Chicago is a big place; over 2.8 million people live there. And it turns out, there’s a pretty great service design community growing there. I was impressed and grateful to be invited to an event that brought together a number of passionate and energized service design practitioners, and those who want to incorporate service design into their work as well.
The conference was very well organized and set up. From the organizer’s hospitality to its guests, right down to the collateral that adorned the venue, everything was very sharp. They put a lot of work into it, and it showed. Knowing that it was a very small group who put it together, and its 2nd year, made it really feel impressive. It was almost as if they actually employed service design as a method when putting the conference together.
One thing I noticed was that this conference was especially social. People seemed to talk and interact more than I’ve experienced in the past. It felt like a real community of practice. It might have been the smaller physical size of the venue, or maybe the layout, but something about it was just more friendly and social than I expected. I will have to think about it and see if I can capture what made the difference, and how I can try to include that if I ever help organize a conference of my own (yes).
They had a really diverse set of speakers and workshop hosts. There were really able to pull together a fine mix of people from true service based businesses in real world like retail and hospitality, to digital designers and people that work with software and apps, as well as people from famous agencies and universities.
The workshop that I put together seemed like quite a success. Packed room, engaged attendees, tons of output. I had wondered if the subject would appeal to people, and honestly a little nervous as to what would happen. I definitely had a plan B in my head on how to mitigate a low attendance with “I am glad we have a small, intimate group today.” Thankfully I didn’t have to do that. In fact, I had a few stowaways who snuck in even though it was full.
I had wanted to do a workshop that was a real learning experience. A 3-hour class where people would walk away with a new tool and method to use right away – the practical service blueprint. The class seemed to really get it, and afterwards I had a number of conversations and emails from people who wanted to start using it right away. I don’t see how the class could have been more successful than that.
The best part of this conference was meeting so many people interested in service design. While everyone is aware that service design isn’t new, it feels like it is. So many people are coming from more established UX or related experience focused roles, service design is this new way of thinking and working that many have felt, but had never be exposed to a codified set of tools and resources.
I met such a wide variety of people, much more diverse than at design or UX conferences. From people who worked in laboratories, orchestra venue research, business analytics, brick and mortar retail, and even someone from a worldwide fast-food giant. Of all these people, many of them had never been wireframe machines or stuck in CSS reviews trying to get their design work translated to software development teams. Service design is a much broader field that attracts people that software or web design doesn’t.
For me, this was the most exciting and enlightening part. It was evidence that the service design ideals I am trying to develop and promote do resonate with people. Sometimes it seems like Silicon Valley might be leading the way for good UX and touchpoint design, but lags behind when it comes to hiring roles that focus on designing across more complex experiences.
This was Service Experience Chicago’s 2nd year. From all accounts, it was a huge success. I know that I would recommend it to anyone looking for service design conferences and workshops. It was especially social, well put together, and attracted a fantastic array of speakers. Hopefully it can become a mainstay in service design conferences in the central United States, perfectly located between east and west coasts. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to return, and maybe you’ll be persuaded to come along.
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