The spark to this workshop was an art and craft exhibition at Stockholm’s Architecture Museum – ‘Room for death’. Our question was: What service concepts can we sketch out that will improve the final stage of life for terminally ill patients and their families? The workshop started with Stefan Moritz introduced Service Design as a mindset and toolbox in an interactive lecture to set the foundation with background, basic theory and practical examples. He also discussed ‘Holistic Thinking’ in different perspectives and dimensions.
We focused the hands-on workshop day on ‘Human Empathy’ and ‘Experience Prototyping’ as two key aspects of Service Design. The teams were introduced to some of Doberman’s work with children and the role of empathy and insights in the design process. We also explained six very simple methods for the groups to try out. This included interviews, 5xWhy, mapping of stakeholders and journeys and calling experts such as doctors or a person who’s relative has recently passed away. To step so deep into such a demanding and sensitive topic was extremely challenging. The result was high-level insights but most importantly a real experience not only how it feels to uncover human needs but also being the subject of such research. Empathy is a crucial skill for Service Design and you have to have human empathy in order to get insights.
Practising methods to gain human empathy and insights
The teams summarised and shared their findings with each other. This created a bigger picture and gave different perspectives on the issue. One of the key issues identified was the difference between home and hospital and the related feelings for patients and relatives.
It is important to stress that no real Service Design research can be accomplished in just a few hours. The point here was to allow the students to get the feeling for it in a real context. However, it was evident that running such an intense session helps to challenge assumptions and shapes important questions for the next iteration of research.
Each team discussed over lunch and identified the finding or issues they were most interested in. Back in the workshop room we moved straight into prototyping without big brainstorms or discussions. The aim was again to give a hands-on experience of prototyping experiences. We started off the session by introducing the basic rationale and many examples. We concentrated on two scales; Playmobil and Roleplay.
Team role-playing to develop an idea
Each group tried out different props and approached the issues in a very open and experimental way. One group looked at the way children would experience this difficult situation and how they could be prepared. In the absence of children to get involved in the co-design they settled for the next best thing: parents. And it turned out the problem was indeed with the parents, not the children. So by this prototype improvisation a big research project could be skipped potentially. Another insight was around the way relatives could be notified if they wanted to be with patients in the last moments when they die. Within few cycles of role-play the key obstacles, issues and challenges could be identified and addressed. Another group built a small hospital room and used role-play to work on the tension between the different interests of patients and their relatives and the challenge facilitating this. The framing and better understanding of the problem can be just as important as finding an immediate solution. Often there is so much complexity that these prototypes can help experts or customers contribute on a different level.
Prototype of a patients home where an idea could be played out.
There was no expectation that this short workshop would solve anything or bring any fundamentally new thinking to such an extremely complex and sensitive issue. However, it demonstrated to the students that this is not a set of methods to just play around and have fun. They got a genuine sense that there is something powerful and valuable at their fingertips. Potentially this example could also encourage experienced practitioners to consider new ways of working. The students might be able to build on this experience and leverage it in their upcoming projects.
DesignSHIP is an international and interdisciplinary programme in partnership with the University of Rostock, Wismar University of Applied Sciences and Gdynia Innovation Centre. The projects main goal is integration of design sector with business environment by joint elaboration of solutions for everyday issues in design management.
By Julia Lindkvist Martinsson and Stefan Moritz