courage can't see around corners but goes around them anyway. ~Mignon McLaughlin

Service design for a niche audience: constraints allow creativity

Samsung in Turkey has developed a new service for the Deaf and hearing impaired — a video call centre.

That in and of itself is quite clever. So is how they chose to communicate it to the public in an advert.

It’s a sweet ad showing what a day in the life of a Deaf man might be like if everyone he met could sign. My little corner of the Internet was full of emotion yesterday praising the heartwarming stunt. But here’s what’s really praiseworthy: The fact that Samsung recognised a niche audience and saw a service design opportunity.

Deaf and hearing impaired users are a pretty hot audience segment for whom mobile phones are a more important lifeline than they are for people like me who can hear.

Samsung recognised this audience and designed a service specifically to serve them (video call centres).

Big business tends to view audiences like the deaf and hearing impaired as a niche — too niche to warrant specific attention. But this is a case where designing within the tight constraints of a niche led to great creativity.

Think about it. Nobody looks deaf. It can be pretty isolating, as mentioned in the film. In fact, anxiety and depression occurs more often amongst those with hearing impairments, according to the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.

So, yes, an agency found a touching way to communicate the story, but what’s exciting is not the ad. What’s truly exciting is the service that does some social good and makes good business sense. Given how products and services tend to morph and adapt in the hands of real users, I’ll be curious to see how these video call centres are used and by whom.

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