How service design can explore the future through storytelling


At Colourful we regularly join agency or client teams to support them with our specific expertise. Recently, I helped a client to use a service design methodology as they embarked on transforming their organisation.

As with many retailers right now, this client was coming to terms with the fact that they are actually a data and technology business just as much as they are a physical place. Retailers collect huge amounts of data, and now have the opportunity to use this deep intelligence to drive the creation of new or better services. Even successful services need to continually think about the future: how they can work smarter and offer more and more relevant services for customers.

For established organisations it can mean adapting to a different model of business in order to innovate and compete. Continual change and improvement need to become part of the culture. Data and insight sit at the core.

Service design provides us with the tools and processes to discover future opportunities for a service, and start to innovate by shaping propositions. I led the project team in working with stakeholders to uncover diverse insights and explore possibilities. We then spoke to customers directly to understand more about their lives and needs. And looked at trends across the market, and out of the sector too. This was the exploration phase.

Then we worked towards a strategy. Increasingly organizations are looking to add value with extra services. But the important thing is that the bundle of services makes sense as a whole. Each should be part of an umbrella proposition that’s meaningful to the customer. The aim of this project was to come up with that single unifying vision that genuinely responded to customer needs, and to develop mini propositions to show how they could deliver it.

Attaining the kind of clarity and simplicity an effective vision needs is a huge challenge. The way we approached it was firstly to work very closely with a cross-functional project team. And secondly to make the proposed vision very tangible for stakeholders – literally to paint pictures of the future. By working with an illustrator to depict real scenarios, we brought the big vision to life through the human narrative and real details. And by creating a vision that stakeholders could buy into, we could then work together to make it happen.