Looking back on our first fully remote project

Emma Schalkers

Reading time
3 min read

Jun 14, 2021

If you would have asked me whether it was possible to do a fully remote Service Design project one year ago, I would probably have said no. Today this sounds both naive and pessimistic, since we now know it is very possible indeed.

Last week, we finished our very first fully remote project. From the kick-off to a brainstorm session, and from interviewing to presenting the results to our client. Everything happened out of the comfort of our bed/living/study rooms. 

So how do we like this way of working, and are we never going back to the old school way of working? And was it really that different or almost the same?

Getting to know each other

Really different, not as fun, and not very efficient, this is one of the few things that are truly better in real life! Although we did get to know very specific details about people, like people’s home decoration, their pets, and what they are eating for breakfast. 

Empathizing with the target group

Much more efficient! Usually we travel to our interviewees with 2 Koosjes, this can require us to travel quite a lot, and sometimes to places that are hard to reach. So on a very efficient day you could squeeze in 3 interviews if you are in luck with the travel timing. For this project we were easily doing 12 interviews in 3 days, and we had more time in between to do some reflections and sharpen our topic guide for the next interview in the meantime. 

Another win was that our client could join our interviews (with their cameras off and sound on mute). This way they actually heard everything their users had to say, without feeling the pressure of having 12 people in a room looking at you. 

Analyzing and co-creation

When it comes to the analysis phase, I think it is safe to say that we are never going back to the old way!  

We used to print out transcripts of all the interviews, highlight everything that we found interesting and then write all these quotes on post-its. BY HAND! 

The real fun would start when we would share them with each other and make clusters on the wall, first of all, handwriting them is a pain, we lost track of where each post-it was and you can’t do COMMAND+F, and don’t even get me started on the post-it rains…

Miro is the best thing that has happened to us in the times of Covid-19 and if we cancel our subscription, you will find me in protest mode on the Malieveld.

“Our co-creative way of working was not harmed by working remotely, but it has improved.”

During this process we also learned that our co-creative way of working is not harmed by remoteness, but might have been improved by the fact that the effort of getting the whole team together was much lower, and the full team from our client could join almost every session! From analyzing to brainstorming and conceptualizing.

“We would have loved to do a proper high five in real life!”

In the end, we were able to deliver a project consisting of an extensive user journey, insights with areas for improvement, about 100 ideas and 5 service concepts, over the course of 5 weeks. We presented these results to over 30 people, from whom I will never know their faces, and only know their initials displayed in the chat. Presenting without seeing everyone’s facial expression felt a bit uncomfortable in the beginning and raised some questions like; do they like what we are saying? Are they doing a different task in the meantime? Are we going too fast? But along the way, the chat livened up and showed a very well engaged audience able to ask critical questions right away and we received a very positive response in the end. 

This project was the result of true co-creation, delivered in 5 weeks, with a happy client, and a larger audience to see these results then we would have had in real-life. And it felt like a great success under these new circumstances, but we would have loved to have seen some smiles and do a proper high five in real life.

Want to know more about running a remote project?

Service Design Days 2020: Harry Potter, Kings Cross and Spaceships

Service Design and the transition to a Circular Economy

Preparing for the new world

Anniversary Interview – Jette

How to fulfill work-related needs?

The new balancing act between life and work

Why design can help your company in times of crisis

How do you set up a remote user test?

When your home becomes your office

Ten years of Koos (part 2)