Gauging the usefulness and desirability of a service to connect people to local Copenhageners

In July 2017 I attended the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction’s Service Design course.

Over 5 days I led research, alongside another researcher, graphic and visual designers.

Our method in summary:

  • Monday
    • Framing a research goal and interviewing 15 locals and sketching with them to prompt discussions
  • Tuesday
    • Analysing findings to frame themes and design challenges
  • Wednesday
    • Refining a design challenges and rapidly ideating concepts
    • Storyboarding the most viable ones,
    • Framing research goals
    • Prototyping to support research objectives using cardboard
  • Thursday
    • testing the service through 7 interviews before iterating it
    • designing an event to test a further iteration
  • Friday
    • sharing what we’d learnt

A big research question led us to themes which we framed as design opportunities . To some extent this mirrors the process I use in my day job. The next part was joined up and rapid.

We generated 100s of ideas on ways to tackle these themes, took the best ones forward, prototyped an experience and took it out to audience for a few more rounds of feedback and refinement.

service design process

On the Monday used the UN’s sustainability goals as a discussion prompt, before we came up with what intuitively seemed like a rich question:

How do Copenhageners form communities?

UN sustainability goals

UN goals brain storm

How do Copenhageners form communities?

This question seemed intuitively interesting, but it’s value to me personally wasn’t entirely clear.

I usually spend a few days understanding where a valuable research question is, based on stakeholder interviews and data .

We used this to brainstorm research questions which formed a discussion guide…

questions to guide discovery

…before we took to the streets to interview and sketch experiences with 15 Copenhageners.


We asked big open questions like

What does community mean to you?

How do you meet new people?

We asked them to use icons to show us how they spend their time


We prompted them to draw timelines, charting the highs and lows of their journey to becoming a Copenhagener


We noted highlights from each interview and clustered common themes when we got back to the studio on Wednesday morning. This was scrappy and ambiguous as some observations were more like insights, where the quotations behind them were vague.

Once we had our observation clusters, we individually noted what each one inferred and sense checked it with the others. An example insight:

To Copenhageners, the home may be a social hub where shared spaces are integral to bonding

‘ I’ll go to a friend’s house or they’ll visit me.’

‘ Our living room is the shared common space’

‘ I’ll have a meal with my family every day’

‘We’ll have play dates’


This led us to our design challenges.

We thought a lot about how we might make these

  • broad enough to inspire
  • without making it so challenging that people couldn’t find a starting point.


The 30 people in our wider class split into tables.

Each table had about 3 minutes to generate ideas and present them.



We had at least 50 ideas, before we voted on the most viable ones


We had 2 main concepts we wanted to take forwards.

Story boarding really helped to communicate ideas at this point.

This idea was called House Badge. It’s a sign to indicate the diversity of residents alongside local demand for hospitals and schools.

The value here was to ensure inequality isn’t hidden and communicate insider knowledge to potential residents.


Another concept was a platform to incentivise connecting mutual friends.

The value here was to strengthen personal or professional connections when people are new in town.


We used a service blue print template to map touch points and work out where our biggest questions were.

This helped us take the next big step for this concept –

understanding how desirable a service to connect strangers to people with common interests might be.


2 people in the team spent about an hour building a prototype whilst I drafted a discussion guide for our next round of customer feedback.

We wanted to explore the moment where someone might get their first message from an app to go to an event at a stranger’s home.



We asked open questions to get a sense of people’s appetites for meeting new people in a new place.

What are your thoughts on this ?

What would you do next?

How does this make you feel ?

How would you feel about visiting a strangers house ? Why?

What would you need to know before you sign up?

What would you change about this?

To build context we opened feedback sessions with following lines:

You’ve subscribed to a service to meet locals and make friends.
Your phone has buzzed and so you pick it up…

Some insights from this stage

  • People may expect to see fellow attendees

I’d expect to see who else is going. I’d want to take a friend.

– Participant 1, graduate

  • The opportunity to nurture common interests may be perceived as a benefit

I’d go but it’s too far away and I’m flying to the Netherlands tonight

If he is new to town could be interested I d learn how to cook something new-

– Participant 2, young professional

Feedback from 5 people suggested that people had varying comfort zones when it came to meeting new people in new places and being open to transcending discomfort.

This led us to a big challenging question –

What kinds of complex feelings and dynamics are people negotiating as they meet strangers in strange places?

There was only one way to find out.


We found this greenhouse in a local park, where people were invited to have a coffee and leave a donation. We used this as a setting for our next prototype –

an event to explore awkwardness.

In the local park I invited a lady, and her brother to meet our colleague for a coffee.

I then observed and later interviewed them all about the experience.

Some general observations

  • Common interests built rapport after initial awkwardness
  • This was supported by our collegue’s impeccable manners and listening skills – ( a potential benefit of being a host could be refining manners and soft skills)
  • Common interests seemed to be a catalyst for potentially using the service

 Interview reflections

‘It was nerve racking like a blind date

‘There were a couple of awkward moments but she was chatty which helped a lot’

‘She also asked me questions and gave tips on places to go

‘I wouldn’t have a person there to serve food.’

The impact of research findings on the project

Research surfaced a valuable list of things to focus effort on

  • How would this work with other social channels eg Facebook?
  • Could it be gamified? Could it be a competition?
  • How might sponsors add value? Could this influence people’s confidence?
  • What kinds of thoughts might go through people’s minds as they arrive? How might we address uncertainty
  • How might the service nurture conversation? How might the benefits of becoming a better host, be communicated? How and when might tips be shared?

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