My first week working ‘officially’ as a service designer in a bank.
I have just finished my first week officially as a ‘service designer’, and I wanted to share some quick thoughts from this week and beyond, of what I have learnt, how the opportunity arrived and why it feels like the perfect fit.
I’d like this to be the first of a few short posts that share some of my experiences and thoughts in the team.
My first week
My biggest learning from my short time so far in the team, is that put simply, service design is a shared set of values that practitioners, known as service designers, espouse through a wide variety of techniques and methods. Just one of these happens to be the famous service blueprint. In fact, service design can manifest itself very differently depending on the individual practitioner, and the nature of the service itself they are working to design or improve.
During two years spent in UX design, product and strategy roles on the bank’s transformation graduate scheme, I’d come across a number of agencies selling and doing service design. It wasn’t until I was in a team of other service designers, that the amorphous nature of the discipline really hit me.
There’s tons of definitions and articles out there, but one of the best I have read recently that draws on both service design & systems thinking, from way back in 1984… is ‘Designing Services that Deliver’.
From my short time in the team I have also seen the wide variety of skill-sets that individuals in the team possess, ranging from evangelical-like service design theorists, skilled facilitators, coaches and storytellers, through to designers comfortable working across the full design spectrum (research, UX, UI, strategy).
Having joined from a business design team focused on transformation strategy from a thousand-miles high, it is refreshing to see a dexterity of skillsets that aren’t constrained by the number of skills or artefacts that can fit onto a neat power-point template.
I’m also loving working closely with a cross-discipline team of systems-thinkers, agile coaches, product owners and business specialists. I’m fortunate the wider team / ‘lab’ has had a great service designer embedded since its early days, establishing the recognised value of service design and proving a great coach for me over my first week.
In my first week I’ve already been able to get stuck into transcribing customer interviews, help facilitate a customer study workshop, develop a hybrid task/mental model and design behavioural personas.
How the opportunity arrived
I am fortunate to have joined at around the same time as our new Chief Design Officer (and second most important design hire of the month ;)… ) Dan Makoski from Walmart.
With Dan’s arrival, human-centred design as a broader set of disciplines is basking in the spotlight, and slowly bringing recognition that as an incumbent bank our competitive edge will probably be lost or gained by how well designed our services are, as we look to retain and attract our target customers.
Design is also slowly being democratised so that non-designers can recognise its importance and have an appreciation of the process and wider methods. On the whole this is great, but it also means a proliferation of presentations that show a double-diamond (or ‘X-consultancies’ variation) to show that ‘design-thinking’ has been applied.
I still believe though that design ‘doing’ (not ‘thinking’), just like other skilled professions, should probably be kept a relatively exclusive club, available to those who have the required core-skills and shared values, such as empathy, design research or craft skills, and putting the customer first (again, often said, rarely done).
Which, in a long-winded way, is how the opportunity arrived. Roughly a year ago, I had a conversation with Ross our team lead, around service design more broadly, his ambitions for the team, and what he looks for when hiring. Taking note, I spent much of the next 9 months in my business design role, trying to push for work whenever I could to lead on projects that would demonstrate the required skills, or to work with service designers I could learn from.
Fast-forward two months ago, and I was presenting to Ross a ‘portfolio-lite’, demonstrating when I had applied some of the core service design skills and values that he had talked me through. Being able to talk through clear and tangible examples of work directly aligned to these skills and values meant I was confident he would find it hard to disagree that the role and team would be a great fit.
Hopefully this approach is useful for others looking to make similar moves, and maybe a nice antithesis to the classic ‘coffee catch up’ approach for asking for a job.
At school I toyed with the idea of becoming a graphic designer, but felt like it would be too limiting to get some of my analytical chops stuck into. Service design feels like the role I never knew existed at the time, but wish I had.
So I just wanted to end on what else I hope to learn more about in the coming weeks and months as I delve further into the role:
1. Research — often-undervalued and under-resourced, proper customer research can make or break a project. I want to build my experience from working as a UX designer, preparing, conducting and analysing customer research.
2. Systems Thinking — uniquely placed as one of our sister disciplines at LBG, and an area I want to explore further to help turbo-power my service design work
3. Service prototyping — having worked in UX design for 8 months, I have some basic experience of mobile & desktop prototyping, however I’m really interested in getting stuck into service prototyping and model office work, with both colleagues and customers.