sparck - strategic design consultancy


We are often asked what service design is and how it works, so we ran an accelerated, 2 week project to illustrate the key aspects and its importance to creating great products and services.

Good service design starts with the customer and filters down to simplified business processes, the optimal collection and use of data and the right technology choices. You will see from our example, that we start by understanding the needs of the customer, we then develop ideas with diverse teams, map out a service blueprint and finally develop working prototypes to quickly gain customer feedback.

The brief was to design a solution that offers customers the ability to order goods to be delivered from local shops. However, the solution had to go beyond a platform for local residents and local shops, it also had to enhance and add value to the local community.

What we diD


When we say accelerated, we mean 2 weeks! During that time we went from client brief to documented service design. We followed our design thinking methodology: that meant undertaking research, design and prototyping and involving customers and technologists from BJSS.

Day 1

  • We prepared a customer journey for an online retailer and used this as our anchor for all of the research and design activities.
  • At the same time, we pulled together a group of people from diverse backgrounds to act as our customer group, including technologists, artists, salespeople and even our admin team!
  • After briefing them on the aim of the service we assigned them an online retailer (e.g. Amazon and Etsy) and asked them to make a purchase, including delivery, and to document their experiences: capturing pain points, annoying aspects or things they felt were good.
  • In parallel, we started to pull together a series of trend papers from various online sources.

Day 2

  • In the morning, we got people together to go through their experiences when making purchases using the online retailers we had assigned them the day before. Although the brief was for a local service, understanding how people use other platforms and their pain points was key to begin to see all of the requirements.
  • We facilitated a playback workshop with our customer group where they talked through their pain points, all tied back to the customer journey.
  • We did a card sort to identify key themes, and quickly understand customers' frustrations around aspects of online shopping.


  • We spent Day 3 writing up the outputs from the Research Phase and making sense of what it meant:
  1. A series of collated themes associated both with the customer journey and general thoughts about online delivery services.
  1. Eight personae were created each summarising the individual user's pain points, needs and desires; their social preferences, motivations and limitations. We create personae so that when we are designing a service we don't end up designing it for ourselves, or for our client - but ensure we're designing it for the target customer.

Day 4

  • On Day 4 we played back the outputs from the user and market research to our customer group, inviting them to provide input or ask questions on any of the artefacts we produced.
  • This playback exercise effectively marked the completion of the accelerated Research phase, and allowed us to begin designing.

Day 5-7

  • We invited our participants back into the workshop room to run a series of Design activities across two days, reminding them of the local & community aspect to the service. These included:
  • Designing the Ideal Service: Participants took a persona each. They ideated around individual points on the user journey to improve the flow for their given persona. This helped to quickly generate a stream of ideas that were then refined and sorted, which set the base for the platform solution we would be prototyping. (No idea is a bad idea at this stage!)
  • Out of this first exercise ideal solutions were drawn out - mobile responsiveness, single sign on with social media, favourites lists, shared family shopping lists, etc.
  • Touch Point Takeaway: Actors within the service, such as delivery agents, shops and customers, were modelled in terms of their touch points with each other and the journey itself. During this exercise we experimented with how the customer journey changes or improves if typically assumed touch points are removed. 
  • This allowed us to come up with the idea of Volunteer delivery people: local people in the community who would deliver goods in return for community credit that could be redeemed on the service.
  • Data Hoovering: Each step in the customer journey was reviewed in terms of the use and consumption of data.
  • Through this process we clarified what data we already had at each stage of the journey and what data we needed to collect in order to enrich our understanding of a customer and enhance their experience on the platform.
  • Services Over Time: Thinking about how people would interact with the service across different times of the day, month or year, we continued to ideate and generate further ideas for how a service could be used, advertised or sold. 
  • This activity generated ideas such as seasonal events to offer local produce at certain times of year e.g. Harvest, Halloween or Easter.

Day 8

  • We now had a good sense of the emerging solution so ran a workshop with a set of divergent people to create an ecosystem map - which is the first iteration towards the ultimate goal of a service blueprint. The ecosystem map shows all of the actors involved in an interaction with the platform, and helps provide an on-a-page view of all the relationships.
An ecosystem map is the first step to creating a Service Blueprint.
  • Having completed the ecosystem map, our more technical people were able to review the IT services required for the various interactions to happen. They then defined appropriate services and technologies to support those interactions which enabled the service blueprint to be produced. 
  • The service blueprint is one of the most important artefacts of a design-thinking project. It maps a customer's journey and their needs to the supporting technology and data. 

Day 9

  • We ran a short design and brand exercise targeted at creating a visual feel for the service that was aligned to the local and community elements that were in our brief. We created a number of mood boards and agreed on a colour and typography palette.
Mood Boards
  • Meanwhile, we set about rapidly prototyping a solution in Sketch and Invision. We took a series of our ideas and turned them into Wireframes that we could test from a usability point of view.

Day 10

  • On day 10 we combined the brand and design exercise into the wireframes we'd developed, and sent an Invision link to all of our participants. Using this, our customer group tried out the prototype to see if it was in line with their ideas and they provided feedback straight away.
  • Using Invision users tested the prototype we developed and shared their feedback.

That's a wrap!

In the space of 2 weeks, we went from client brief to working prototype with a handful of SPARCK and BJSS people. It was fast paced and light-touch in many places, but hopefully gives an illustration of how we work and the power of using a design-thinking approach to create a customer focused service design and working prototype.

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