George Mayou

Watch: Service Design, a tale of two coffee shops

Though Service Design as a design discipline has been around since the ‘80s, people who don’t do it rarely understand it, and there’s never really been an easy, simple way to explain it. That’s why, whenever I’m asked what I do by friends and family, I usually give a short, somewhat vague answer (often before changing the subject back to the latest football match). However, I was recently asked at very short notice to explain Fjord’s perspective on Service Design to some high-flying, board-level clients, and I knew that in this case, my vaguery (and sports deflection) simply wouldn’t cut it.

At Fjord, we’re visual people, so I assumed we had an existing piece of collateral illustrating Service Design in a simple way. After consulting the Fjord hive mind, however, it turned out that – while we have loads of beautiful illustrations around process and our approach – none of our materials truly define Service Design. So, at a loss, I did what anyone in 2017 would do: I asked the Internet.

While using the mighty powers of Google to research how other people in the industry describe our craft (under pressure from the ticking clock and my fast-approaching meeting), I soon stumbled upon a quote I’d seen previously, which explained Service Design in a clear and a succinct way: through the story of two coffee shops. So simple, so relatable, and so human. It was perfect.

So armed with this quote, a whiteboard and a little adrenaline, I headed to the meeting and hit the ground running. And it worked! By the end of the presentation, not only did the CEO, CIO and other key stakeholders understand the definition of Service Design, but – as a Service Design lead – I finally had a straight-forward, effective answer to the question, “So, uh, what do you DO?”

The meeting was over, but as time went on, the more I thought about it, the more sold I became on the coffee-shop example as a surefire way to explain Service Design – one that could be beneficial to not just Fjord, but everyone in the industry. I reached out to its originator, a Service Designer from 31 Volts in the Netherlands named Marc Fonteijn, to ask if we could use it to create a short animation for Fjord and for other Service Design pros. Kindly, he gave us the nod, so here we are!

Now before I leave you to the video, I’d like to thank Marc for the coffee-shop story – these days, I get a buzz when I’m asked to explain what I do and why it’s important to people and the world we live in (though that might actually just be the caffeine). Also, a big shout-out to my Fjord London colleague Anthony Zagariko for his awesome animation skills and for working tirelessly off the clock to get this done! I’m very excited about the finished product, and I hope that the next time someone in Service Design is in a panic before a big meeting – or, say, their kids ask them to participate in classroom career day – they turn to the Google gods and find this video to help them out. Enjoy!

George Mayou

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