The global skills and competency framework for the digital world

What is service design?

The simplest description of service design as a skill is that it is the design of services. A service is something that helps people do something - like enjoy music, learn to drive or buy a house.

  • The process of buying a product from a website, from when a customer first starts researching options, to selection and purchase, and all the way to when they receive and use the product is a journey in a service.
  • There is a considerable amount of overlap between service design and product design as products typically sit within a service context.

The service designer’s job is to ensure that the entire service provides the value and benefits that meet the users’ needs and the outcomes the organisation wants, balancing the user needs and the business needs.

  • This is done by looking at the entirety of the end-to-end service, going ‘wide’ at a high-level and going ‘deep’ into the detail for particular moments in the service journey.

Service designers can improve an existing service or create a new service from scratch.

  • Like a lot of design it is a craft: the combination of both artistry and specific methods and patterns.

Value exists at the service layer, the point at which a person interacts with an organisation’s touchpoints. 

The service designer begins work from outside the organisation and works inwards...

  • starting with the eco-systems the service fits in,
  • then looking at organisation’s strategy,
  • the web of partners and suppliers it is immersed in,
  • then into the channels and touchpoints that an organisation has to deliver services,
  • and down into process, tasks, uncovering the motivations where value is created. 

For every service there are environments, systems, patterns, people, and tools that need to be defined, designed and delivered.

  • Day to day the activity of service design means planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication, and the material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction.
  • The artefacts of a service designer might include service maps, describing the service and what happens front-stage, what users can see and interact with and back-stage. In the back-stage are the behind-the-scenes processes, people, and systems that make the service work for the user.

Having a service designer involved will more likely result in the open and explicit discussion of the typical compromises that, balancing needs of stakeholders, the organisation and the end-users, instead of leaving these to chance or political interests.