Concept Scenarios + Storyboards for Service Design

If you are looking to generate a sense of what your planned service looks like in practice why not draw it out?

Filmmakers know the importance of the process of storyboarding.

A storyboard is simply a visual representation of what you expect might happen from moment to moment in a service encounter. Storyboards allow us to ‘see’ the service before it’s made and spot potential issues tied to use, resources, interactions, and possible touch-points.

A storyboard tells the ‘story’ of your customer or client and you and your staff as you walk through the service. Storyboards require that you start to develop a vision — literally because it’s being drawn — of who you are seeking to serve.

This builds on the use of personas (which we’ve discussed before) and allows us to visualize relationships between these imaginary participants using data and how they interact with our products and services.

As we can see from the image below when we storyboard we also start to sequence steps involved in the service. For example, when we think of getting a coffee it’s easy to look at the act of ordering and receiving it, yet so much more is going on.

Kumar, V. (2013). 101 Design Methods. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons (p.239)

Concept Scenarios

A concept scenario is a form of storyboarding that begins with data collection and organizing ideas together — often through the use of a whiteboard or visual tool like Milanote. By pulling together ideas in discussion and through examination of concepts tied to your service or innovation, we develop the raw material to put it together with a narrative.

More traditional storyboarding starts with a story and pieces together the elements into a narrative and extracting concepts from it, concept scenarios are more of the inverse. Both yield storyboards. What concept scenarios do is help us to piece together concepts and identify where assumptions might need rethinking.

This method is participatory and involves a few days or weeks to fully undertake depending on the amount of detail you need, the availability of research opportunities, and the resources (human and otherwise) to come together and visualize ideas together.

Practice Notes

Concept Scenarios begin by doing background research and learning about what it is that you are looking to develop and eliciting the various concepts associated with that — asking who, what, where, when, and why. This involves research and then synthesis of this research and group-based discussion to pull concepts together.

A whiteboard or digital space to add those ideas together is a strong asset to support this work. Simple words on a sticky note can work to record concepts and allow for manipulation and movement when used on a tool like a whiteboard or tool like Miro, Mural, or Jamboard.

Next, select the concepts you are most attracted to and best fit with what you’re looking to do.

Step three is to begin imagining scenarios where you might put these concepts together. Consider the key interactions and relationships that are involved, the timing of what is to happen, and the actors involved.

The next step is to visualize these into a series of panels (see above) and illustrate the ideas in a narrative.

The last steps involve interrogating the scenarios to see how they hold up to assumptions and start asking questions about what might be missing and what else might be needed to make the scenarios more realistic or why or how they might be achieved if they are novel or innovative.

Reference: A great summary of this method can be found in the 2013 book 101 Design Methods by Vijay Kumar.

We do this work with our clients. If you want help to learn the method or to use it as part of your service design, strategy development, or evaluation contact us. We can help.

Cover photo by dix sept on Unsplash

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