On the Relevance of Lifestyles in Service Design

Customers and the end users of services are obviously the best people to evaluate their experiences. This is the reason why the design of any new, innovative product or service should always be based on in-depth research on their lives, aspirations, desires and needs. By this kind of material I do not mean only data and analytics, but also qualitative interviews, or other extensive research, on people’s daily lives and habits.

Most service design methods are firmly based on the initial research conducted.

Research on people’s preferences should always be based on several in-depth-interviews, or alternatively, extensive analytics, or other quantitative material on the potential customer’s lives and lifestyles.

In literature on sociology, marketing and consumption, discussions of customer experience are closely linked with the concept of lifestyle.

And correspondingly, questions concerning value construction, lifestyle and taste lay at the core of most service design research methods.

The sociologist Antoine Hennion has written about taste as “a reflexive activity”, and as “a collective technique”. Questions of taste define our choices to a certain extent, and should not be overlooked.

Hennion says that analyzing taste helps us to understand the various ways we make ourselves sensitized to objects, to ourselves, to situations and to moments – while simultaneously controlling how those feelings might be shared and discussed with others.

Hennion has also defined amateurs as connoisseurs who have “a spiritual enthusiasm” for the things they do. In my experience, this kind of enthusiasm for a certain lifestyle is shared amongst like-minded people.

It makes perfect sense to limit initial research objectives to certain customer segments, and choose the people interviewed and researched based on their overall lifestyle, interests and enthusiasm.

Individuals are, of course, essentially, very social creatures. They do not live in a void – nor are they steady members of certain consumer segments for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, we all live in a rapidly evolving world, with technology taking huge strides all the time.

The properties of a certain product or service re-evaluated and tweaked, after the initial iteration. Service design and qualitative research on lifestyles of consumers can be of assistance in this phase as well.

The lifecycle of any iteration of a digital product or service should also perhaps be considered limited.

The image below describes the situation from the viewpoint of a design team. This picture has been initially published in a book called “The Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design” (2013) by Elizabeth Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers.



The Convivial Approach to Co-Design

I recently purchased a copy of the “Convivial Toolbox” by Elizabeth Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers. This book is about “generative design research”, in short, about how to bring the people into the design process.

According to the authors of this book, there is a growing realization that we cannot continue living the way we have been living on this planet because we simply do not have the resources to do that. The authors recognize that there is currently a strong resurgence in interest in and an emphasis on creativity, and that people are more likely to choose experiences over buying commodities. According to them, this phenomenon and new technologies can facilitate the emergence of more convivial ways of living.

The authors of “Convivial Toolbox” view creativity as an antidote for consumerism, where people are only seen as customers. The problem is, most design students of the past have been trained to help people consume more. Nevertheless, many people are now seeking ways to make environmentally and socially responsible choices as consumers.

The book is divided into three parts.

Part One introduces the basic components of generative design research and provides a theoretical background to design research. The book builds on the idea that all people are creative, and able to contribute to design processes, and that people are particularly creative when it comes to the way they live. Part Two consists of four design case studies, ranging from a student project to real client-sponsored projects. Part Three describes how to plan, gather, document, analyze and communicate the data gathered during a generative design research project.

This book also includes 50 individual contributions from a diverse range of people in the design field.

The old, traditional design disciplines are merging. In place of where we used to have for example visual communication design, industrial design, interior design and architecture, we now see an emergence of customer experience design, service design, and design for innovation, transformation and sustainability. Contemporary design is focusing more and more on the context of using products and services.

This, in my opinion, calls for alternative forms of research, co-design and conceptualization. “Convivial Design Toolbox” makes an excellent read and a source of information to any design professionals.