Service Design – Buzzword or Magic Method?

Obviously, we’re convinced that service design is not only a buzz word or trend, but an approach that provides substantial value – if applied thoroughly. Having worked in the design field for quite some time, Pia Betton has observed fundamental changes in the design industry in the last years: a paradigm shift from corporate to social, as she puts it, and the rise of service design methods. At NEXT Service Design she discussed whether the approach is really providing sustainable value, or is limited to only a few use cases.

“Brands are now about contributing, not just pushing information into the world”, she explained. Today, services, experience and social interaction are playing a much greater role than they once did. And that impacts on the design process as well: designers are not the only experts in the room anymore, solutions are (and should be!) developed in collaboration with the users. Processes are no longer gradual and linear, but much shorter and rather cyclic. The approach of moving fast and breaking things became a core concept, not only for start-ups, but also for larger companies – Google being a prime example.

Accompanying this development, there was also a noticeable trend towards design research, Betton further explained in her keynote. She is Director Consulting at Edenspiekermann. The agency supports companies, among others, in terms of research-based internal change processes. Even though this is an important part of their business, Betton warns her customers not to research themselves to death. Rather, they should take a close look at the potential return on investment arising from the application of service design methods and initiating costly change processes.

Still, this does not mean that service design is not a very promising magic method. In Betton’s opinion, it just needs a broader scope to create sustainable value.