You might be wondering "So, what is Service Design?"

As product and service designer, Shahrzad Samadzadeh, explains in her article on service design, "Service design originated from the combination of marketing, service operations, and user-centered design. It is the application of systems-thinking and design methods to address the needs that emerge from human systems (those that include users, employees, etc)."

Here are some key concepts of service design: 

Front stage & back stage: "Some parts of services are visible to the service user; these parts are called front stage. Some part of services are not visible to the service user; these parts are called back stage. As a general rule of thumb, it’s safe to assume that most services are shaped like icebergs, with an enormous amount of complexity back stage."

Actors: Humans and systems enact the service. They are the actors who are on stage.

Touchpoints & Channels: "Moments of interaction with a service happen via touchpoints. Mediums for the delivery of a service are called channels."

Cycles & Life Cycles: "A user’s service needs don’t disappear when the service is completed, they often reappear after a certain trigger; this cyclical nature of service needs is called a cycle. Users experience most services more than once over the course of their lives, and their experience with the service tends to change and develop; this is called a life cycle. As a general rule of thumb, the completion of a good service includes user-centered triggers to continue back into the beginning of the service."

Journeys: "Services unfold over time, which means that service users experience a service over time; this is called a journey. Journeys can span any length of time, from a single cycle to a life cycle. When mapping a journey, pick a scope and altitude that will be in service of your work."

What are we designing?

"Service design acts on a variety of objects, and can influence or create change at a variety of levels."

Some examples of how to read the chart provided in her article are listed below (for all examples, read the full article):

  • "If you’re designing a touchpoint (reading left to right): you’re primarily shaping a service encounter, creating change in a system of value exchange, and influencing societal practices."
  • "If you’re designing a service encounter (reading top to bottom): you’re primarily designing touchpoints and behaviors, while changing experiences and influencing at least one business." 
  • "If you’ve set out to explicitly design a system that exchanges value (reading top to bottom): you are designing behaviors, businesses, experiences, and likely at least one touchpoint."

Service design tools
So, you might be asking what type of tools do you use to design services? According to Ms. Samadzadeh, "All the tools of the trade in design are fair game. From modeling to workshops, service design does not reinvent the wheel."  One of the tools that is "quite specific to the practice of service design" is the Service Blueprint, which is "a kind of journey map that blows out, in detail, both the front stage and back stage of a service. It is a deep dive into a tightly scoped area."  And remember that since services are shaped like icebergs (and you usually only see the tip) "do not think you can blueprint the entirety of a service."  

To this question, "Why bother with service design?" Ms. Samadzadeh aptly replies with the following answers:

  1. "Because service design encompasses product-centric thinking, it can consider and deliver on all types of value exchange; it can meet a breadth of human needs — not just user and/or business needs."
  2. "Most importantly, service design provides a conceptual framework for tackling baffling open-ended problems that have implications across encounters, systems, and societal practices."

This is just a quick overview of Shahrzad Samadzadeh's excellent post on Service Design.  Please see the entirety of her article, to get the rest of the story!

Source: “So, like, what is service design?” by Shahrzad Samadzadeh |