EPISODE 9: Context mapping & growing an agency with Sanne Kistemaker

Sanne Kistemaker is co-founder of the service design company Muzus, and teacher at Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. Sanne founded Muzus, a user-centered design agency 10 years ago, together with her sister Neele. Over the years they evolved into a 10 person service design agency that creates products and services by providing insight in the world and motivations of people. 

One of the approaches they use is contextmapping. Contextmapping is a method that has been developed at the Technical University of Delft, and allows researchers and designers to map the context around a certain subject.

During this interview we talked about the opportunities but also the disadvantages of co-creation, the values of the contextmapping technique, service design in education and Sanne provides us with some concrete examples of projects at Muzus.


Most surprising insight 

Co-creation Frankenstein
— Sanne Kistemakers

We talked about co-creating with users and other stakeholders and what the opportunities and disadvantages are. Sanne truly believes in co-creating in the research fase, but is a bit sceptic about co-creating in de design fase. Non-designers often find it hard to come up with ideas. And although we can learn from the process and we gain insights from designing with them, the solutions that come out of a co-creation workshop are often not as valuable by itself. They become good ideas when designers interpret them and come up with suitable solution themselves. 


What we learned

We learned that service design is not always about designing the ideal situation but defining what the ideal situation is and then making clever decisions on what parts to design first to deliver value from the start. In your research fase you find opportunities and then together with the client you decide which one to focus on in the design fase. That does not mean the other opportunities will be thrown out. Those can deliver new projects later on or can be dealt with internally or with other agencies who might be more specialised. As service designers our role is not only to design solution but also to trigger opportunities that open up spaces for solutions. 

This is not always easy to sell to clients: “we will discover what you need and then decide what to design.” Reality is: “we want you to design this and through research we might find out that was not the right direction to go for the best solution and if you are lucky your client follows this story and shift directions. I say if you are lucky, but actually its not about luck its part of the service design proces to guide your clients to this proces of uncertainties and give them the courage and knowledge to make the right decisions. 

In project we often find ourselves frustrated because it seems like we cannot create the ideal situation. What we learned is that it is still important to define what this ideal situation is. But at some point you have to decide on what you are going to focus first. This often is just a small step towards the ideal situation. But as long as its a small step that already delivers value this is a great steps and many steps can follow. 


A behind the scene story 

I (Stina) am very excited about this episode because I know Sanne quiet well. She was my teacher at industrial design engineering at the TU Delft. And after I graduated I worked for a while at her design agency Muzus. Sanne really got me excited about designing for people together with people. I learned how to gain real meaningful insights and also how to communicate them inside an organisation. How to use the needs of people as driver to create meaningful change in an organisation. 

Therefore this was a real fun episode to record! And I’m excited about sharing it with other former and current students at the TU delft. 


Interesting links from the episode


TU Delft, Interaction Design


Symposium MyFutures