In January 2012 we were invited to run a service design course at Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) Schwäbisch Gmünd. The challenge to teach 3rd semester product design students the concept behind service design, its user-centered approach and iterative process in one summer semester sounded like a good one, so we naturally said ‘Yes!’. Sharing the gig with Thomas Schönweitz (Whitespring) made us a strong team and lessened the strain on our already tight schedule somewhat, too, so we were looking forward to an interesting couple of months in our new role.
As we are all big supporters of experiential learning – or in other words learning by doing – it was beyond question that we would initiate a practical project to work on with the students we would have yet to meet. By talking to Prof. Gerhard Reichert, head of the product design department at HfG, we quickly found our topic-to-be: In 2014 Schwäbisch Gmünd will be hosting the annual federal garden exhibition (Landesgartenschau) – an event held over the better part of a year that celebrates and showcases everything surrounding gardens, gardening, nature and the different kinds of cultural interpretations of it – like parks, playgrounds and so on – in all aspects.
Drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors, it is a serious challenge offering excellent service and customer experience that our project was aiming to add some value to. But with the kind of useful and attractive services that usually leave a lasting impression on customers regularly coming out of service design projects, we were confident to get our students to create something special. We established a cooperation with the organising company – the Gmünd2014 GmbH – making sure we had their support in exchange for the concepts our students would develop.
And develop they did! In 11 sessions, each with quick introductions on the respective topic and methods, followed by practical works approaching the actual project steps and an on-location prototyping and user testing trip to the current exhibition in Nagold, our three groups of five drew up their concepts, each working on a different topic: ‘Playful Experience’ – how to make the ‘Landesgartenschau’ more interesting for kids, ‘Food 2.0’ – looking for innovative gastronomical concepts and ‘Landesgartenschau in the rain’ – tackling one of tourism’s oldest challenges, the weather.
The project became a great success. We even got the chance for our students to display the results at the Service Design in Tourism Conference 2012 in Innsbruck, while the Gmünd2014 GmbH is contemplating to realize two of the service concepts for the 2014 show.
And for us – due to the positive feedback the students gave about us and our course, we have been asked to go on with teaching – so we’ll be there, running the next service design course in the winter semester, as well.