Studio Thick is a design studio located in Melbourne which specialises in service design. “Service design is the process in which we deliberately craft both the experience and the delivery of your services” (Studio Thick 2016). Their premise is based on using existing and rising potential of our society to improve existing services and better help businesses and products achieve their purpose through considering and creating stronger connections with their users. They partner with businesses that are open to new methods of research and change to create a net benefit that focuses entirely on maximisation through minimisation i.e. maximising the impact of a product or service through simple, quality solutions.
In order to do this, the studio engages in a large amount of design research, where the methods are tailored to suit each individual brief. Essentially this research is structured to enable the fluid exchange of experiential understandings from the users of a service. Through cultural probes and contextual exploration (Where they often using methods borrowed from ethnography), the studio gains a deep understanding of the perspective of the users, enabling them to better identify the issues and benefits of a particular product in engaging with the audience to its maximum potential. Ultimately providing a well-rounded understanding of the problem space, which provides the foundations to begin designing solutions.
One Case study from Studio Thick that demonstrates these processes would be their ‘Quantifying positive impact’ project for KeepCup. KeepCup approached studio thick with a challenge relating to the consumption of their product. The cups were being purchased by the millions but there was no way of monitoring if they were being used for their intended purpose (being used at the users local coffee shop instead of having them dispose of takeaway coffee cups everyday. To understand the problem space that was enveloping this product Studio Thick conducted participatory workshops with the consumers to connect with and understand the motivations of KeepCup users. They discovered that the users loved the benefits of the cups but couldn’t actually articulate what they were with certainty, and often they were purchased and used for a short time but motivation dwindled and so they would stop.
This empathetic study identified two key issues for studio Thick, maintaining motivation and a lack of information and feedback surrounding the benefits of using the cup. To address this they created a platform that showed users the impact of each coffee cup use and also the combined collective effort of the KeepCup community. The platform used a personified cartoon KeepCup character that moves along a graph that showcases environmental achievements each time the user uses their KeepCup. The graph was gamified to reward users at particular milestones with digital badges of honour. In this the app made the impact tangible to the user and provided positive reinforcement through the milestone achievements. Combined with social media hooks and email reminders the app successfully addresses the motivation aspect of users by keeping them engaged with the process and providing incentives through knowledge of their ‘good-doing’. It also allows the company to track the success of their product in a means that extends beyond purchase and tracks the value of the product.
This is just one case study that Studio Thick has participated in but manages to demonstrate the core methods and values of the company. They use ethnographic and empathetic research processes to gain an understanding of individual user experiences and perceptions of a product to identify hidden problems and really narrow in on opportunities for improvement. Once this has been achieved they produce a succinct and simple solution that addresses the intangible needs of the user to improve the service through a lens of value attainment as opposed to attempting to increase the quantity of things the user is given. This philosophy of giving more value and less stuff is an inspirational standpoint and one that is required to produce a sustainable and more significant future for individuals, communities and the broader context of global interaction. Service design is essential for increasing the quality of our lives and the life of the planet.
By Brittany Thiel _ 12020549
Studio Thick 2016, Thick, Melbourne, viewed 22 August 2016, <http://www.studiothick.com/>.
**All information about the studio and its work is sourced primarily from the studios website; http://www.studiothick.com/