Design Service Design

Katarina Wetter Edman’s thesis: Service Design – a conceptualization of an emerging practice

In sum, this thesis contributes knowledge that enriches the understanding and relevance of service marketing/management for the design discourse and vice versa.

Service design is an emerging design practice with an interdisciplinary heritage. Most previous research has been based on what service designers do; with the increased academic interest in service design over the past decade, the time has come to conceptualize the underlying discourses. The main purpose of this thesis is to contribute knowledge to the emerging service design discourse through conceptual comparisons of key concepts in the design and service
management literatures.

This theoretical licentiate thesis consists of a main body text, a Kappa, situating two previously published papers in the research context. The conceptual framework encompasses areas of design research, including design thinking, service design and design management. These areas are related to management research, with a specific focus on service marketing/management, including Service-Dominant logic and service innovation.

The thesis includes an interdisciplinary literature review with a specific focus on how user involvement is conceptualized in service design and service management respectively, and develops a conceptual framework of service design based in descriptions of service design practice in the literature.

The framework presents service design through five characteristics, as an

1) interdisciplinary practice, using

2) visualization & prototyping, and

3) participation as means for
developing the design object, seen as

4) transformation, and

5) value creation.

This framework leads to an understanding of service design practice as a continuously repositioning activity.

The thesis argues that the relation between service marketing/management and service design is complementary, particularly in tools and methods for user involvement and co-creation,and therefore the relation is mutually productive. It further argues that design practice can help realize Service Dominant logic, and a service perspective can help open up new positions for design practice.

Design Research

Traditionally, design can be understood as product, as process, and as practice.
In the context of this thesis design is mainly discussed as practice; however, I do this in relation to the changing character of the design product and the implications for design practice.
In Simon’s seminal book, The Science of the Artificial, design was defined as, “design is the transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones” (Simon, 1996:111). Although about to be the starting point for design research in its own right, the broad definition also caused problems. The critique has mainly been related to Simon’s positivistic heritage, considered to be incompatible with the more organic ways in which designers actually work (Dorst & Dijkhuis, 1995). Instead, Schön (1983) proposed a more interpretive understanding of design practice as reflection-in-action. In addition, design as meaning creation and designers as interpreters of meaning have developed as a direction of understanding (Krippendorff, 1989; Press & Cooper, 2003; Verganti,2008).


The designer’s empathy with users and user-centered approaches are often brought forward as central in design practice (Kelley, 2001; Norman, 1998). Although Verganti (2008) builds on the understanding of design as meaning creation, he distances himself from Krippendorff ’s (2006) closeness to human centered design. Instead, in the concept of design-driven innovation Verganti (2008) argues that designers should not be close to the users, but propose new meanings.

Service design

Although awareness of the impact of design on business success is quite well documented for industry, it is much less so for service companies, where only 6 % of service companies see any role for the design at all (Mager, 2009). This is changing rapidly, starting in the late 1990’s and with an enormous growth in activity during the 2000’s; now service design attracts increasing attention both from academia and practitioners (Miettinen & Koivisto, 2009; Sangiorgi, 2009).

Practitioners have backgrounds in a variety of design practices, with interaction design, graphic design and industrial design being the most common. However, research is mainly conducted from within an interaction design tradition (Holmlid, 2009b; Pacenti & Sangiorgi, 2010).

The European service design community consists of closely connected practitioners and researchers where blogs, web based networks, and Twitter streams create rapid, open and dynamic forms of sharing. However, these accounts tend to be neither lasting nor peer reviewed, as favored by the academic community. Some discussions are on whether there is reason to develop yet a new design discipline and rather see it as a perspective in all design activity (Kimbell, 2010b); others claim service design has distinct characteristics, while admitting difficulty in defining the practice (Stickdorn, 2010).

READ  Download Roland Berger's design thinking on every level

As mentioned earlier, user centeredness was claimed to be fundamental in design processes and rhetoric. In service design users and stakeholders are brought straight into the development through co-creational practices and inclusion of participatory design approaches. Since their development in the 1970’s, these practices have mostly been known and used within the HCI (Human Computer Interaction) design area (Holmlid, 2009b). Previously services had been both developed and designed, but supposedly not with a design perspective as foundation.

The development of a service design discourse has mainly been driven by reflection on what practitioners do, and there is a noted lack of theoretical development (Sangiorgi, 2009). Segelström and Holmlid argue “research regarding design with a service perspective as well as services with a design perspective has been scarce. (Segelström & Holmlid, 2009:1). Further an overview of interdisciplinary service research priorities places ‘enhancing and stimulating service design and service innovation’ as second out of the 10 priorities for service research at large (Ostrom, Bitner, Brown, S., Burkhard, Goul, et al., 2010). The same overview points out the explicit relation of service design practice with service management and marketing functions.

Service Marketing/management

It has been stated over and over during the past decades that the service economy is growing, both regarding employment and in revenue figures (e.g., S. Brown, Fisk, & Bitner, 1994; J. L. Heskett, 1986; Spohrer & Maglio, 2008),
with frequently cited statistics such as service representing about 70 percent, or even 90 percent in Hong Kong (Mager, 2009), of gross domestic product in the developed nations. This development has been reflected in increased interdisciplinary service research (Ostrom, et al., 2010).

The service marketing and management area grew out of a realization that service marketing differed in many ways from the traditional marketing of products (Shostack, 1977). Following this insight, research emerged that established services and service research in relation to products (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1985). However, some 20 years later Vargo and Lusch, (2004, 2008a) proposed an alternative view. Instead of separating products and services they regarded service as a perspective on value creation and proposed a new logic – Service-Dominant logic – meaning that we as users integrate our knowledge and capabilities with those from the firm (both peoples and artifacts) in co-creation of value.

READ  IP Report: Shaping Choices in the Digital World

This understanding of service changed the conceptual position of the customer from being a ‘passive’ consumer and answerer of questionnaires to an active co-creator of value. It also breaks the formerly well-accepted sequential value chain perspective and enhances the understanding of value created in value constellations (Normann & Ramirez, 1993). At the same time, requirements of how to involve users in the development process change when the user/customer becomes an active co-creator of value (Ostrom, et al., 2010). However, Service-Dominant logic is highly conceptual, lacking the tools and methods for how to realize these features in practice. The focus has been on discussing where and how value is created, with very little consideration of questions like how to understand and involve people in accordance with this value perspective.

From a design point of view, the increased focus on the role of the customers, understanding their context and in what ways they should and could be involved is intriguing. First, these questions have been, and still are, central in design practice and in large areas in design research. Second positioning users at the core of value creation potentially opens up space for a more central positioning of design practice competence, with claims that designers are experts on the integration of users’ perspectives.

Source: capita selecta thesis.



%d bloggers liken dit: