For our first project in Designing for Service, our groups were asked to create a service that will foster flow at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security screening stations at the airport. The two biggest restrictions we had were little experience in designing a service and having only one week to complete the project.

Flow presentation cover

Our team started with five, but whittled down to three after two dropped the course. No worries, as through the luck of the draw the remaining team members were excellent to work with—Kipum Lee, a fellow second year interaction design peer who spent his summer working at IDEO in Chicago, and Kara Tennant, a first year CPID graduate student coming from the world of graphic design.

Since we didn’t have much time to do research, we started with our experiences using directed storytelling on each other. But we itched for something with more juice and headed out to Pittsburgh International Airport for a morning of observation.

It’s amazing how much you can learn just by watching. We stayed for two hours, taking notes and photos. We diagrammed our findings and called it a day.

Affinity Diagram

A few days later we reconvened and determined our design principles: Communicate to Passengers; Feel in Control; Say Goodbye. We came up with the latter principle after noticing all the awkward goodbyes that were taking place at the security checkpoint.

Kip at the board

We then created several concept ideas for each design principle, which were captured on card stock so they could be shared with TSA and be something that TSA could share with each other to start having meaningful conversations about the experience. So our service was directed at engaging TSA in a conversation about design opportunities that they might want to explore further.

Concept Cards

Each card contains a concept with a sketch and a description and is color coded to correspond to each design principle.

Concept Cards

Our work was displayed this past weekend at the Design Research Conference during Shelley Evenson’s presentation on Designing Services.

I should note that this was a project invented by Shelley Evenson, and was not in collaboration with TSA.

Even if you have little time, doing some research is better than none. And a little observation goes a long way to discovering opportunities hidden in plain sight.


What is flow?

Another successful aspect of this project was our presentation. We decided to tell the story using the photos we took at the airport coupled with a key point that each revealed to us or a question that begged asking. From that we were able to make the case for our design principles, and from those, the concepts and cards as a final deliverable.

Download the presentation (10 MB)