Embrace the chaos with Service Design - Digital Delight

Embrace the chaos with Service Design

As service designer, you know that chaos is inherent to the designing process. It is part of the job to distill and synthesize it into clarity, safeguarding and evangelizing colleagues and clients along the way..

When bringing clients into brainstorming sessions and creative workshops, you can tell they are out of their comfort zone. It is not their day to day mindset nor business and it takes some encouragement to get the creativity rolling. For them, design is often a synonym for chaos.

Creativity is like washing a pig. It’s messy. It has no rules. No clear beginning, middle or end. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, and when you’re done, you’re not sure if the pig is really clean or even why you were washing it in the first place.

Luke SUllivan

I always present this quote at the end of the workshop and everybody starts laughing. I explain how creativity is often a chaotic process. You’re discovering new things, or rethinking the old ones. Not every creative workshop or brainstorm results in aha moments, but that’s ok. Clarity creeps in when making your way through the design thinking process.

A drawing that starts with a squiggle and ends in a straight line to visualize design chaos
Damien Newman came up with the design thinking squiggle to exemplify the mindset of design thinking.

A willingness to nurture controlled chaos, distill and synthesize it into clarity, and iterate towards an ultimately clear but initially undefined product or service – Damien Newman

As a service designer, it is my job to safeguard this process and evangelize both our clients who work with us, but also my own peers and colleagues.

Evangelize the client

The first is quite self-explanatory. Clients come to us to receive professional guidance on digital experiences and how to bring them to life. As mentioned, it is not part of their day to day job so it is our duty as digital consultants to bring them along our thinking process, listen to their input and have them validate our propositions so that we can iterate on what brings most value to the end-user.

5 tips to help your clients to embrace the design thinking squiggle during workshops:

  1. Create a nice and fun atmosphere when doing creative workshops;
  2. Explain the agenda upfront and create a framework for them to be creative in;
  3. Introduce a fun exercise where you draw or build with straws and marshmallows, it immediately gets the endorphins flowing;
  4. Sharpies, post-its and big walls are key;
  5. Take a picture of the brainstorm results and share with the team afterwards.

The article “what’s in the bag of a service designer” can help you get inspired on the things you need during such a workshop

Evangelize the colleagues

Now you might be surprised that I talked about evangelizing my own peers and colleagues during the design thinking process.

When moving through the 6 weeks of Capture-Concept-Prototype in our Digital Studio, it is inherent that our ideas, wireframes and designs change. These changes are challenging for the team, yet they are a natural effect when testing and iterating based upon user and client feedback.

Although testing and iterations are part of the design thinking process, it implies that we need to revisit some features more often than we think is efficient or productive. One thing I learned is to listen to my peers when they struggle with this part of the design journey and explain them that everything is going to be alright in the end. In those moments I really feel like a guardian, protecting the process and helping my peers to feel at ease with the controlled chaos.

5 tips to help your peers to embrace the controlled chaos:

  1. Be empathic of your peers’ emotions and frustrations;
  2. Confront them with the squiggle image, and point out that chaos is to be expected;
  3. Work with a limited amount of feedback and iteration rounds to avoid turning in circles for too long;
  4. Set clear milestones on testing results and iteration outcomes;
  5. Celebrate those milestones together.

Do you recognize the design thinking squiggle or is this a completely new topic for you?

I hope I was able to comfort you that chaos is not always a bad thing, but is to be expected when creating new digital experiences. The joy of reaching the straight line at the end, when everything makes sense, is why I love to nurture the controlled chaos in all our projects.


Want to learn more about a service designer’s day-to-day activities? Check out the article here!

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