1.5 Three definitions of Service Design

You have just followed my personal, step-by-step definition of Service Design. Now, let’s take a look at the more academic and serious definitions.

Wikipedia’s definition

The obvious first pick for a definition is the Wikipedia definition:
Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication, and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its customers. Service design may function as a way to inform changes to an existing service or create a new service entirely.

I find this definition interesting, since it shows the role that service designers play in companies: they try to bring together people, infrastructure, communication, and material.

I often use the following imagery: Service Designers are like sound engineers or mixers. They don’t sing. They don’t play every instrument. But, they discreetly mix the different voices and instruments together to create a piece of coherent and enjoyable music. Service Designers are thus not like the bandmaster who is proud in front of the crowd. This would be the CEO of a company that provides a service. Instead, Service Designers are often unseen and discreetly trying to improve all components of a great service.

Nielsen Norman Group’s definition

Let’s take another definition to provide further details about Service Design. Sarah Gibbons from the Nielsen Norman Group explains it as the following:
Service design improves the experiences of both the user and employee by designing, aligning, and optimizing an organization’s operations to better support customer journeys.

I love this definition not only because it’s more condensed, but because it shows that service designers do not care only about the end user, but take into account all humans involved in a service, for example, the employees.

Livework Studio’s definition

Let’s look at the last definition to finalize the big picture about the definition of Service Design as a field. The guys behind Livework studio stated the following:
The service design approach brings a human focus to the development of services. It helps organizations see the big picture as customers see it and offers tools to design every little interaction between customers and the entire organization.

There are two aspects I especially like in this definition. First, it shows that service designers try to put themselves in the shoes of the people they are serving. Second, it shows that service design works both on the tiny little details and the bigger picture. Again, as a sound mixer would, a service designer looks at every tiny sound and also at how the song, in general, feels to the audience.