Service design

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Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers. The purpose of service design methodologies is to design according to the needs of customers or participants, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers. The backbone of this process is to understand the behavior of the customers, their needs and motivations.[citation needed] Service designers draw on the methodologies of fields such as ethnography and journalism to gather customer insights through interviews and by shadowing service users. Many observations are synthesized to generate concepts and ideas that are typically portrayed visually, for example in sketches or service prototypes. Service design may inform changes to an existing service or creation of new services.

History of service design[edit]

In early contributions on service design (Shostack 1982; Shostack 1984), the activity of designing service was considered as part of the domain of marketing and management disciplines. Shostack (1982), for instance proposed the integrated design of material components (products) and immaterial components (services). This design process, according to Shostack, can be documented and codified using a “service blueprint” to map the sequence of events in a service and its essential functions in an objective and explicit manner.

In 1991, service design was first introduced as a design discipline by Prof. Dr. Michael Erlhoff[1] at Köln International School of Design (KISD). In 2000, Engine, the first service design consultancy opened for business in London. In 2004, the Service Design Network was launched by Köln International School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Linköpings Universitet, Politecnico di Milano and Domus Academy in order to create an international network for service design academics and professionals.

In the first joint manifest of the network, Service Design and its approach was described in the following manner:

"[Service Design] is an emerging discipline and an existing body of knowledge, which can dramatically improve the productivity and quality of services.
Service Design provides a systematic and creative approach to:
  • meeting service organisations’ need to be competitive
  • meeting customers’ rising expectations of choice and quality
  • making use of the technologies’ revolution, that multiplies the possibilities for creating, delivering and consuming services
  • answering the pressing environmental, social and economic challenges to sustainability
  • fostering innovative social models and behaviours
  • sharing knowledge & learning
The Service Design approach is uniquely oriented to service specific design needs and is rooted in the design culture. The Service Designer contributes crucial competencies. The Service Designer can:
  • visualise, express and choreograph what other people can’t see, envisage solutions that do not yet exist
  • observe and interpret needs and behaviours and transform them into possible service futures
  • express and evaluate, in the language of experiences, the quality of design
Service Design aims to create services that are Useful, Useable, Desirable, Efficient & Effective
Service Design is a human-centred approach that focuses on customer experience and the quality of service encounter as the key value for success.
Service Design is a holistic approach, which considers in an integrated way strategic, system, process and touchpoint design decisions.
Service Design is a systematic and iterative process that integrates user-oriented, team-based, interdisciplinary approaches and methods, in ever-learning cycles."

These, at that time provisional, definitions have later been developed and advanced, but also worked as a foundation.

Characteristics of service design[edit]

Service design is the specification and construction of technologically networked social practices that deliver valuable capacities for action to a particular customer. Capacity for action in Information Services has the basic form of assertions. In Health Services, it has the basic form of diagnostic assessments and prescriptions (commands). In Educational Services, it has the form of a promise to produce a new capacity for the customer to make new promises. In a fundamental way, services are unambiguously tangible. Companies such as eBay, or collectives such as Wikipedia or Sourceforge are rich and sophisticated combinations of basic linguistic deliverables that expand customers' capacities to act and produce value for themselves and for others. In an abstract sense, services are networked intelligence.

Service design can be both tangible and intangible. It can involve artifacts and other things including communication, environment and behaviours.

Several authors (Eiglier 1979; Normann 2000; Morelli 2002), though, emphasize that, unlike products, which are created and “exist” before being purchased and used, service come to existence at the same moment they are being provided and used. While a designer can prescribe the exact configuration of a product, s/he cannot prescribe in the same way the result of the interaction between customers and service providers (Holmlid, 2007), nor can s/he prescribe the form and characteristics of any emotional value produced by the service.

Consequently, service design is an activity that, among other things, suggests behavioral patterns or “scripts” to the actors interacting in the service. Understanding how these patterns interweave and support each other are important aspects of the character of design and service (Holmlid, 2012). This opens up more degrees of freedom to the customer and for employees to adapt to the customers’ behavior.

Ideal Service design methodology[edit]

Together with the most traditional methods used for product design, service design requires methods and tools to control new elements of the design process, such as the time and the interaction between actors. An overview of the methodologies for designing services is proposed by (Morelli 2006), who proposes three main directions:

• Identification of the actors involved in the definition of the service, using appropriate analytical tools

• Definition of possible service scenarios, verifying use cases, sequences of actions and actors’ role, in order to define the requirements for the service and its logical and organizational structure

• Representation of the service, using techniques that illustrate all the components of the service, including physical elements, interactions, logical links and temporal sequences

Analytical tools refer to anthropology, social studies, ethnography and social construction of technology. Appropriate elaborations of those tools have been proposed with video-ethnography (Buur, Binder et al. 2000; Buur and Soendergaard 2000), and different observation techniques to gather data about users’ behaviour (Kumar 2004) . Other methods, such as cultural probes, have been developed in the design discipline, which aim at capturing information on customers in their context of use (Gaver, Dunne et al. 1999; Lindsay and Rocchi 2003).

Design tools aim at producing a blueprint of the service, which describes the nature and characteristics of the interaction in the service. Design tools include service scenarios (which describe the interaction) and use cases (which illustrate the detail of time sequences in a service encounter). Both techniques are already used in software and systems engineering to capture the functional requirements of a system. However, when used in service design, they have been adequately adapted, in order to include more information, concerning material and immaterial component of a service, time sequences and physical flows (Morelli 2006). Other techniques, such as IDEF0, just in time and Total quality management are used to produce functional models of the service system and to control its processes. Such tools, though, may prove too rigid to describe services in which customers are supposed to have an active role, because of the high level of uncertainty related to the customer’s behaviour.

Representation techniques are critical in service design, because of the need to communicate the inner mechanisms of services to actors, such as final users, which are not supposed to be familiar with any technical language or representation technique. For this reason storyboards are often used to illustrate the interaction on the front office.[2] Other representation techniques have been used to illustrate the system of interactions or a “platform” in a service (Manzini, Collina et al. 2004). Recently, video sketching and video prototypes have also been used to produce quick and effective tools to stimulate customers’ participation in the development of the service and their involvement in the value production process.

Types of service design[edit]

ITIL Service Design[edit]

The ITIL framework of five books includes Service Design that addresses the gathering of Requirements and the design of the solution to those requirements, specifically, tacking the design of the service, the processes used for the service, the management tools required, the measurement of the service. This is used to construct the Service Design Package that follows the service through its lifecycle.

Business Analysis also uses Requirements to design services. It has been proposed that Business Analysis and Service Management are aligned more closely to optimise Service Design, based on both disciplines e.g. How BABOK complements ITIL [3]

Service design in the public sector[edit]

In the last few years, the public sector has expanded, with new investments in hospitals, schools, cultural institutions and security infrastructures. The number of jobs in public services has also grown. Such growth is also associated to a large and rapid social change, that is calling for a re-organization of the welfare state. In this context governments are explicitly considering service design for the re-organisation of public services.

Some recent documents of the British government (United Kingdom Prime Minister Strategy Unit 2007; Public Administration Select Committee, 2008) explore the concept of "user-driven public services" and scenarios of highly personalized public services. The documents propose a new view on the role of service providers and users in the development of new and highly customised public services.

This view has been explored by recent works of the and in the initiative in UK. In those works and in of redesign of public services, the approach has been based on users’ participation and active interaction with the service. The new approach has been illustrated by several authors.[4][5][6][7][8]

Clinical service redesign is an approach to improving quality and productivity in health. A redesign is clinically led and involves all stakeholders (e.g. Primary and secondary care clinicians, senior management, patients, commissioners etc.) to ensure national and local clinical standards are set and communicated across the care settings. By following the patient's journey or pathway, the team can focus on improving the patient experience and outcomes of care.

Inland Revenue New Zealand has a dedicated Service Design & Implementation group, with separate streams focusing on government, customers and transformation design. Specific design methodologies have been adopted and are being continuously tested.

Service design education[edit]

The first service design education was introduced in 1991 at Köln International School of Design. Several other schools are now proposing service design as the main subject of master studies or as part of the academic curriculum in interaction design or industrial design.

Bachelor programmes[edit]

Master programmes[edit]

Executive programmes[edit]


  1. ^ Moritz 2005, p. 66.
  2. ^ E.g. Albinsson, L., M. Lind, et al. (2007). Co-Design: An approach to border crossing, Network Innovation. eChallenges 2007, The Hague, The Netherlands.
  3. ^ Brooks, Peter Business Analysis & Service Management - How BABOK complements ITIL , IT Service Management Forum, 2011
  4. ^ Cottam & Leadbeater 2004
  5. ^ Leadbeater 2008
  6. ^ Leadbeater and Cottam 2008
  7. ^ Parker and Heapy 2006
  8. ^ Thackara 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • Bechmann, Søren (2010): "Servicedesign", Gyldendal Akademisk.
  • Buur, J., T. Binder, et al. (2000). "Taking Video beyond "Hard Data" in User Centred Design." Design. Participatory Design Conference (PDC 2000).
  • Buur, J. and A. Soendergaard (2000). "Video Card Game: An augmented environment for User Centred Design discussions." Designing Augmented Reality Environments (DARE 2000), Helsingør.
  • Eiglier, P., Langeard,P (1977). Marketing Consumer Services: New Insights. Cambridge, Mass. Marketing Science Institute, 1977. 128 P.
  • Gaver B., Dunne T., Pacenti E., (1999). "Design: Cultural Probes." Interaction 6(1): 21–29.
  • Hollins, G., Hollins, Bill (1991). Total Design : Managing the design process in the service sector. London, Pitman.
  • Holmlid, S. (2007). Interaction design and service design: Expanding a comparison of design disciplines. In proceedings from Nordic Design Research Conference, Nordes 2007, Stockholm.
  • Holmlid, S. (2012). Designing for Resourcefulness in Service. Some Assumptions and Consequences. Chapter in Miettinen, Valtonen (eds), Service Design with Theory, pp151-172. Univ of Lapland press.
  • Kumar, V. (2004). User Insights Tool: a sharable database for user research. Chicago, Design Institute at IIT.
  • Leadbeater, C. and H. Cottam (2008). The User Generated State: Public Services 2.0.
  • Løvlie, L., Polaine, A., Reason, B. (2013). Service Design: From Insight to Implementation. New York: Rosenfeld Media. ISBN 1-933820-33-0.
  • Lindsay, C. and S. Rocchi (2003). "'Highly Customerised Solutions' – The Context of Use Co-Research Methodology". Innovating for Sustainability. 11th International Conference of Greening of Industry Network, San Francisco.
  • Manzini, E., L. Collina, et al. (2004). Solution Oriented Partnership. How to Design Industrialised Sustainable Solutions. Cranfield, Cranfield University. European Commission GROWTH Programme.
  • Morelli, N. (2006). "Developing new PSS, Methodologies and Operational Tools." Journal of Cleaner Production 14(17): 1495–1501.
  • Morelli, N. (2002). "Designing product/service systems. A methodological exploration." Design Issues 18(3): 3–17.
  • Moritz, S. (2005). Service Design: Practical access to an evolving field. London.
  • Normann, R. (2000). Service management : strategy and leadership in service business. Chichester ; New York, Wiley.
  • Normann, R. and R. Ramirez (1994). Designing Interactive Strategy. From Value Chain to Value Constellation. New York, John Wiley and Sons.
  • Osterwalder, A. and Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. New Jersey, John Wiley and Sons.
  • Parker, S. and J. Heapy (2006). The Journey to the Interface – How public service design can connect users to reform, Demos.
  • Public Administration Select Committee (2008). User Involvement in Public Services, House of Commons: 37.
  • Ramaswamy, R. (1996). Design and management of service processes. Reading, Mass., Addison–Wesley Pub. Co.
  • Shostack, L. G. (1982). "How to Design a Service." European Journal of Marketing 16(1): 49–63.
  • Shostack, L. G. (1984). "Design Services that Deliver." Harvard Business Review(84115): 133-139.
  • Stickdorn, M. and Schneider, J. (2010). This is Service Design Thinking. Amsterdam, BIS Publishers.
  • United Kingdom Prime Minister Strategy Unit (2007). [2]. HM Government Policy Review, Government of United Kingdom.
  • de Reuver, M.; Bouwman, H.; Haaker, T.: Mobile business models: organizational and financial design issues that matter, in: Electronic Markets, 19, 1, 2009, pp. 3–13.
  • van de Kar, E.; den Hengst, M.: Involving users early on in the design process: closing the gap between mobile information services and their users, in: Electronic Markets, 19, 1, 2009, pp. 31–42.

See also[edit]