The principles of service design

Repost: In 2014 @richardhod asked me “What’s service design?” This is what I wrote then. Seven years later, the practice has evolved, and taken a huge role in many endeavors, yet I think these definitions and principles remain:

Service design is playing an increasingly important part of that way that our public services, consumer products and society are developed – and developing.

For some it is best defined as a specific methodology or approach, yet for others it is merely a recognition of the capacity design thinking has to have an impact on the world. It could even be argued that it is the formalisation of the tendency many designers have to want to improve and make a positive contribution to the world around them – whether they are paid to or not.

I would like to propose that it’s simpler than that – it is a collection of principles. This is what I believe these to be.

Principles of service design

It must be

  • Innovative and not afraid to make deep system-wide changes
  • Open, participatory and giving everyone a chance to contribute their experience, opinions and insight 
  • User-focused and based on actual needs and circumstances
  • Aiming to deliver a benficial, tangible and ideally measurable, change or effect.
  • Throughly researched and managed both before, during and after the project
  • A process which adds value during and hopefully beyond the lifecycle of the project