Service Design

What is Service Design?

Ideate Innovation

Almost anyone who started a company in the 2000s has struggled with this question. What is Service Design?

The world has surely changed since the 2000s. However, our belief in service design is still persistent. We believe it to have the potential to transform organizations and markets. There are several ways to elaborate on what service design is and here’s our take on it.

Service Design

There are many definitions of service design. We get to see different labels for it in various contexts, agencies, organizations, and countries. The biggest advantage of not having a set definition allows service design approaches to have the freedom to change and adapt. Service design just keeps on evolving. Making it versatile and easily integrated with different fields and disciplines.

But enough of the philosophical definition.

Service design is defined by most as a practical and creative application of design with the help of different tools and methods, which helps in the development or improvement of service.

Though easily adaptable and evolving, service design’s ultimate goal is to orchestrate people, infrastructure, communication, and material components of a service. All this is required to create value for the stakeholders, build a unique customer experience and increase the business potential.

This definition is a lot more aligned with what we, at Ideate, believe. To us, service design is supposed to fulfill the purpose of a service or product to provide the users with value. As an inherently contextual concept, service design should provide users with what they need.

Our view of the world is always service-dominant. We see all communications between a business and a user as a service.

Design is usually misconceptualized as to what and how it looks like. As Steve Job once quoted, “People believe that designers are handed a box and told to make it look good and that’s it. This is not what we think design is. It is not just the look and feel, but how it works.

Here’s an example, people don’t actually want a drill. Throughout its lifetime, a drill is most likely just used for an average of 15 minutes. What people want is a hole in the wall or to hang a frame on the wall. The drill is just the material component that delivers a service (the hole).

The Double Diamond & Its Process in Service Design

At the beginning of anything, especially innovation, there is always a lot of uncertainty about the results and how it’s going to pan out. How do we deal with this uncertainty? There is a way to do that.

Through Double Diamond.

The double diamond is a process of structured design that helps deal with design challenges in different phases. These two diamonds represent the exploration of an issue (divergent thinking) and taking action (convergent thinking). Hence, conclusively, solving the problem in the best possible way.

The divergence is categorized as the creating options and the convergence is making the choices. This is a process where the learning begins, and with more and more knowledge gained through each iteration, the solutions pop up.

The double diamond design process is understood by designers and non-designers alike.

How Does It Work?

Every service design project begins at the exploration stage. This is where we explore the problems, deep dive into the context and behaviors, and apply the field research to understand the target challenge. Different techniques are used to clear this stage, like:

  • Mind Maps
  • Multi-perspective Problem Framing
  • Brainstorming
  • Reverse Brainstorming
  • Desk Research
  • Field Research (interviews, observations, focus groups)
  • Consumer Journey Mapping

The more techniques used, the more you’ll explore and find out. The more you diverge.


The “Define” stage is the convergent part of the problem. This is where we start getting the data in order to make sense out of it. Ideas are narrowed down to form a clear definition of the problem. Not every problem can be solved on a whim, which is why this is where we have to focus. Questions are asked, like:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What is the most important problem?
  • What is the biggest requirement I need to fulfill?

These can be answered through different techniques, and service design has several tools that can help:

  • Root Cause Analysis
  • 5 Whys
  • User Story
  • Affinity Diagram (Card Sorting)

Develop or ideate phase is the first step towards coming up with as many solutions as possible, this is a divergent approach. . The best way is to focus on the target group and the biggest problem or need. Besides, in the beginning, it’s all about quantity. Even bad ideas can lead to a good idea. The tools to use during the process are:

  • Minimum Viable Product
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Storytelling
  • Consumer Journey Mapping

This may be the last phase, but this is not the end. We select the best ideas and validate them. This is where we find out whether our most important assumptions are true or not. The best part of this phase is that you get to make your solutions concrete, you figure out what works and what doesn’t, without too big of an investment.


With the phases described above, you would think that service design is linear. However, that is not the case at all. If you are in the define phase, and there is data missing, you go back to the exploration phase. During prototyping and testing, you figure out that your solution is not working, you iterate back to ideate.

It is all about learning. These back and forths, the iterations, help you make the choices. Why? Because you are learning and reducing the uncertainty. How do you learn? Through research. Each step and phase of service design is about how well the research is performed.

Ideate takes its ability to perform extensive research quite seriously. We do not believe in just getting it done, but doing it thoroughly and properly, according to the requirements.