What is Service Design?

In our field, we often tend to hear the phrase Service Design. Service Design is basically applying holistic user-centred design methods and processes to on- and off-line services. The Design Council has put together a good introduction to the field.

“A service is something that I use but do not own […] Service design is therefore the shaping of service experiences so that they really work for people. Removing the lumps and bumps that make them frustrating, and then adding some magic to make them compelling.”


In my personal experience, Service Design is often triggered by the opportunity of providing a better customer experience at a better cost by using mobile, digital technology. In the last 7 years, most of the opportunities of innovation in service design are coming from the mass adoption of internet-enabled, touch-friendly smartphones.

However, my interest does not stop with Smartphones. Often, working on a Service Design project is an opportunity of tackling the design problem from a holistic perspective, looking at the experience through different touchpoints, such as email, post, retail points, customer service and so on.

Customer Journey Maps, for example, are a great tool for documenting existing customer experience, and show how customers shift through different touchpoints to reach their goals. Customer Journey Maps strongly resemble user flows/journeys, with the exception that the design needs to represent multiple channels, in a swim lane fashion.
customer journey map

Ethnographic research methods can be required to fully understand the context of use. In my experience, ethnographic research projects are really good at getting under the skin of a product or service. It’s a great way of stepping outside our comfort zone and put ourselves in the shoes of the customers.

If you are a designer and you are interested in getting to grips with the methods and techniques of Service Design, I would recommend this book:

This is Service Design Thinking
designthinking
(BUY on Amazon.co.uk)

This little video introduction hints about what the book covers

Other useful Service Design resources

Service Design Tools

Service Design Network