Service design

Service design

Service Design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service, in order to improve its quality, the interaction between service provider and customers and the customer's experience. The increasing relevance of the service sector, both in terms of people employed and economic importance, requires services to be accurately designed. The design of the service may involve a re-organization of the activities performed by the service provider (Back office) and/or the redesign of time and place in which customers come in contact with the service (Front office). The term Service Design was coined by [ Prof. Dr. Michael Erlhoff] at Köln International School of Design (Köln international school of design) in the early 1990s, and later the study has been intensively developed by [ Prof. Birgit Mager] .

The History of Service Design

In the earliest contributions on service design (Shostack 1982; Shostack 1984)the activity of designing service was considered as part of the domain of marketing and management disciplines. Shostack (Shostack 1982), for instance proposed the integrated design of material components (products) and immaterial components (services). This design process, according to Shostack, can be documented and codified using a “service blueprint” to map the sequence of events in a service and its essential functions in an objective and explicit manner.

In 1991, Service Design was first introduced as a design discipline by Prof. Dr. Michael Erlhoff at Köln International School of Design (KISD), and [ Prof. Birgit Mager] has played an integral role for developing the study of Service Design at KISD in later days. In 2004, the [ Service Design Network] was launched by Köln International School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Linköpings Universitet, Politecnico de Milano, Domus Academy and the agency Spirit of Creation, in order to create an international network for Service Design academics and professionals; now the network extends to service designers around the world, as well as professional service design agencies such as [ Livework] and IDEO.

Characteristics of Service Design

Service design is the specification and construction of technologically networked social practices that deliver valuable capacities for action to a particular customer. Capacity for action in Information Services has the basic form of assertions. In Health Services, it has the basic form of diagnostic assessments and prescriptions (commands). In Educational Services, it has the form of a promise to produce a new capacity for the customer to make new promises. In a fundamental way, services are unambiguously tangible. Companies such as eBay, or collectives such as Wikipedia or Sourceforge are rich and sophisticated combinations of basic linguistic deliverables that expand customers' capacities to act and produce value for themselves and for others. In an abstract sense, services are networked intelligence.Service design can be both tangible and intangible. It can involve artefacts and other things including communication, environment and behaviours. Several authors (Eiglier 1977; Normann 2000; Morelli 2002), though, emphasise that, unlike products, which are created and “exist” before being purchased and used, service come to existence at the same moment they are being provided and used. While a designer can prescribe the exact configuration of a product, s/he cannot prescribe in the same way the result of the interaction between customers and service providers, nor can s/he prescribe the form and characteristics of any emotional value produced by the service.Consequently, service design is an activity that suggests behavioural patterns or “scripts” to the actors interacting in the service, leaving a higher level of freedom to the customers’ behaviour.

Service Design Methodology

Together with the most traditional methods used for product design, service design requires methods and tools to control new elements of the design process, such as the time and the interaction between actors. An overview of the methodologies for designing services is proposed by (Morelli 2006), who proposes three main directions:

• Identification of the actors involved in the definition of the service, using appropriate analytical tools

• Definition of possible service scenarios, verifying use cases, sequences of actions and actors’ role, in order to define the requirements for the service and the logical and its organisational structure

• Representation of the service, using techniques that illustrate all the components of the service, including physical elements, interactions, logical links and temporal sequences

Analyitical tools refer to anthropology, social studies, ethnography and social construction of technology. Appropriate elaborations of those tools have been proposed with video-ethnography (Buur, Binder et al. 2000; Buur and Soendergaard 2000), and different observation techniques to gather data about users’ behaviour (Kumar 2004) . Other methods, such as cultural probes have been developed in the design discipline, which aim at capturing information on customers in their context of use(Gaver, Dunne et al. 1999; Lindsay and Rocchi 2003).

Design tools aim at producing a [ blueprint] of the service, which describes the nature and characteristics of the interaction in the service. Design tools include service [ scenarios] ,which describe the interaction and [ use cases] , which illustrate the detail of time sequences in a service encounter. Both those techniques are already used in in software and systems engineering to capture the functional requirements of a system. However, when used in service design, they have been adequately adapted, in order to include more information, concerning material and immaterial component of a service, time sequences and physical flows (Morelli 2006). Other techniques, such as IDEF0 , just in time and Total quality management are used to produce functional models of the service system and to control its processes. Such tools, though, may prove too rigid to describe services in which customers are supposed to have an active role, because of the high level of uncertainty related to the customer’s behaviour.

Representation techniques are critical in service design, because of the need to communicate the inner mechanisms of services to actors, such as final users, which are not supposed to be familiar with any technical language or representation technique. For this reason storyboards are often used to illustrate the interaction on the front office. Other representation techniques have been used to illustrate the system of interactions or a “platform” in a service (Manzini, Collina et al. 2004). Recently, video sketching and video prototypes have also been used to produce quick and effective tools to stimulate customers’ participation in the development of the service and their involvement in the value production process.

Service Design in Marketing and Management

The active participation of customers and other actors traditionally considered as external to a firm’s boundary emphasize the need for a proper design activity that organizes the interaction among those actors, thus planning sequences of events, material and information flows. Furthermore the involvement of “non technical “ actors, such as customers, implies that the activity of service design be analyzed not only from a functional perspective (with the aim of optimizing flows and resources and reducing time of operations) but also from the emotional perspective (creating meaningful events, motivating customers, communicating the service). Because of those considerations service design became the focus of studies and research in the discipline of design, initially as part of the activities related to web design and Interaction Design, and later as an autonomous professional and research area.

Service Design in Non-Profit Sectors

Service Design Cases

In the creative sector, as Geke vanDijk mentions “cross-disciplinary collaboration and knowledge sharing are powerful catalysts of innovation”. He also explains a new notion defined as “service design’ that expresses that current products are no longer isolated elements, but a network of different experiences and combinations, such as the case of the iPod and iTunes online music store. In this case the concept plays with the idea of tangible and intangible objects that allow consumers maximum flexibility to make their own decision about how and when they want to use the service. In this case, though the example is very interesting, we must also understand that Apple as a company is perhaps one of the most closed and hermetic company, so though the concept is useful to explain how to understand products today, it is also quite ambiguous how companies really deploy them.

Other successful and evident examples are in the cases of augmenting the museum experience with mobile devices that explain to you a bit more about each work. We must say however that many of those interfaces are just speakers and that the content is very very poor.

For all this reasons we can say that any type of design today, particularly the ones using technology is very much to do with content.

It is true however that the consumer perspective needs to be integrated since the early stages of the design process. To achieve new processes of multidisciplinary and participatory work may be used, through prototype testing or performance analysis.

Service Design Education

The first Service Design education was introduced in 1991 at [ Köln International School of Design] .Several other schools are now proposing service design as the main subject of master studies (such as [] Politecnico di Milanoor as part of the academic curriculum in Interaction Design or Industrial Design, such as Carnegie Mellon University, Linköpings Universitet, Domus Academy, Aalborg University.

External links

* [ Service Design Network] Service Design Network: International Service Design Network
* [ Sedes Research] Sedes Research: Center for Service Design Research
* [] by Prof. Birgit Mager
* [ Interaction and Service design research group] Service design research projects at Linköpings universitet.
* [ Design Council on Service Design] Design Council one stop shop information resource on Service Design by Bill Hollins.
* [ Service Design and why it matters to business ] An interesting article / interview on service design at Danish Design Center website.
* [ Can Service Design Save the World?] Gill Wildman, Chris Downs, GK VanPatter, NextDesign Leadership Institute Journal, 2006
* [] methodologies, definitions, examples, schools and events on service design
* [ Service Design at KISD ] Service Design Program at Köln International School of Design
* [ sustainable everyday] examples on the use of scenario and video prototypes in service design.


Buur, J., T. Binder, et al. (2000). "Taking Video beyond "Hard Data" in User Centred Design." Design. Participatory Design Conference (PDC 2000).

Buur, J. and A. Soendergaard (2000). "Video Card Game: An augmented environment for User Centred Design discussions." Designing Augmented Reality Environments (DARE 2000), Helsingør.

Eiglier, P., Langeard,P (1977). Marketing Consumer Services: New Insights. Cambridge, Mass. Marketing Science Institute, 1977. 128 P.

Gaver, B., T. Dunne, et al. (1999). "Design: Cultural Probes." Interaction 6(1): 21-29.

Hollins, G., Hollins, Bill (1993). Total Design : Managing the design process in the service sector. London, Pitman.

Kumar, V. (2004). User Insights Tool: a sharable database for user research. Chicago, Design Institute at IIT.

Lindsay, C. and S. Rocchi (2003). "'Highly Customerised Solutions' - The Context of Use Co-Research Methodology". Innovating for Sustainability. 11th International Conference of Greening of Industry Network, San Francisco.

Manzini, E., L. Collina, et al. (2004). Solution Oriented Partnership. How to Design Industrialised Sustainable Solutions. Cranfield, Cranfield University. European Commission GROWTH Programme.

Morelli, N. (2006). "Developing new PSS, Methodologies and Operational Tools." Journal of Cleaner Production 14(17): 1495-1501.

Morelli, N. (2002). "Designing product/service systems. A methodological exploration." Design Issues 18(3): 3-17.

Normann, R. (2000). Service management : strategy and leadership in service business. Chichester ; New York, Wiley.

Normann, R. and R. Ramirez (1994). Desiging Interactive Strategy. From Value Chain to Value Constellation. New York, John Wiley and Sons.

Ramaswamy, R. (1996). Design and management of service processes. Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

Shostack, L. G. (1982). "How to Design a Service." European Journal of Marketing 16(1): 49-63.

Shostack, L. G. (1984). "Design Services that Deliver." Harvard Business Review(84115): 133-139.

ee also

* customer service
* Service Recovery
* enterprise architecture
* managed services
* product service system
* service (economics)
* service economy
* service management
* services marketing
* service provider
* Service Science, Management and Engineering
* service system
* system
* service science

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