Being a service designer beyond tools and definitions

People often ask me “what does a service designer do?”. There is no easy answer. Reading some job posts a “service designer” is defined as someone who understands the importance of cross-channel experiences and who is able to use a range of tools such as defining personas, drawing a user journey map, developing a service blueprint.

I think there is more but it cannot fit into a single sentence. A service designer often borrows from design thinking, ux design, strategic marketing and other disciplines: boundaries often overlap. This is useful when working with other designers, but also when it’s hard to locate a specific problem, especially when the solution is the result of cross-disciplinary collaboration. Service designers are not superheroes, they shouldn’t promise something that they won’t be able to deliver, and there is no magic wand, sometime service design is not the solution, but only a bridge towards it.

So, if you ask me what a service designer should do for their clients and their organisations, here are my three suggestions:


A service designer works to serve people
Service design is about the design of “services”. Services serve a purpose or respond to specific needs. People are at the core of this as they choose, use and pay for services that are useful, usable and desirable to them. Service designers have to consider all stakeholders involved in the delivery and the experiencing of the service.


A service designer goes beyond consulting
Design thinking and other innovative consulting approaches focus on the wider business strategy and management practices, however it’s the “doing” part that makes the difference when it comes down to services. The result of the application of service design should be something factual and concrete. Service design is the professional ability to implement a replicable service that takes in account multiple users and orchestrates all details in a seamless experience.


A service designer acts as a facilitation agent
Service designers are versatile and work on projects that go beyond the design of a service like running an open innovation workshop for corporate clients, enable start-up and entrepreneurs to engage with software developers, making public sector services more inclusive and accessible by co-designing policies. They act as facilitators between disciplines combining system thinking and care for details, they visualise processes and produce tangible outputs to make sense of intangible aspects.

Thinking and acting like a service designer may help to shape solutions that are meaningful to people, consider the current capacity of the delivering organisation and orchestrate different elements together.

Service designers can be the glue connecting approaches like in a patchwork of post it notes.