Stakeholder Maps


The Stakeholder Map is a tool that allows designers to visually flesh out all of the groups/people critical to their service. "Stakeholders" in this sense can encompass anybody from staff to project partners, suppliers to competitors, and especially customers or the stakeholders receiving and using the service. The map graphically shows how these people interact and affect, or are affected by, the service depending on what group they fall into.


create thorough list of stakeholders

identify motivations/purpose of involved parties

group graphically and connect relationships


Process and product of this tool helps creators to see the opportunity and challenges of everyone involved in their service. Acknowledging the common interests and interactions, or lack thereof, between stakeholders is critical to maximizing the value of a service.

Customer Journey Maps


The Customer Journey Map is used to diagram the user experience and perspective to better understand the target of the provided service. "Touchpoints" on the journey map designate where/how the customer comes in contact with the service and how they feel about it. The map compiles each of these touchpoints to give a clear picture of the customer's current experience and how to improve upon it. 


Define touchpoints of user/service contact through interviews, digital metrics, and observation of consumer

Connect touchpoints in a clear visual showing the customer journey


Mapping out the customer experience based on their personal insights, allows a designer to empathize with the user of their service. Journey maps can be personalized to a specific user or users and over-layed for comparison. Additionally, the identification of touchpoints is helpful for deeper analysis and breakdown of where opportunity and challenges exist throughout the service experience. 

Contextual Interviews


Contextual interviews are a form of empathizing and data gathering from stakeholders in the environment which the service functions or affects.  This tool provides for an element of necessary perspective-understanding of the context and people relevant to your project. 


Identify stakeholders ideal for interviewing

Identify environments necessary for observation

Decide on interview questions, methods, and location to create a comfortable dynamic

Document, record, photograph, interpret


Gathering insights within the context of a stakeholders natural environment proves to generate much more meaningful data than traditional focus groups or surveys. Researchers or marketers will have a detailed, visual, and intimate understanding of the context that their service affects. 

The Five Whys


This simple questioning device is used in the beginning stages of service design to get to the root of an issue or situation by asking five increasingly pointed "why?" questions. Limiting the question & answer chain to 5, ensures that the process gets to a helpful revelation or cause instead of continuing in circles. 

How (Example)

1. Why is swimming prohibited in Lake Erie this week?

Because people could get sick from the water right now.

2. Why is the water unhealthy?

There is a harmful algae bloom on the surface of the Lake.

3. Why is the algae growing on the Lake?

Increased levels of phosphorous in the water contribute to the growing scum.

4. Why is there extra phosphorous in the Lake water?

Farmers in nearby communities dump the agricultural waste into the Lake.

5. Why are the farmers dumping waste into the Lake?

There is no policy for agricultural waste containment in Northeast Ohio.

Why the Why's

The example above demonstrates how a short series of targeted questions can help get to the root of an issue. From here, the issue can be better categorized and addressed moving forward. 

Cultural Probes


Cultural probes are a data-collection tool in which users are given the resources to document personal experience. Probes are typically kits or materials issued for an extended time to people in a target environment so that they may return their documentations later as dynamic consumer insight. The central principle is self-documentation by the participants.


Select participants with unique access/perspective

Determine objectives/desired outcomes and strategy

Provide materials for documentation (ei. journal, camera, digital materials etc.)

Open lines of communication for monitoring probes and guiding the process


This research tool is inconspicuous and often generates the most authentic insights from an environment or stakeholder group. Cultural vulnerabilities are still respected using such probes, but the willing participants provide access and perspectives to some experiences that are traditionally unreachable. 


Mobile Ethnography


Participants are relied upon for providing their own perspective of the service through this tool. Mobile ethnography is similar to cultural probes but less structured in that the space or "culture" is not so defined.  Researchers are even more removed and users choose how to structure the research themselves, including how they document and interact with the service.


Provide users with technology (phone, audio recording, etc)

Have participants document their own touchpoints 


Mobile ethnography can be applied in limitless ways, and used to generate perspectives from all kinds of stakeholders through technology - whether internally or externally. Instead of trying your best to ask the right questions or put yourself in the users mind, they essentially do it for you when given the appropriate tools. 

A Day In The Life


This tool is a detailed step-by-step of a day in the life of a certain customer, or model customer. The list or graphic puts together research and data to compile a thorough snapshot of the user's estimated daily routine. 


Analyze gathered insights/ data in time ordered list

Depict in flow chart, graphic, video or other visual

Include thoughts and activities pertaining to service and other daily actions


The comprehensive day in the life tool allows designers to understand the customer in relation to, and outside of, their interaction with the service. Understanding the user's life besides the touchpoints of the service is a next-level understanding of this crucial stakeholder. 

Expectation Maps


The Expectation Map tool is a creative diagram representing how the user perceives a service. The map can show specific impressions of the service from one experience or an overall expectation of how the service should be in their eyes.


Gather materials to communicate user opinions (ei. images, media coverage, social media posts)

Detail map with supplemental research (ei. testimonials, interviews, surveys)


Expectation maps clearly lay out the mental perceptions of users so that designers may identify disconnects in the experience. 


Being Your Users/Service Safaris


A service safari is an exploratory exercise where participants are sent "into the wild" to take note of what they think are positive and negative examples of service. 


Send staff/clients/any stakeholders out into a specified environment

Have participants note their service experiences

// Explore the service experience of competitors or any well-run service to gain design inspiration


Safaris allow creators to "be the user" and to get a first-hand understanding of what the service looks like from the customer's perspective. Additionally, service safaris allow for the exploration of other people's operations to draw comparisons. 

Personas/ Character Profiles


Personas are a creative depiction of the realistic user of one's service. By compiling a character profile of a potential or current user, a multi-dimensional understanding of the customer is established and available for design interaction. 


Gather all known user data from previous collection methods

Create user persona based on knowledge

Detail the character with visuals, stories, and an engagable identity


Personas are a clearer way for designers to view the customer as someone more complex than a broad demographic. Once personas are compiled and detailed enough, creators can group them, and tailor the service better to the identifiable stakeholders. 

Shadowing/ Observation


Observation is closely analyzing the interactions that people have with certain products, services, and environments.  Observation can be through photo, video, etc. and is a primary tool in identifying an issue and proving your solution.


Take general observations on something that already exists, using photos/videos

Analyze these observations and base your model around the information collected

When presenting your solution, the evidence collected will be vital to legitimizing your research-based solution


Observation is used to identify the problems that can arise when people interact with the resources around them.  It is essential to identify these issues to ensure that your solution to a problem will positively affect the primary users' interactions.

Secondary Research ( Desk Research )


Secondary Research is used to accumulate a range of published information about your customers, your competitors and political, social and economic trends.  In doing Desk Research, it is important to utilize resources to identify trends.


Search through the following resource banks:

  • National press and trade periodicals

  • Specialist blogs

  • Conference reports

  • Market research, market reports and official statistics
    Business reports from commercial publishers (such as KeyNote, Euromonitor, Mintel, Datamonitor, and The Economist Intelligence Unit)

  • Public sector periodicals, reports and papers

  • Trade associations and organisations

  • Colleges and universities

  • Think tanks

After compiling data, analyze the results and support your solutions around evident trends.


Acquiring research before you create a solution will improve the effectiveness of your theories, as well as create more legitimacy for your mission.