Service Design, it's like 1995 all over again

It’s like talking about web-design in 1995.
This was one of the first quotes during the Service Design seminar held in Amsterdam. Where now a days we know DNA structure of web-design, the mix of involved design disciplines, Service Design is like a new specie that we’ve just discovered.

But is Service Design really something new or is it a new name for things we’ve been doing for many years. The truth is that the first publications about Service Design date back to as far as 1984. Londen based Service Design agencies such as Engine, Live|Work and Thinkpublic have also been around since 2001. So Service Design isn’t that new at all, it was out there way before web-design came on along our path.

So why the sudden attention for Service Design in the recent years? Well there a few different forces that drive the attention growth.

  • The rising awareness that we can’t solve current social issues with the same thinking that has caused the issues.
  • Upcoming competition in product and industrial design from developing countries such as India, China, Brazil and South Africa.
  • The transition to an experience economy brings the need for new skills to generate distinctive economic value for busnisses
  • The fact that the role of designers is changing, they are becoming orchestrator’s and facilitators. Designers are becoming more and more t-shaped people.

Even tough the idea of Service Design has been around since the 80’s it hasn’t evolved very much whereas web-design is a common field of practice today. To make the comparison, our knowledge of and experience with Service Design is at the level of web-design in 1995. So what can we learn from the past. What does Service Design need to evolve?

  • For one, we need more evidence that Service Design actually works, that it indeed makes service better. The best evidence are (more) practical real-life cases in which one can experience what the results are.
  • We need to create a common language. A language that clients understand and can relate to. To sell Service Design today you need to explain what it is. We should strive to explain what it does and not what it is.
  • Currently there is a large knowledge gap in what Service Design tools, methods and practices are. Aside from the big guys like IDEO who have developed their own paradigm, everyone else is discovering and developing their own style in the field. There is certainty a big a role for education institutions in this.

Like some smart person once said (can’t find the quote), good ideas are the ones that are implemented, well the same goes for design. We need to bring design alive by implementing it!

Marc Fonteijn

Marc Fonteijn

Marc is co-founder of 31Volts and helps major private and public organizations to grow by designing services that cultivate a sustainable relationship with customers.

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31Volts [Service Design]