program book for us to write notes. However, inside the main theatre lights were turned off during most presentations. You cannot write notes when lights are turned off, so those blank pages were in fact a waste of paper.

Related to this was the name tag which was without a plastic pocket. I don’t know if this was the intent, but to me this felt like a “green” measure. However, the plastic pocket in fact serves an important function—to hold business cards. Of course you could place your business card in your bag, or in the bag they provided, but nothing really beats the convenience of having name cards with your name tag. I am all for “green” measures, but, personally speaking, I feel that having the plastic pocket and getting rid of extra pages in the program book would have made much more sense than having extra blank pages in the program book and getting rid of the plastic pocket.

There is another thing that does not really fit into a notion of “details” but of general usability—or rather accessibility or inclusiveness. I had issues with the small size of some slides when I were at Gain last month, but at DesignThinkers I saw type on some slides that are so small that even when I was sitting in the middle row the type looked like 1 point type to me: if I were sitting in the last row I would be just seeing dots. Given that the RGD has published their own accessibility guide AccessAbility, this lapse of accessibility is just baffling.

All in all, this experience probably taught me what “service design” is and how details relate to service design. Perhaps, if the two conferences had happened earlier, I might have been able to answer the three “experience”-related questions that was asked earlier in the term in my foundations course in a more coherent manner.