Game Designing a Service Design Workshop

Guiding designers and non-designers to service design their daily payment experiences at the Service Design conference


Human Futures in Smart Cities

It was 2018, the third annual Service Design Hong Kong conference (now renamed re:MAKE Asia) I've been involved with. The theme was Human Futures in Smart Cities.

As smart cities become increasingly connected and data-driven, they become more automated and involve less human interactions, which begs the question of how humans can play a role in the wake of these developments.

As designers, how might we design for everyday experiences and still retain the human touch?


Workshop facilitator

I was invited to facilitate one of the workshops for conference attendees to better understand service design, its approach and applications.

I took the opportunity to turn the workshop into a game. Creating a card game from scratch, I decided to focus on one of the most important daily interactions   -  payment experiences.


Players, goals and rules

With both design practitioners and non-designers attending the conference, the room had varying levels of understanding for design.

For beginners, there's no use throwing them double-diamond diagrams and theories without practical applications. For designers, I wanted them to have fun instead of sit through another 'Intro to Design Thinking'.

I designed for gamification before but game design was slightly different. The one thing they do have in common, however, is game elements.

Players, goals and rules.

Players are easy - the workshop attendees.

The goal is to help them understand the value and applications of the design process. The outcome of each stage is to learn a new tool and for players to produce their own design artefacts.

The rules are bounded by the design process. The cards are laid out in 4 separate decks by color. At different stages of the design process, the players will draw the relevant cards, which I call prompts.

Prompts are not designed to be constraints, but rather a way to help narrow the scope and focus on the challenge at hand. The last 3 prompts are optional, so to avoid stressing workshop attendees out if they had other ideas in mind.

How the card games were used as prompts throughout the workshop to teach the design process


Setting the scene

I had a lot of fun writing this set.

'Scenarios' is drawn at the start and helps set the scene.

Our payment experiences are usually contextual to the places we go to. The frustrations that arise are only within that moment  -  fumbling with coins on a cab or when the machine reader doesn't recognize my Apple Pay when buying coffee.

To add to the fun, I localized the scenarios specifically to the city of the conference, Hong Kong.

An example of a locally relevant Scenario card, 'Cha Chaan Teng', to set the scene

For example, Cha chaan teng is a very local and common place Hong Kong people go to for food. It has a special place in the local culture but also one of the most challenging spaces in terms of digitization. Cha chan tengs are slow to adopt and still only take cash.


Understand through empathy

This ideation led me to the common frustrations users face when making payments, or what I called  User Resistance.

Using these as prompts, the workshop attendees were able to include these in their empathy map and current state journey map for the 'Scenario' they chose.

An example of a User Resistance card, representing the common pain points in the payment experience

These discussions led to the problem space next.


Framing HMW problem statements

If you're a designer, you know that crafting a good and succinct HMW statement is not easy. It's helpful to provide prompts to help players frame their problem statements. Not too broad, but not too specific.

I looked at common payment trends that are driving the payments industry and our consumer experiences today. These became the Trends card.

An example of a 'Trends' card where payments are increasingly less transactional and more an intentionally designed, human-centric experience


Pushing the envelope when prototyping

The best prompt of them all. This is the time for players to drum up their wildest ideas without constraints. I encouraged workshop attendees to stand up and role-play their possible solutions.

At this stage, players can use the Interactions prompts to help them think outside the box.

I wrote up both digital and physical interactions to push the envelope. With just paper, pen and cardboard, they can prototype the world. In fact, I once had a team prototype a VR experience by simply sticking post-its on their glasses to replicate the VR glasses.

An example of an Interactions card, including both physical and digital interactions


My design challenges

My first challenge was covering everything in a 2-hour workshop. I had to pick and choose what design tools to surface without overwhelming conference attendees, especially for non-designers.

For example, with little time to explain personas, I introduced the User Resistance prompts to help them quickly build a profile without developing a fully fleshed out Persona.

My second challenge was designing for two different types of audiences  -  design practitioners and non-designers. I needed to balance their needs without it being too introductory for designers and too abstract for non-designers.

With a little creative writing, I was able to make the Scenarios slightly unfamiliar and challenging, but also relevant for both groups. The designers also took on the opportunity to mentor non-designers throughout the game, which was absolutely great to see.

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