Discover more from SenseMake by Zach Hill
Why Service Design?
Memorializing the evolution of my design practice
Colleagues, family, and friends that spend regular time with me as of late can attest to my obsession with service design. When I am in discussions with them I often get this question:
Why service design?
It’s not an unfair question and it has helped me go through some additional layers of career-focused self-reflection to really identify what areas in my practice I want to grow into and why. I also selfishly thought that listing my reasons for pursuing service design might inspire others to consider the field as well because I think more designers need to think about a service-level approach to their practice. Now to answer the question:
My skillset lines up well with the primary tools and tactics of service design. Co-creation, facilitation, design-driven research, and prototype iterations have become the pillars of my practice and this aligns well with the core competencies of service design. Of course, service design is much more complex and nuanced than the tools and tactics used in the execution, but it doesn’t hurt to know that what I excel at lines up well with what is required to be a strong service designer.
Service design is a more holistic field of design - I’ve naturally gravitated to the aspects of design that are more big-picture in nature. I love thinking about systems and designing processes to improve an outcome. Service design allows a practitioner to work on a scale that focuses on how multiple channels co-exist to provide a better experience rather than a singular touchpoint that is often focused on within UX design or other forms of design.
The societal, ecological, and political impact of design is important to me - I used to be more discreet with my political and cultural viewpoints but I now believe that humanity is at a true inflection point and design has been a major catalyst for where we are as a species today in both wonderful and terrible ways. I see focusing on service design as a way to impact outcomes that affect not just business outcomes but human outcomes. I don’t think design alone can save the world but it should definitely play a role in doing so. I see service design as a vehicle for design advocacy and ambassadorship. Designers received a seat at the table at a lot of businesses and organizations and proceeded to design things that did more harm than good. Designers must now find ways to design outcomes that will make real positive differences at a global scale. Designers must design in a way that creates change for humanity and not just a handful of humans in order to create profit for stakeholders. To digress, service design to me means designing for as many people as possible and in a way that truly makes their lives better.
These are my top 3 personal reasons why I am pursuing growing my practice into service design. There are many reasons why I think all designers should consider at least weaving some service design principles into their practice. Here are just a few:
Service design is more human-centered than even UX design - UX design focuses on the user of what is usually a website or digital product experience. Service design in my mind is an evolution of that mindset where everyone involved in the delivery of an experience is considered. Shouldn’t we also design for the folks that deliver the experience to users? Shouldn’t we also design for the folks that support the people that deliver the experience? This goes back to the holistic nature of service design. Service design is a way to empathize with EVERYONE that is part of the experience and not just the end user.
Service design is a great organizational self-reflection tool - The tools and tactics of service design can be used to break down silos and allow business leaders within an organization to see and reflect on the business in ways they never have before. I personally have been able to experience the surprise and even joy of the stakeholders that I have worked with when they discover something about their business or most importantly the way they run their business that can lead to real systemic change for people within the organization.
Service design is a driver of innovation - Many organizations talk about innovation but don’t know how to do it. Service design provides a way for business leaders to go through a systematic innovation process backed by designed empathy and problem-solving.
I feel that I have been doing service design without calling it that for several years now. To come full circle I always tended to focus on the holistic problems within the projects I work on and that does seem to line up well with the tenants of service design. I say the word seem with intention because I wholeheartedly admit that I am still in the process of immersing and educating myself in the practice of service design. My approach and practice will probably change as I continue to learn and I plan on sharing what I’ve learned along this new journey I am taking. Thanks for tuning in.
What I am reading: An Introduction to Service Design. Designing the Invisible
Podcast I am listening to: With Intent by the IIT Institute of Design
Article of the week: David Hoang has a weekly newsletter called Proof of Concept and this week he focused on having a personal design language. This article has inspired me to write on this as well in the future.
What I am watching: Shadow & Bone season 2 on Netflix leveled up on the quality of acting, storytelling, and overall execution. I highly recommend it. I am also doing my annual running of watching old West Wing episodes so I can attempt to at least experience through television how the American government should be acting.
A quote I am pondering:
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do - John Wooden