The graphic pulse of service design

Early November was no regular affair in the Masters in Service Design programme, at least for the graphic illiterate, such as myself, suddenly tasked with visualisation. In the first few days I pondered the benefit of teaching graphic programmes to non-designers (given that designers already exist in a service design team) but by the latter part of the week I’d reason to rethink these initial feelings. Visualisation, I was starting to understand was more than just a tool to organise and select relevant information for succinct proposals, it was a powerful means for communication. One that provided access to a shared language from the designer to the investor and all the backgrounds, roles and agendas in between.
At a closer look however, I wondered if it was, as I’d first imagined, a new language at all? Or if perhaps it just drew heavily upon the pre-existing language of iconography? Evidenced in the individual choices across the group, which suggested a universal ‘go-to’ language. Here was a distinct reliance upon the icon to express certain ideas and concepts.
Brands such as coca-cola long appreciate the power of the icon. The two most universal terms being, ‘ok’ and ‘coca-cola’. This soft drink, created in 1886 in Atlanta, which began as a formula for medicine, is not well-known to people. But whatever people know about coca-cola, they all know what it is and how it tastes. They know the icon.
All too quickly however, I realised the danger of relying too heavily upon the icon for all communication problems. There is a saturation point; a certain point that the value diminishes and the icon loses meaning and value, especially conveying emotion. And so, to other tools… Without graphic skills, the simple solution presented itself in photography. A picture paints a thousand words, but a photo tells a whole lot more. It expresses and captures emotion. I learned that with this tool, not only can we communicate with the client and be understood, we can start to show how something adds value in a relatable way. A value that is often intangible (like a feeling) and therefore difficult to conveying through words or graphs, no matter how fanciful. But which a photograph can achieve this effortlessly – text, subtext and paratext.
Concluding thoughts…? Photography – tick. Photoshop and Illustrator, I take it all back. And even though it’ll take time to get my head around them, they’ll definitely be worth the hours I spend for the powers of expression I gain. As with all kinds of research, communicating across audiences is the greatest challenge, but it gets a whole lot easier with the right tools. The opportunity to present the proposal from the client perspective and elevate understanding to a new level for all stakeholders, is definitely something worth struggling for.