Yesterday, in between job-oriented chats with CMU design students, I attended a session that Shelley Evenson gave on service design.
Shelley herself made clear that there’s not yet a single definition of service design. Dan wrote about this a year and a half ago, and his take is pretty much the same as mine:
Service design, in contrast, has multiple touchpoints (environments, processes, people) and is about these touchpoints interacting with users over time. Users can be exposed to multiple experiences via repeated exposure to the service, and it requires multiple stakeholders to make a service come alive, usually through complex choreography. Moreover, there are multiple pathways through a service; it’s usually bigger than any one pathway, so you can’t design the service in a controlling way.
During Shelley’s talk, I realized that I had, in part, been practicing service design, though not calling it that. And then I realized when you utilize exploratory research methods (ethnography, contextual inquiry, and the like), you pretty much end up with a service design mindset, because you inevitably recognize that it’s not about any one thing or product, but how a host of interactions contribute to a larger experience. It ties directly to a post I wrote about dining with anthropologists, and how they are wedded to particular domains.
Anyway, I think Shelley is onto something with her pursuit of service design, and I look forward to the work of her and her students help bring some shape to this idea.
Speaking of which — I really dug meeting the CMU students. Such a bright and engaged bunch of folks!
The Design Council has some pretty good definitions of service design on their site. You might also be interested in some of the service design work we’ve done at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.