“Service design” is what exactly?

The term “service design” seems to have been cropping up in a variety of contexts recently. This sounds interesting, possibly useful and, perhaps even, ground breaking.

However, based on initial investigation, I am non-plussed and increasingly sceptical.

A descriptive article might help

My requests for guidance led me to an article: “Service design: setting the stage for the consummate experience” (I’ve spared you the upper case text and, therefore, the “experience” of being shouted at.)

This may be a helpful and useful article on “service design”, if one already knows what “service design” is intended to mean. But if not, then it shows blatant disregard for the importance, when introducing a new term, of defining that term.

In the first paragraph it refers to “Buzzword Bingo” and does nothing to give us a clue later; and how writing “In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether service design is just one facet of marketing or vice versa.” helps anyone is left unclear.

Is there anything new?

I am very interested to learn what is new and different about “service design”. However, so far, I see nothing of any significance and, worse, no serious attempt to explain clearly where the topic fits with other related topics.

Is the writer trying to imply that people and organizations providing anything (including many and various combinations of goods and services) have not, in the past, put any effort into researching, specifying, planning, building, deploying, training, and supplying for the purpose of serving their customers in a wide range of scenarios? If so, then I suggest she does not use a pen, door handle, door, cooker, computer, etc. nor ride in a car, bus, train or aircraft, etc., nor visit a shop, theatre, restaurant, train station, airport, etc., nor call the police, fire, ambulance or coastguard because presumably the people involved in all aspects of the engineering and marketing, and the operation and provision of these are making it all up as they go along.

Let’s hope there is more

In my view, it is likely that there is a lot to be learnt about new and different ways of designing any kind of product, whether it consists of goods, services or a combination of the two. But surely this requires a clearer approach to describing the subject and the differences between whatever is new and what has existed before. And that, in turn, requires some stable vocabulary on which to base the discussion.

I’ll continue listening because I suspect that there might well be something of interest here; but, so far, I am getting is a lot of noise and very little signal.



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2 responses to ““Service design” is what exactly?”

  1. Laura Keller Avatar


    I like your critical eye toward this ‘new, but not new, is it really new’ area, service design. I welcome any comments you have on my article as well:


    Laura Keller

  2. John W Lewis Avatar

    Thank you very much for your comment, Laura. You have captured it my point; I am trying to identify what is new.

    I’ve read your very useful and descriptive post, and would have commented (expect that TypePad seems unable to display my name rather than the title of my blog!)

    In your post, I think that you are describing something very important and much more important than user interface design. But isn’t this known as “business process engineering” or, more simply, “management”, which people have been doing for rather a long time?

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