Jonathan Recaps: Service Design for Public Space

Here’s a recap of my favorite reading and diagram from Service Design for Public Space with Rachel Abrams at the helm.

Favorite Reading:

“Designing Interactions” Bill Mossridge

I happen to like things that are simple, useful, attractive, and sometimes amusing. Stylized things such as pop art, anime, sculpture, and the seemingly most mundane appliances capture my attention consistently. After reading this article by Mossridge, I realized that the reason I am drawn to these things, is that their function and form go hand in hand, because they are boiled down to their simplest elements. Characters in cartoons and anime hardly ever have the real amount of digits on their hands, they have large expressive eyes, and their actions speak for themselves, and these unusual quirks are really all the product of ingenious exaggeration of some parts, and the downplaying of others to communicate an idea effectively. Homer Simpson, for instance, lacks a fifth finger on each hand, yet even though this is what we see each episode, we do not question his ability to pick up his favorite Duff beer, strangle his son Bart, or drive a car. Above all, we do not question that he is not a man, even though he is two digits short of what we usually would consider of a real person. In essence, only the parts needed to convey his character are drawn, and exaggerated so that his purpose effectively, efficiently entertains us with each comedic escapade.

What I just explained, is what this reading is all about. It explains that too often do we construct things that are beige or black boxes, then flippantly slap buttons with arbitrary meaning on them derived from an arbitrary alphabet or set of symbols from our languages. Hardly ever do we make objects that speak for themselves anymore. Our brooms must have bells and whistles, our cameras have a dozen buttons to functions most people do not understand, and our remotes require entire manuals and diagrams to fully decipher, and for what purpose? There is none. This is the essence of inefficient design, muda as it were. This is why when I think of a project with my favorite partner in crime, Madeline, we first brainstorm what we want to accomplish, then we set out to make something that does it, and at the same time, we pay attention to how its form should compliment or even augment that task. The simplest things we make may only do something mundane or silly, but it is simple to use, it looks good, and it gets the job done. This is the kind of meaning I had hoped to get out of this class, so it has been worthwhile. This reading reaffirmed a design ethic I already try to practice, and gave me a foundation for why it works so well. This in turn reaffirms why I think the golden ratio makes some things look good, work well, and creates overall appeal, simply by having things in a sort of balance.

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Favorite Diagram:

Sylvia Harris’ Service Design Bullseye


My rendition of Sylvia Harris’ bullseye diagram of her approach to designing effective wayfinding is by no means as attractive as hers, but it does illustrate the same concepts. She places the visitor and their experience at the core of the diagram, as all service designers should. She told us though her presentation that often times, the actual visitor is completely ignored in the design process in large institutions, or that they are last to be considered. Entire establishments, such as McDonald’s design their places of business on a high customer turnaround, so they bring in chairs that are comfy for only a short while, and garish colors to scare you off so that they next unsuspecting victim may do business with them. Her story of the labyrinthine, fortress of a hospital uptown was another testament to design that ignored visitor experience and interaction altogether. Her thoughtful presentation and illustration of that is what landed her and her firm the task of righting some of those wrongs. However, we would learn that budgets and red tape often stymie these efforts. With this in mind, I learned from this diagram to consider all these various elements even before prototyping something that someone will use or experience. I don’t want to make things people use once as a novelty, I want to make things people fight over, covet or cherish. It is no small surprise that diamonds a diamonds sparkle and cut is as important to the woman who wears it as the total carat weight.

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