Service Blueprints: Laying the Foundation

Cooper workshop service blueprintingThis article was co-written by Izac Ross, Lauren Chapman Ruiz, and Shahrzad Samadzadeh

Recently, we introduced you to the core concepts of service design, a powerful approach that examines complex interactions between people and their service experiences. With this post, we examine one of the primary tools of service design: the service blueprint.

Today’s products and services are delivered through systems of touchpoints that cross channels and blend both digital and human interactions. The service blueprint is a diagram that allows designers to look beyond the product and pixels to examine the systems that bring a customer’s experience to life.

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Cooper + Studio Dental: Shining a Spotlight On Service Design

How service design helped this startup learn to tackle their business step-by-step.

As part of our continuing mentorship program at Rock Health, Cooper teamed up with Studio Dental co-founders Dr. Sara Creighton and Lowell Caulder to help them disrupt the dental industry with their mobile dental service. The startup gained early support from a successful $40K Indiegogo campaign, and for Cooper, this project has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of service design.

If I were to put a finger on the biggest ah ha moment, it was probably, “Oh, services are designed!”

- Lowell Caulder, co-founder, Studio Dental

In this conversation, the co-founders share how and why Studio Dental was born, and they reveal an “ah ha” moment or two, including the discovery that the impact of service design is everywhere, and central to any industry’s success.

Dr Sara Creighton and Lowell Caulder, founders of Studio Dental

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Changing Healthcare Delivery Through Design

The SF Service Design Network + Cooper are teaming up to host a conversation about the impact that service design can have on healthcare.

When: Tuesday, August 19
Where: Cooper’s Studio, 85 2nd St, San Francisco, CA
Cost: $10
Moderators: Lauren Ruiz, Interaction and Service Designer at Cooper and Izac Ross, SF SDN Co-Chair, Interaction and Service Designer at Cooper

Tickets here – Space is very limited.

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Service Design 101

This article was co-written by Lauren Chapman Ruiz and Izac Ross

We all hear the words “service design” bandied about, but what exactly does it mean? Clients and designers often struggle to find a common language to define the art of coordinating services, and frequent questions arise. Often it emerges as necessary in the space of customer experience or complicated journey maps. In response, here is a brief FAQ primer to show the lay of the land in service design.

What are services?

Services are intangible economic goods—they lead to outcomes as opposed to physical things customers own. Outcomes are generated by value exchanges that occur through mediums called touchpoints. For example, when you use Zipcar, you don’t actually own the Zipcar, you buy temporary ownership. You use the car, then transfer it to someone else once it is returned. Every point in which you engage with Zipcar is a touchpoint.

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Genotone: An exposé on a sinister VC business model

As Halloween approaches, and the veil between worlds grows wan, threadbare, and permeable, Cooper turns its collective attention to the spirit, spook, and creature population. Last year we sought to understand them from a Goal-Directed perspective. This year we take the next unholy step and design software, devices, and services around these personas. Today we return to Vladmir and Anton, our conflicted vampires.


Antone grew up in southern Louisiana in the late 1700s, the son of a wealthy landowner. After his childhood sweetheart died, he gave up all hope for life. He told his troubles to a young gentleman who came through town, who promised him an end to Antone’s misery. Instead, he was turned to a vampire, and forced to live a life of eternal suffering, unable to visit his family ever again. Today he broods away his evenings in his family’s decaying plantation.

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Watch: What Good is a Screen?








It was a full house of design thinkers with a Silicon Valley twist. Serial Entrepreneurs. Voice-activation specialists. Tech wunderkinds. An evening of passionate discussion about the future of interfaces.

“I felt like I was back in college — the good parts of college,” Strava designer Peter Duyan told me afterwards.

Peter was crammed in this room of college-like discourse — designed for 35, now seating over 60 — because of a blog post I wrote that went unexpectedly viral.

I had proposed that “the best interface is no interface.” That we should focus on experiences and problems, not on screens. That UX is not UI. Two days after it was published, it was shared more on Twitter than anything ever written on The Cooper Journal, Core77 or Designer Observer. A week later, a Breaking Development podcast. Two weeks, a popular Branch discussion. A month, top ten on Hacker News again. All surprising, flattering, amazing. And that evening, a conversation.

In the spirit of discourse, special guest and design legend Don Norman started the evening with an entertaining retort: “They made a big mistake when they invited me.” (Watch it above, or listen to it here. And if you haven’t read his books, you should).

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Driving innovation in healthcare organizations

Paper-prototype2.png

Last week, I joined entrepeneur Enrique Allen and designer Leslie Ziegler at Kaiser, where we spoke to doctors from their internal innovation program. We hoped to inspire them as well as to illustrate how design could be used inside Kaiser to improve processes and overall care.

I referred to two case studies—Cooper’s work on the Practice Fusion iPad-based EMR, and a visioning project around the patient clinic experience. In these, I illustrated how we identify problems, generate ideas, and drive decision-making during detailed design.

Both case studies highlighted ways in which multidisciplinary teams can make progress by using cheap prototypes that are quickly iterated. In the case of the Practice Fusion app, we used paper prototypes to test and evolve everything from content organization to animation. We did not need to get permission of a hospital IT staff or work with an engineer; we simply needed a new piece of paper and a Sharpie. Prototyping a service starts in a similar manner. Using storyboards and cartoons, we were able to generate and evaluate myriad patient journeys without making costly process and staffing changes.

Many of the questions during the Q&A were symptomatic of a large organization that is beholden to fluctuating regulation. One attendee asked how to get front-line staff on board when they’re already suffering from change fatigue. This will require both communication and empowerment. At Cooper U we teach the value of a radiator wall (a wall showing the progress and decisions of a project) in rallying a team and communicating with an organization; this kind of tool could help establish a sense of consistency and direction amid large-scale changes.

All of Kaiser’s departments were represented at our talk, from general practitioners to specialists. All are charged with improve patient care and overall quality. I appreciated the opportunity to bring some lessons from my experience in healthcare and design, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they tackle next. Read More

The Drawing Board: Smart Checks

Here at Cooper, we find that looking at the world from the perspective of people and their goals causes us to notice a lot of bad interactions in our daily lives. We can’t help but pick up a whiteboard marker to scribble out a better idea. We put together “The Drawing Board”, a series of narrated sideshows, to showcase some of this thinking.

Almost everyone enjoys a great meal out with friends, but splitting the bill can be unnecessarily complicated. In this Drawing Board, Cooper designers turn their attentions to the way groups of people pay the check while dining out.


Credits: Greg Schuler, Peter Duyan , Bo Ah Kwon , Suzy Thompson and Chris Noessel.

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Initial user experiences of the New York Times metering system

When the New York Times activated its highly anticipated metering system this week, there was no shortage of opinions on the matter. As opinionated people, the designers here at Cooper started to feel a little left out, so we put our thoughts together on the user experience of the new service. Enjoy, and chime in with your own thoughts and opinions below.

Suzy Thompson

Overall, I think they’ve done several things right, like the fact that home subscribers (even those like me who now only get the Sunday edition) get an all-access pass to the online content. Also, they’re not throwing up a paywall over all of their content — folks can access up to a certain amount of content a month before you’re asked to become an online subscriber. And they’ve thought about how to ensure that folks can read articles that someone has shared via email, FB, etc. We’ll see how it goes, but I think that the iTunes store has pretty effectively proven that if you make it easy to do so and provide demonstrable value, people are more than happy to pay – even for something they could get for free elsewhere.

I do worry, though. Because the NYTimes isn’t just a business. Their journalism is a public service that everyone benefits from. And unlike a burger or a pair of jeans, where some folks are willing and able to pay for higher quality and some aren’t, and the provider can scale back production to match demand, journalism can’t be scaled back and still maintain its quality. The fact that I view it as a public service is part of why it’s so important to me to contribute financially — just like giving $$ to PBS. Sure, there are some who use it and don’t pay for it, and I probably don’t use it enough to justify what I pay for it, but I want it to be there and available to everyone. That, above all else, is what worries me about the paid subscription model. Because the prospect of a world in which only Fox News or USA Today can profitably succeed in the news business terrifies me.

Jim Dibble

I understand why the NYTimes is putting this policy into place. They are my go-to place for US and international reporting. We only recently canceled our NYTimes paper delivery — since I no longer work in Pleasanton, I don’t have the long BART commute to read the paper. (Thank you, Cooper!). And it just felt like a waste of resources (trees, ink, and gasoline) to deliver a paper that we typically recycled without reading.

However, I’m utterly confused why readers have to pay more to view content on multiple platforms. In the morning and on BART, I read the NYTimes on my iPhone. At work and at home at night, I read the paper on my laptop. I’m not sure why I need to pay twice as much just because I’m using two platforms. I’m surprised that they didn’t follow the kindle sales model, where you purchase a book and own it in the cloud, regardless of which platform you use to access it.

It would be great if they provided a way to ask for articles of interest to you. For example, if I’m interested in reporting on the Middle East, it would be great to be able to have a special category for those articles. It would also be great to have articles that assume that I’m well-versed in a particular region. For example, if I’m familiar with what has already happened in Libya, many of the new articles will review the recent history of what has occurred, so that I have to wade through information that I already know, in order to find out about the most recent developments.

Peter Duyan

So, after reading the “letter to readers” and looking at the subscription breakdown, I feel a little deflated. Initially, I was actually excited to pay the NYTimes for their digital media, and to help support them as they find a way to continue doing what they do best. However, I don’t like their subscription models at all for a very specific reason. I only read (almost only) the NYTimes on my smartphone, and I feel like I should have the option to pay for mobile-only content. If and when I buy an iPad, I’m pretty sure I would be interested in smartphone and tablet use, but still have little or no interest in the “online” content. Basically, I want to be a mobile-only user and that option isn’t open. From my perspective, they are missing the point if they don’t let their users pay for content on whatever device they choose.

Doug LeMoine

I think journalists should get paid, and I think publishers should figure out a way to make digital journalism pay. I don’t understand people who talk about metering like it’s some violation of their civil rights, and yet I’m also a nerd, so I must admit that I did Google “nytimes metering hack” yesterday (out of curiosity, really), and I found some very interesting CSS (that I did not install).

Still, I do have a problem with the metering service as the NYTimes has implemented it: It seems both too complicated and too stupid at the same time. Why are there so many different options? Why are there different prices for iPads and iPhones? Why is the digital thrown in for free with print? Why is the NYTimes.com version a required baseline for all plans? And why the heck is the Dealbook blog exempted from metering? The investment bankers have been bailed out by the middle class yet again, it seems.

I would bet that these “tiers,” if you can call them tiers, were an effort to try to create “choices.” But the way they’re broken out makes me think that they’re simply the configurations of devices and content that were easier to track on the back end. I would argue that it gives the impression of “choice,” without really making sense as a set of choices.

I’ll go one step easier with a user-friendly model: How about one price for print + digital, and another for just digital? And how about charging the investment bankers double for Dealbook? That would help the NYTimes recover some of the $40M they supposedly spent installing the metering system.

Golden Krishna

Adding a paywall is like moving newspapers from the online street corner to the concert hall. Journalists shift from being free street entertainment to performers in a luxury experience that viewers will likely expect to work smoothly and look beautiful. I fear that paywalls will shut the doors on the common, limit access to the kind of information that should be freely available to all, but I am eager to see the good design that results as papers compete for online eyeballs that are willing to pay for their services.

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