Writing a new book on Service Design


I’m thrilled to be able to announce that myself and live|work’s and Lavrans Løvlie have signed with Rosenfeld Media to write our book on Service Design.

You can read more about our plans on the book’s blog, but on a personal level I feel privileged to be involved in trying to capture the many years of knowledge that the live|work folk have amassed. For me it’s essentially an act of selfishness, because the book on service design that I really want to read, use and teach from doesn’t really yet, so that’s what we’re planning to write.

Lou Rosenfeld has put together a fine stable of books and authors – many of them rank among my favourites – and a book on Service Design fits well in the range he has put together. Not only that, but we felt Rosenfeld Media have a very service design way of thinking about publishing – from both the author’s viewpoint and the customers (no DRM!) – that appealed to us.

Anyway, enough of the announcement – we need to get cracking on the writing! If you have any thoughts and suggestions for the book, please let us know.

Not More Products – Uncovering Local Networks

I spent a day last week with Lavrans and Ben from Live|Work putting our brains together for a project we hope will help spread lots of ideas about service design. During our discussions, Ben mentioned a piece he’s just written for the Live|Work site about their involvement in The Big Rethink, an Economist / Design Council conference discussing the future of business. The disappointment is evident in the opening sentence, “Not more products, please”. Ben quotes Hugo Spowers from Riversimple who points out that, “less unsustainable is still unsustainable.”

Not more products, indeed. I had forgotten how bombastic London advertising is until I spent a couple of days there again. It leaves you either drooling at every shop window feeling poor or leaves you feeling like a vegetarian locked in a slaughterhouse storeroom.

I’m just about to run a six-week project with my students in Luzern called “Undesign Your World,” based loosely on Tibor Kalman’s plea for designers to make a difference. Put simply, how can you develop a service that means people use less, not more? How do you create virtuous systems that encourage positive behavioral change (like the Swiss rail usage? In this post credit-crunch time most governments are exhorting the populous to go out and buy stuff to help get the economy back on track. It’s hard not to feel this is like asking us to plug the ever widening crack in the dam with our finger.

Serendipitously – and via the magic river of Twitter – I found out about the service in the video above called NeighborGoods. It might be an awful pun, but it’s an excellent example of post-product thinking. Of course, the examples in the video are all people borrowing products and I’m not advocating no products, ever. It’s clear we’ll still need things. But it is an example of servicing a need for doing something, rather than a need for a product. You don’t need a drill, you need holes in the wall.

It’s also a brilliant example of using a global network to reconnect at the local level. There are experts and people with interests (and, yes, products to be borrowed) all around us, but most of the time city life makes us oblivious to that. We might have 500 Facebook friends from across the planet, but we often have no idea if someone really interesting is living next door. My experience of living in a small town in Germany is that I know most of my neighbours and have done for some time. And it makes a difference on both a social and practical level.

So far it’s US-based, but they have plans to ‘be everywhere’. NeighborGoods.net will live or die by its community and hopefully it will be self-managing enough to avoid it getting choked up with spam (I already saw an offer of a dog on there, ‘slightly dented’ – UPDATE: the dog post is from one of the NeighborGoods team). I also wonder if they will take it the obvious next step and have categories for people offering services.

I leave you with this quote from Buckminster Fuller quoted in Allison Arieff’s NY Times article:

“Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time.
Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time.
Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time.
It’s time we gave this some thought.”
— R. Buckminster Fuller

It’s time indeed.

70max – cheaper, safer, greener

Live|Work have just put together a new collective action website called 70max aimed at encouraging people to slow down and reduce accidents and carbon emissions.

From the site:

If everyone in the UK drove at 70mph max we would reduce CO2 emissions by 1 million tonnes a year!

You could save 4p a mile, that’s worth £200 per year.

You will stop 20% sooner, that’s 20 metres less.

You will emit 40g less CO2 per mile, that’s 200,000g per year.

I think single-issue campaigns can be pretty powerful if they are well-designed and catch on. 70max seems to live up to this idea.

70 max sticker

It’s also quite smart in terms of its pledge mechanism – you get a free sticker for your car and there’s a Flickr group to upload a snap of it to. (How about ones for my bike? And what about the emissions from those post-office trucks that deliver it? Eh? – okay I’m being picky.)

Also good to see is the level of referencing for the calculations so it’s grounded in some decent facts and figures.