Service Designers Should Aim to Become Obsolete

I'm very honored my company (DesignThinkers) got mentioned in the Service Design Supplement in the Guardian.

"Extraordinary examples of service design are cropping up everywhere. And not just in the UK. In the Netherlands, service design agency
DesignThinkers was commissioned by the Dutch government to work on a
national branding programme. In Korea, US design group Continuum finds
that its Seoul office has one in 10 projects geared to service design,
particularly in retail..." Read the article...

But... Having said this, I must admit that I have been slightly against the supplement, which has been paid for by some members of the International Service Design Network. I did not feel comfortable with broadcasting a message in this fashion (Happy with the free publicity though).

I felt it would focus too much on Service Design as a separate discipline, and I do not want to help create another island, and jargon. I think the focus should be on a shared goal and mindset.

In a way Service Designers Should aim to become obsolete and be prepared to change and learn from things which are not called service design. Who care what it is called anyway? This would set a good example for other disciplines like UX and IA and Social CRM and what have you.

Just a thought.

And maybe I'm just expressing a feeling, a worry I have about Service Design positioning itself the way it does, being an answer to everything. This is not a healthy attitude and narrows our view. I would like to keep an open mind and not get pinned down boxed-in by a name... There is so much more out there. What do you think?

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Comment by Rui Dias on March 30, 2010 at 12:16
Comment by Adam StJohn Lawrence on March 25, 2010 at 19:27
David; your old-school market buccaneer is one type of customer, yes. But my other customer might be the modernly managed blue chip type firm, where proposals have to be many pages long, contain all the buzzwords, and will be passed through several levels of management and expert review before approval.

I have to pick up my customer at the place where he is - and that's different every time.
Comment by Jamin Hegeman on March 25, 2010 at 19:19
David, great points. Though challenging with respect is a form of humility.
Comment by David on March 25, 2010 at 19:04
...and I have a friend and mentor who is a multi millionaire that is almost tech illiterate, in his 50's and who would laugh you out the door if you came selling him IxD, transformation design, service design, design thinking or anything else that appears to be the new silver bullet from academia or wherever. Why do I tell you this? Because he is the guy (and there are thousands of them) that is ultimately your client, although you may never see him - these people sign off the budget, some have budgets the size of a small third world countries debt!

The director that has to ultimately sell a business case to them will never mention the design jargon, tools or approaches. They will present one A4 page of their business case, probably less than 500 words that will say Problem', challenge' Solution' and cost.

This is the realities of business and unless people learn to influence this process all but a few will be relegated to a life of tactical work - even though we may be capable of the strategic stuff.

Richard, design by it's nature is tactical work, service design is similarly tactical work. Designers need to know the difference between, tactics and strategy. If you talk to someone about strategy (almost as overused and misunderstood as the word design) be sure you know if your discussing corporate, organisational, departmental, operational, market, customer services, financial or design strategy!

I don't want the designers I work with on projects to come with humility, far from it, I want people that will challenge with respect while asking great questions.
Comment by David on March 25, 2010 at 18:50
In research I read a few weeks ago, they estimated it takes any company around five years to fully realise a true customer experience strategy - you're a brave person working outside any of the big consulting companies if that's the promise you're selling!
Comment by Meena Kadri on March 18, 2010 at 0:57
Hi Jamin... hear! hear! Although I think this interaction designer proved that IxD is the answer to everything ;-)
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on March 18, 2010 at 0:44
Thanks Jamin. I think you are right and balance is what we need :-)
Comment by Jamin Hegeman on March 18, 2010 at 0:28
Is service design positioning itself to be the answer to everything? I'm not so sure. That may be an affliction of present-day design, of which service design is a part. There are plenty of interaction designers, for example, that believe IxD is the answer to everything. Design needs to strike a balance between articulating its value and humility.
Comment by richard arnott on March 17, 2010 at 12:08
I agree with David's comments re: "this isn't really how clients buy design thinking", in fact talking to a designer/coach on the Design Council's Designing Demand programme was insightful as she is working at the interface between design and SME's everyday and she told me the 'sell' is hard enough for traditional design services, let alone more strategically positioned offers such as service design.

However, speaking as someone who is always having conversations directly with business, it is important for me to try and understand how design is perceived within an organisation. By doing thorough preparation and taking an empathetic approach or "putting yourself in the shoes of the (client) customer" this pior knowledge is always useful, and helps inform my conversation.
Read Shan Preddy's excellent book "How to Market Design Consultancy Services"

To provide context of design activity (at both tactical and strategic levels) It may help readers of this post to familiarise themselves with one way in which designing service interactions can transform a business model.

Quoting Carol Moore's comments on my thesis "Implementing experience engineering in a business, quickly makes it obvious that much larger transformations are necessary, as processes and operations are changed to accommodate the creation and implementation of
the desired experiences. Thus, what may have begun as an relatively independent project will grow into the source of a new strategic vision for the company."
Carol Moore is IBM's vice president for Internet operations - see her DMI article The New Heart of Your Brand: Transforming Your Business through Customer Experience here
Comment by Adam StJohn Lawrence on March 17, 2010 at 10:52
I like "design is creation through 'why?'".


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