Is Service Design sustainable?
A 2010 study by the University of Massachusetts found that although the production of a DVD had 78% more embodied energy than the same web-streamed movie, the latter had a carbon footprint almost double.
Services are intangible things, increasingly pushed through digital channels, meaning the complexity and the effort required to deliver them often remains hidden. Which begs the question: Do we really understand the environmental impact of a service?
Industrial design is a discipline that has struggled with the environmental impact of its artifacts for many decades. It’s widely recognised that products should be environmentally friendly, yet the “the paradigm shift” to cradle-to-cradle remains a distant mirage.
Technology products are notoriously wasteful in production and lifecycle. Historically, Apple was seen as one of the biggest culprits, designing beautiful objects that were often impenetrable boxes, easier to replace than repair. Contrasting to this approach, Google are developing Phonebloks, which uses a modular system of components to personalise, repair and upgrade the phone handset, extending it’s life in an attempt to build an emotional bond with the user.
As we become more aware of the ethical implications of our buying decisions,
the data-driven, Internet enabled products currently gaining popularity are set to enable more innovative approaches to sustainable products and services. As these products and the data they produce become ubiquitous, will we also see the demands of customers morph and shift to place increased importance on transparency, social value and environmental responsibility?
In future, sensemaking from huge swathes of data will become a critical aspect to service and customer experience design. Just as we are used to web analytics and software that enable simple customer journey mapping, it is likely that we will see software that highlights the opportunities for companies and customers to co-create environmental value within a service journey or product-service-system.
Yet in quantifying everything we still may miss the behavioural drivers and personal meaning that motivate people to engage with a service. The question may not be the same as for the Industrial Design profession: perfect and impenetrable VS modular and flexible, but instead; how do we strike the balance between the quantities and qualities of an experience to develop services that are meaningful, pleasurable and better for all?
This is a question that the team here at DNA are constantly trying to tackle and resolve.
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