THE AUDIENCES JOURNEY – Can Service Design principles help make theatre better?

Convener(s): Gavin O’Carroll

Participants: Tassos Stevens, Willie White, Matina Von Holn, Annette Mees, Aleasha Chaunte, Keiran Ciron, Dan Koop. Lian Bell, Gavin O’Carroll and 5 more anon.

 Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Gavin introduced Service Design:  A field of design that takes a holistic approach to designing services using tools of thinking like the following:

 Audience Journeys – From the first moment the person hears /sees /experiences the service (in this case the theatre company or show)

Audience touchpoints – the interactions the person has with the service, from their point of view.

Evidencing (archaeology of the future) – mocking up future evidence of the audience touchpoints or future effect of the piece, for example writing the future review of the show that might appear in the Times, or writing out the script of the phone conversation the customer might have with the box office.  A visioning tool.

Service Envy – In the same way we have product envy (I want to buy a house in Hackney because that is seen as trendy and artistic in my view, or I want a Apple laptop /iPhone because I want the lifestyle associated with it), we need to create service envy, where being a customer of a service has connotations of lifestyle and status associated with it etc.

Looking at the experience of the audience member from the very first moment in time that they hear or experience the show / company to the last time they engage or think of it, or the time when they finally come and see they show, which may span a few years, and using some design thinking to design the touchpoints so that they work FOR the piece.

 Discussion points:

  • Are we just tidying up what we really should do already? 
  • Can we use this thinking to widen the commerciality of theatre without lessening the artistic integrity
  • It seemed a good approach to model the work around people rather than down traditional routes
  • Can we re-invigorate theatre with a lifestyle kudos for different demographics of people using this framework?
  • We had a discussion about theatre being elitist, and that many many people never experience it, and why, and about how people introduce us as their ‘token arty friend’ as they haven’t had the experience of theatre to identify themselves with it.
  • We had a discussion about bringing theatre to different classes, that actually bringing middle class theatre to the working class was just shoving it down their thoughts and that maybe their theatre was radically different.
  • We discussed that service design thinks about an experience from the audience point of view, that it helps to design experiences FOR audiences so this would help in the above point.
  • Adding onto this there is a need for tight feedback loops so that experiences could be ‘prototyped’ and evolve from real testing.  This was a type of dynamically engaging the audience.  There were fears over ‘art by committee’ and ‘being too gimmicky’ if this process got out of hand.  It was discussed that you’d have to judge it and balance out its usefulness verses having time away from this to actually create the art.
  • The idea of customer journeys over a three year or however long period was liked.  It felt this gave a framework to view the work and find opportunities to enhance what we do.
  • It was felt that this thinking really helped to make the creators aware of the whole toolbox of methods and mediums available to them to create and enhance the show itself.  That this made us aware of having extra devices to sow seeds with the audience. 
  • 360 degree commissioning - The way BBC commission now where you are expected to give the idea of the show and also an idea of how you will or won’t  use the full range of media (internet, mobile etc) at your disposal to engage the user.  YouTube was mentioned as a tool, but this really depends on the audience.  If the service design frameworks is used then you can make informed and contextualised choices about whether or not to use certain mediums in certain ways.  General good feeling of being aware of a wider toolbox, using these methods of thinking.
  • Fears around if the plot and narrative could bleed outward into marketing and practicality of selling the show using these thinking methods, could marketing and commerciality bleed backwards into the show.  Concern.
  • Discussion around not looking at market as a lesser activity.
  • Discussion around the fact that many audiences buy the EXPERIENCE of an event even more so than the actual specific event.
  • Annette loved being invited to and event by someone she trusted.
  • That this builds up your experience, because how do you know who is exciting?
  • Thinking about the social aspect of a space – discussion about Shunt.
  • That the framework allows left field thinking to emerge.  Like using Second Life:  the online virtual world, as a player in your narrative.
  • It’s was asked how can people actually practically might use service design as a tool in thinking about their shows:  Gavin suggested techniques such as simple storyboarding of experiences with a pad and marker, like what people would do in the foyer before the show, quickly scripting the box office conversation with the customer, quickly sketching the flyers, quickly sketching and storyboarding the website interaction, quickly storyboarding the youTube video of the character talking to the audience member personally.  Also sketching out the timeline of the customer journey and marking out the touchpoints was quick a powerful tool.
  • We referenced Rabbit, a character that also lives in the real world online.  You can email Rabbit.
  • We began thinking about experience design, or creating experiences – like with Rabbit you would go to real world parties and then meet other people ‘who knew Rabbit’.
  • We discussed who LOST existed even more online than the TV program and the success of this.  Fake websites and character stories hidden on the Internet.
  • It was pointed out that some people find the traditional experience comforting.  But that that could be a choice to keep the traditional experience for that audience as the experience design.
  • That thinking of this kind might help us imagine what revenue model opportunities there might be at the various audience touchpoints.
  • Design for specific users
  • General excitement about these service designs principles.  Said:  It makes you aware of what you can subvert.
  • Is ‘service design’ an off-putting and dry name?  ‘Experience and service design’ worse / better.
  • There appears to be 4 levels of application:
    • To engage audience members in the narrative outside the show itself
    • As an innovative way to think about marketing and revenue streams
    • To improve the practical non artistic experience of  the audience (water in the foyer for people who have rushed there, better chairs for elderly etc)
    • Applying it to your own process to improve it within your company.  Plenty of feedback loops so that your processes can evolve.

The group was excited about using this thinking to help be more creative with the theatre experience.  People expressed an interest in learning more and installing these techniques as a resource.  Gavin has offered to put up a website listing the techniques and explanations of Service design.  I’ll email it out on the D&D mailing list if that’s cool with Phelim etc.

To learn more about service design:  Google ‘live/work service design’.  You can contact Gavin through