This 10-week cultural profile looked into the culture, the attributes, and the evolving ethos of the Service Design department at the Savannah college of Art and Design (SCAD) in order to create more interest for prospective students. The objective was to increase enrollment rates in order to bring major advantages to the growing program, such as providing additional funding and resources for students and, consequently, improving the skills and growing the network of graduates entering the industry.
Introduction to Service Design at SCAD magazine for potential students, culminated research on current students and alumni network.
User research, writing, editing, graphic design and project leadership.
The Service Design department at SCAD is small, and the only one of it’s kind in the United States. The unique opportunity to be trained in this emerging field should be exciting, but, instead, leaves many undecided students feeling apprehensive due to vague descriptions and the intrinsic mystery of the Service Design field as it has slowly developed in the recent past. Our solution to capture undecided students involves leveraging the mystery that often initially pushes students away, to instead pull them in by cracking the door and inviting them in to explore if it’s the right space for them.
Current students and graduates of our program serve as ambassadors to the field, and significantly influence how prospective students begin to shape their own personal goals and interest at the undergraduate level. Our compiled research proposes that the hard skills, referred to here as material practices, and design values of Service Design students at SCAD both differentiates graduates as uniquely valuable as well as directly impacts the growing ecosystem of Service Design in North America. Throughout the project, we used qualitative and quantitative research methods to deeply understand what makes current students (undergraduate and graduate), alumni, professors, and industry professionals adjacent to the program at SCAD successful designers, as well as what inspired them to pursue an evolving discipline that is still being defined.
Our research culminated into eight final insights that we used to tie together nine weeks of research conducted by our team.To share the insights on what it takes to thrive in the Service Design department at SCAD, we designed our final deliverable as a magazine aimed to provide an in-depth profile of the Service Design student, and serve as a resource for inspiration and information on the field for prospective ones. The publication, Going Steady: Intimate Discourse with Service Design Students at SCAD, is meant to follow each step a student may take in declaring a major, and makes the study of Service Design more accessible through comparing their personal exploration and declaration of a college major to the discovery of and connection to a life long love. Our experience follows their journey from the initial flirtation with something new to the discovery of what it means to really be "Going Steady" with Service Design. Scroll to the bottom of this page to view the full publication.
Our qualitative and quantitative research methods began with scoping our participants. We knew we were to begin with understanding the current potential services and benefits of service design students, professors, and alumni and how we could augment their potential to act of new students in regard to the Service Design department. During our research we constructed the “hidden agenda” we were trying to uncover: What makes Service Design students who they are? We wanted to discover meaningful stories that would relate back to why they chose Service Design and how we could then design a cultural profile of a Service Design student to attract undecided freshmen into the department.
We started by using qualitative surveys with new students at the Fall Festival. This yearly event showcased all of the clubs at SCAD and allows new students to “find their tribe.” We took the opportunity to discover some of the motives of undecided freshman, as well as being testing aspects about their work process to see if their answers aligned with what we assumed would fit the “typical” Service Design student. These surveys were focused around what kind of thinkers, doers, and makers the students thought they were. The hidden agenda behind this particular survey given to undecided freshman was to see if we could link the data to the same survey that was then given to students currently enrolled in the Service Design department. After clustering and affinitizing data from the surveys on material practices and values, we began seeing patterns with our students at large. Narrowing in on the School of Design with the same surveys, allowing us to see the specific similarities and differences between Service Design and Industrial Design.
The controlled variable for our cultural profile of Service Design students was research previously conducted on the values and material practices of the broader Service Design occupational field in How Nascent Occupations construct a Mandate: The Case of Service Designers' Ethos by Fayard, Stigliani, and Bechky (2016). The results of our research concluded that Service Design students at the SCAD mirror, in part, that of the broader SD occupation. From here we zoomed in and administered subjective physical and digital questionnaires (designed with knowledge and insights gained from the previous surveys) to the students already enrolled in the Service Design program to confirm and explore the material practices and values we found intrinsically intwined with the Service Design discipline.
Using the information and data collected from previous surveys we were able to create a cultural probe that we sent out to key Service Design students. The questions and the students were carefully chosen based on the previous research. With the questions from the cultural probes, images, video, and audio recordings were used to identify four students to have in-depth interviews with. The in-depth interviews were based on understanding the values and material practices learned previously during our surveying. Here is an article my team published on LinkedIn covering our unique approach to a cultural probe through smart phones, which enabled us to get an even closer look into the lives of our current students. Our final findings were used in the magazine to share statistics and insights about current students and how they get their work done.
With the goal of raising awareness about Service Design among new students as well as hopefully help them explore declaring Service Design as their Major, the intended impact is an increased number of Service Design students at SCAD. The secondary impact resulted in a new found self awareness of students entering a community with a specific culture, as well as an acknowledgment of the role Service Design can play today in social and economic scenes. Since the publication of our project there is a record of one potential student deciding to attend SCAD for university specifically to study Service Design, as well as one student who has changed their major from Graphic Design after two years of study. The current traceable effect is small, but full of potential.
Our work culminated into 8 final insights that were used to tie together 9 weeks of research and connect to the underlying values (empathy, curiosity, collaboration, and innovation) we found to be intrinsically intwined with the design process a Service Designer goes through. To share these with prospective students, we structured our publication to follow each step a student may take in declaring a major. We compared choosing a field of study to discovering a lifelong love. The journey starts with the First Encounter, which sparks interest and Infatuation. But getting to really know someone involves more Discovery of what lies beneath the surface, so that the Decision to commit is well informed from an intimate relationship.