Learning from Raiders of the Lost Ark

by Andy Polaine on September 29, 2014

in Book, Film, General

I’m in the research phase for a book project that looks at how and what designers and organisations—particularly those involved in service design or complex projects—can learn from filmmakers.

In the words of Peter Sellers Michael Caine, not a lot of people know that I studied film as an undergraduate and carried on until my final year until I was fully sidetracked by interactive media. But the filmmaking process has always played a big role in the way I think about how multi-disciplinary groups of people can best work together creatively.

More on that in the future, but right now the area I am researching is storyboarding. I frequently teach groups of self-proclaimed non-drawers how to storyboard in workshops so that they can pitch their service propositions and ideas. Working visually with a sequence of images on sticky-notes on the wall is a much quicker and better way of walking through what a service experience might look and feel like than just using text. As you move your eyes across the touchpoint sketches, you build your own mini mental storyboard of the user/customer journey.

To combat the “I can’t draw” panic that many people have, I regularly use Pixar Story Artist Emma Coates’ great technique of drawing from films. You take a film, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and freeze-frame every time the shot changes. Then you sketch a thumbnail of the shot as quickly as possible. I give my workshop participants about 10-20 seconds.

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At that speed, everyone draws equally bad (or good, depending on your point of view). I have done this with mixed groups, often with illustrators in the mix, and the previous skill level has little to do with the final result. In fact, sometimes those trained to draw well have a problem letting go and drawing rough. The key skill is being able to see which elements are important and which are not. That’s a skill that is useful in many other contexts.

As it is for Emma, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic youth memory of mine and remains one of my favourite films in terms of structure and staging. Thanks to its heritage from melodramatic Sunday afternoon matinee movies, the staging and framing are really clear to sketch.

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh recently posted an exercise also using Raiders as an example to look at staging:

I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me.

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Cool, that Soderbergh posts about this, but even cooler is that he made a black and white version with the soundtrack stripped out of it for the exercise. It’s great, go take a look.

For some extra goodies, check out these:

UX Week 2014 Blueprinting Workshop

by Andy Polaine on September 10, 2014

in General

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Hint: The future of air travel is not this

If you’re here, you were probably at my workshop on Developing Services with Service Blueprinting for UX Week 2014 or someone pointed you here.

By the end of the week, I’ll post my slides here, but for the moment, you can download the following: Update – The slides are here now too:

Some links

Brief: The future of air travel

From its early days of luxury for the few, air travel has become commonplace. Cheaper fares from low-budget airlines have made air travel as affordable as taking the train, sometimes more so. At the same time, security theatre and the complexity of multiple third-party services have made flying a series of irritations that lead to a frustrating experience. We rush from one stage to the next only to wait around for ages. We are sold poor quality food at high prices and directed through duty-free shopping malls to appease our boredom and encourage us to consume. Airports have lost any sense of adventure and engaging experience they once had. As fuel prices will inevitably rise, it is clear that the days of budget air travel are numbered. What happens then?

You brief is simple: reinvent the experience of air travel for 2030. This is just 16 years from now, so no flying cars or Star Trek transporters, but enough time for innovations in communications and customer experiences, as well as the reduction of resource consumption, to become the norm.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What kind of experience should your service be? Start there and focus on a couple of key touchpoints to begin with. Then expand outwards.
  • What are the highs and lows of air travel? Where are the cracks between the different elements of the services?
  • How could transitions between stages and across channels be improved or reinvented?
  • What elements are considered the norm but could be reimagined?
  • What kind of experiences, services or paradigms could you borrow from another sector and apply here (e.g., what would be the IKEA or the Airbnb of air travel?)

The brief itself is really just a vehicle for you to get your minds around service design blueprinting and to use some of the methods, but it is much easier to learn this by doing rather than by just hearing about it.

Here is what would be good to try and achieve today:

  1. Some quick and dirty insights research (go out and speak to people, use your social networks).
  2. The logline. A one line headline and a brief introductory description of what your concept is.
  3. Create a service blueprint that details how people may use the service across relevant channels and touchpoints. What backstage elements need to be in place?
  4. Visualise how the service might appear in key touchpoints as a storyboard or sequence of sketches
  5. Pitch the idea in a three-minute presentation

The short URL for this page is

Customer service experienced in bits

July 21, 2014

Dr Drang tells two stories of failed customer service. The first one involves him trying to assist his mother getting to the gate at the airport. I use flying a lot as an example of services involving silos that barely communicate with each other and generate terrible customer experiences as a result. Dr Drang’s experience […]

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Apple, Beats and wearable tech

June 5, 2014

All the speculation about Apple designing and iWatch and the noise about their acquisition of Beats got me wondering why we do not pay more attention to the tech we are already wearing and why some of it is socially acceptable and some not. There is a kind of inverse correlation between assistive technologies and […]

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Service Design in Japanese

May 14, 2014

I’m happy to announce that our book, Service Design: from insight to implementation has just been translated and published in Japanese by Maruzen publishing. Thanks to the translator, Yoshinori Wakizaka. If you speak Japanese, I’d love to know what you think of it and the translation. We hope this helps those working in and with […]

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Chris Risdon on Orchestrating Touchpoints

April 19, 2014

Whilst I’m at it, here’s a great talk by Chris Risdon from the same conference talking about orchestrating touchpoints. His anecdote at the beginning is priceless. I’m particularly interested in the way he takes the journey as the hub from which everything extends from. It’s service design, but he comes at it from a UX […]

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Dave Malouf on Storytelling and Interaction Design

April 19, 2014

I talk a lot about the importance of thinking about the story of your product or service. I have always assumed this has to do with my background of studying photography, film, video and interactive media-I originally wanted to be a film director—and my work as a writer. But the need and interest in story […]

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Smart companies trust people

March 4, 2014

I just backed David Hieatt’s upcoming book, Do Purpose on the crowd-funded publishing site, Unbound. David is a smart guy and a kind of serial entrepreneur. The book explores companies that focus on their purpose. Here’s an excerpt: Most companies don’t have a purpose. This may sound odd but most people have forgotten why they […]

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Mentalism for service delivery?

February 24, 2014

I hope I have left enough time between the broadcast of Series 3 of Sherlock, but just in case you are waiting to binge view, the following contains mild spoilers. (You do know he isn’t dead though, right? Otherwise Series 3 would be called Watson). Sherlock Series 3 involves Sherlock returning from his overseas sojourn […]

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Swiss Design Network coordinator job

February 21, 2014

The Swiss Design Network (I am the HSLU Board Member) is looking for a coordinator to support the head office located at Bern University of the Arts BUA. You can read all this on the PDF description but here are the key details: Relevant skills/experience: experience in cultural, project and event management research background in […]

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