The New Service Design

This weekend I spent surround by inspiring and established designers who happened to be the jury of the IDSA IDEAs. There was a huge confusion on what service design is and I could not help but think:

Is it the submissions or the jury that does not know what service design is?

Either way they both do not understand and I almost think that no one understands. When people say service design some people immediately think app. An app solves everything. Some people think a coffee shop or hair salon.

Maybe, the problem is not that the industry does not understand what service design is. Maybe, the problem is that it is called service design. In education, we are taught that a service is a system with multiple facets and touchpoints. We are taught to evaluate trends in every single field. We are taught to evaluate the business, the users and the competitors. Then we need to take all of these evaluations into play when we start generating service innovations.

But what we are really doing is designing an ecosystem. We are designing how things affect each other. How the product, user, business, marketing, community, trashman, mailman, manufacturing, etc, etc, are all affected by our innovation.

Service Designers are limited by the title service design, we are ecosystem designers.


I got into a discussion with a colleague/ mentor of mine. His point was:

Industrial designers do the same thing as service designers, so why do we need service designers?

It was interesting because I am so used to arguing the other side: why service designers need product designers. But it was so easy for me to see part of his point. Yes, many industrial designers think they do the same thing as service designers, and for some, they probably do. But service designers (I’m going to start referring to them as ecosystem designers) focus on how the product that the industrial designer is designing is affecting everything. and how to make those interactions better for both the company and the user. Ecosystem designers help the business create a better business model, they help the user be more comfortable in the purchasing process, and so much more. Ecosystem designers focus on the large picture as well as the small details that surround the product.

But at the end of the day, it is not a matter of we do this and you do that. If we can work together imagine what we as designers can create. The world is in our hands, so why do we need segregate ourselves like everything else in this world tries to do?

Let’s set a precedent and show how fantastic this world can be if we just collaborate.