HERE’S THE GIST:
The business we designed for was Graham Cracker Comics, which is the largest comic book store chain in the Midwest. We approached the business with the intent to bring in more regular customers. Our on-site research and business analysis led us to a solution that focused on a celebration on comic book properties through participatory events. We ultimately came to build a service design model that presented how these store events would encourage return vistors and more engagement from both the consumers and staff.
Team Member(s): Mark Pragides, Frederick Vitale
Duration: Three weeks
Tools: Adobe Illustrator, Figma, Sketch
SO WHAT’S GRAHAM CRACKER COMICS?
THAT’S COOL, BUT WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SOLVE?
Good question. The greater objective of this project was to offer a service solution for a brick-and-morter store. After looking into the history of Graham Cracker Comics, we determined our problem statement is as follows:
Graham Cracker Comics has a relatively low customer base, so design a service solution that brings in more customers and improves upon their current service model.
GREAT! TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH.
CONTEXTUAL INQUIRIES and USER INTERVIEWS
Naturally, designing a service model led us to do extensive research at a physical Graham Cracker Comics store. One of our main tools of research was to conduct contextual inquires of the business itself. We questioned the staff and customers, and observed their actions, taking note of their behavior each other and with the store itself.
Our other main research tool was to conduct in-depth user interviews with the customers and employees. We asked them to give us their stories, inquiring about their hobbies, behavioral patterns, and personal values. Some key quotes that we pulled were…
“I got into comics from watching Batman and Justice League.”
– Female Customer, 19
“I really like how the customers and staff here are all so passionate.”
– Male Customer, 20
“I found a larger fandom community outside of the shop that always led me back.”
– Male Customer, 25
“I think an industry implosion is coming again soon. There have been so many superhero movies coming out, that they’re now commanding the comic book industry. When the popularity of the movies crashes, and it already is, the comic books will too.”
– General Manager, 25 years experience
Additionally, my team compared Graham Cracker Comics with other comic book stores in the state. What we found was that the store was unique in the industry because…
- Their target audience is the generalist comic book reader, not the niche consumer.
- They focus largely on mainstream comics, as opposed to rare gems.
- The business practice is geared more towards increasing market share.
- The stock is very large and is maintained through a store network.
ANALYSIS TIME! WHAT DID ALL THIS TELL YOU?
To be frank, loads and loads of raw data. To look through it all, we organized the information into an affinity map, making categories and seeing how everything connected. This allowed us to dissect the following key insights:
- Different generations of fans get interested in comics through different avenues.
- The first goal of the customer is to further immerse in the character and community.>
- People will find their own level of engagement to fit their specific desires.
- The store foot traffic is most dependent on location and movie industry.
OKAY, HOTSHOT. WHAT’S YOUR DESIGN STRATEGY?
For starters, we realized that due to the time limit of our project, we wouldn’t have the time to build out a high-fidelity prototype of our service solution. As a result, we realized that our solution would be reliant on visual design artifacts as our final deliverables.
That said, it was essential that we had solid design principles to minimum “jumping the shark” during our design sprints. After much analysis, those principles were as follows:
- Encourages comic book community involvement.
- Permit customers to learn more about their favorite characters/properties.>
- Allow users to engage with other avenues within the comic book franchises.
During our initial ideation sessions, I took the task of drawing up concept sketches of potential visual artifacts and scenarios that adhere to our design principles. Some of which include…
- Digital/print marketing assets.
- Novelty items.>
- Rough storyboards of a store event.
AND…WHAT’S YOUR DESIGN SOLUTION?
We came to the concensus of combining our small-scale solutions into a more holistic, more serviceable solution, and our design solution ultimately came down to this:
Create series of events that Graham Cracker Comics can offer through a standard service model that’s aimed at deepening the user’s initial engagement/interest.
WHAT ABOUT USER TESTING? HOW’D YOU VALIDATE THIS?
It was a little tricky. We took our concepts and ran them through a series of usability tests with a number of potential users. We asked them to run through certain tasks and to offer feedback at the end. We received the following results:
- The feeling of inclusivity gained from the events.
- Storyboards made the service communicative and digestible.
What Didn’t Worked
- The emotional points of the user weren’t clear.
- The target demographic is not clear.
- Long-term results of the service are not there.
BRING IT OWN HOME! WHAT ARE YOUR FINAL DELIVERABLES?
As I had alluded to earlier, this project’s final deliverables were going to be heavy with the visual design artifacts. In this case, because it’s a service-oriented design, we chose to create a user experience map and a service blueprint to present our final solution, which I helped to create.
The user experience map was made to outline how our users’ mental and emotional states as they move through the events of our service.
The service blueprint demonstrate how the events of the service solution would be developed and operated, while presenting it’s usability and corresponding actions of our users.
My biggest contribution, however, was in creating the following storyboards to fully illustrate our solution in the form of a user journey and the value that it provides.
WHAT WERE THE FINAL RESULTS OF YOUR PROJECT? NEXT STEPS?
Our presentation was well-received for staying grounded in our design principles and user insights. Our final deliverables helped immensely in detailing just how our design solution would work from a business and user standpoint. Special notice was given to my storyboards, which got everyone into the mindset of the user.
Some points of constructive criticism we received was that our solution had a good framework, but the details within were not as clearcut as they could’ve been. On that note, the lack of a high-fidelity prototype and respective user tests put the solution’s viablity into question. Had we had more time for the project, I would have worked to build more high-fidelity mockups of our solution, and run a beta test of an actual event for us to prototype.