Service Innovation

Tim Fendley, Founding Director, Applied

What do the SEGD 2015 Wayfinding Workshop and Walt Disney have in common?

I spent a few hours at the Walt Disney Museumin San Francisco last Friday after the SEGD Wayfinding Workshop.Created by Rockwell Group in 2009, the museum provides a fascinating look into Walt Disney, the man. From the very first display, you are made aware of what drove Disney.

It created some desperately needed perspective on the evolution of XGD today

Disney was a real pioneer who gleefully investigated and absorbed new technologies to drive his ideas forward. The field of Experiential Graphic Design is going through the same period of innovation today. He was a genius at storytelling and leveraged new technologies such as motion pictures, color, and animation to enhance his storytelling. He was totally unafraid of technology and saw it (as a cartoonist) as the enabler of whole new ways to innovate his service offering, his thinking, how he created his art, and most importantly, delivering new value to his audience. If he could do that in 1919, why is it that we are still struggling to absorb digital technologies in 2015, 96 years later? It’s happened in product design and graphic design already.

Perhaps we have been focused on the wrong words. The conversation we need to be having in our community is really about service innovation, not about technology or digital per se.

Immense value creation has happened in the past 30 years using digital technologies to deliver new and interesting services never before possible, create more efficient workflows, and use data to drive service development in almost all professions. You would think that it would be the most natural thing in the world for our community to grasp. I don’t think that is necessarily the case, though. Perhaps because for the most part our output is one-off’s or at best very short production runs, not mass-produced artifacts. In our community, we still seem to be asking for some sort of proof of digital’s value. Technology is an opportunity waiting for you to absorb and figure out how it can help you innovate your service offer and add value for your clients, just as Disney did.

If you were at the SEGD Wayfinding Workshop last Thursday, you could not fail to notice that the case for digital was well and truly stated in the Legible Cities projects.

The Disney story and the service innovation in the wayfinding service offer presented by City IDand Appliedlast Thursday brought this into sharp focus for me.

There seems to be a perception in our community that there is not a lot new going on in wayfinding. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it would appear that museums and exhibitions are leading in the integration of new technologies, you may be surprised to discover that the most innovative service development area we have in the SEGD community at the moment is actually our core: Wayfinding! And it is winning big projects like London and New York.

If you did not attend the Wayfinding Workshop Thursday, you have a lot of catching up to do. Is the Wayfinding service offer forever changed? Watch the videos when they’re posted on our site in a few weeks if you are interested in finding out how wayfinding service offers have been innovated over the past 15 years, because make no mistake, it is going to be challenging to catch up if you have not yet started.

The opportunities to innovate are far greater than just the use of digital technology. In fact, as was demonstrated at the workshop, they follow the same path as the other design professions through the use of Design Research (user-centered design), Design Thinking (solving business-level problems for clients), and Design Strategy to make your service offer more efficient and compelling for users. The use of city-level data (Open Data–Smart Cities initiatives) has also helped to improve the experiences of users in cities.

Not surprisingly, advances in digital technology drive most of the improvements in user experiences, whether in the form of commercially available tools like the Adobe Creative Suite or Revit, or through functionality you can build yourself (i.e., mapping programs to quickly and easily modify city maps or turn them around to orient them correctly for users coming out of a metro station, as Applied have been working on).

But what if you don’t innovate your service offer? If no one else does, you are probably fine, but given that others are starting to push forward with service innovation aggressively, is it realistic to think your service offer will still be worth the same value to your clients now that others have pushed their offers forward?

Newspaper cartoon drawing or Toy Story? Neither will go away.

For Wayfinding, it is game on!

You need great content and insights to compete in a changing and competitive environment. Your next opportunity to absorb both comes May 7 with SEGD’s free webinar on Digital Signageand June 4-6 for the 2015 SEGD Conference: Experience Chicago.The conference in particular is your best chance to meet with your community, gather intelligence, and begin to form a plan for innovating your service offer and gaining advantage over your competitors.

Don’t miss the conference! Prices go up Friday May 1!

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