Choosenick. Notes and observations on service design, as well as other interesting things/thinking. By Nick Marsh.

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Service Design: Discipline or Dragnet?

I came across this intriguing graphic outlining the 'Discipline of User Experience' (below) on the Kicker Studio's blog that illustrates the overlapping and interconnected skill sets required of UX designers.

Kicker studio is one of a new breed of interaction design studios that explicitly goes beyond traditional Human Computer Interface design and into the realms of product design in pursuit of good user experiences. Other studios engaged in this type of work include ThingM and Smart Design, as well as major players like Adaptive Path and IDEO.

The diagram is an update from an older view of the discipline of interaction design that Kicker principle Dan Saffer put together several years ago. It immediately reminded me of some slides I put together about a year ago for a talk I gave in Stockholm to interaction design students at HyperIsland.

The talk gave a broad overview of Engine's service design practice, but it had an emphasis on the relationship between interaction design and service design. In it, I argued that all design is multi-disciplinary, and service design is just very multi-disciplinary. I've copied the relevant slides below:

Clearly I haven't given much thought to the specifics here, and I certainly haven't tied to pinpoint the disciplinary overlaps as Dan has (for example putting signage between visual design, information architecture and architecture) but that lack of pin-pointable specifics is, for me, the fascinating thing about service design practice.

At this stage it is very much open for negotiation - are service designers best positioned as design managers with good a dose of customer service thinking? Are they design directors with an ambitious field of vision? Are they design researchers focussed on service organisations with an ability to go a good few steps beyond research? Or, as I believe, are they all of these and a thousand other things - a random mix of different types of people who currently find it useful to align under the label of service design?

Whatever the case, I do believe that to try and draw a Saffer style multi-venn of service design skill sets would require bubbles for almost all design, social science and management disciplines - and can any one person really claim to have a foot in every one of those camps? Of course not. Which leads me to the short term conclusion that whatever the disciplinary skill sets required of a good service designer, surely the most important personal qualities to possess are excellent team work skills, and a very happy acceptance of ambiguity and complexity.

What do you think are the most important skills for service designers? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the newly reinstated comments!
December 6th, 2008 / Tags: servicedesign, education / Trackback / Comments