A non-service designers guide to Service Design

Do you work with Service Designers and want to know more about their knowledge and skills so you have more effective conversations with them? This guide is for any non-service designers to find out more about Service Discipline.


  1. What is Service Design?
  2. What do Service Designers do?
  3. Service Design Principles
  4. Service Design Methods, Tools & Techniques
  5. Service Design Blogs
  6. Service Design Resources
  7. Service Design Podcasts
  8. Service Design Books
  9. Service Design courses

What is Service Design?

Service Design is “a process in which the designer focuses on creating optimal service experiences. This requires taking a holistic view of all the related actors, their interactions, and supporting materials and infrastructures. Service design often involves the use of customer journey maps, which tell the story of different customers’ interactions with a brand, thus offering deep insights.” – Interaction Design Foundation

Service design is about “working with users and delivering services”, says Lou Downe. “To a user, a service is simple. It’s something that helps them to do something”, and so Service Design is the practice of designing services in ways that help people do something they want to do.

Service Design improves the experience people have of a service by “designing, aligning, and optimizing an organization’s operations to better support customer journeys”, writes Sarah Gibbons. This operationalising of the design is an important aspect of the role Service Design plays in organisations. A perfect design does not help people do something if it is not realised by the organisation.

Design Council

Yosef Shuman

What do Service Designers do?

“Service designers design the end-to-end journey of a service. This helps a user complete their goal. [The]… work may involve the creation of, or change to, transactions, products and content across both digital and offline channels…” – UK Government.

Service Designers are uniquely able to apply a human-centred design approach to how services work. Without this approach organisations may inadvertently create services that whilst meeting the organisational goals are hard for people to use. Service Designers start with the user needs and goals and figure out how the organisation can provide a service that achieves them.

Depending on the organisation and the context, Service Designers may operate at various levels, from setting the vision for how a service should help people achieve their goals to designing the practical steps a user takes when using a service.

Emily Tulloh, a Service Designer at Future Gov, says the role of a service designer is twofold:

  • Figuring out the future vision and where we want to get to
  • Making it real — doing whatever it takes to create (sustainable) change

Göksu Kaçaroglu describes how service designers work on business processes to improve customer experience. They “help companies, governments and other service providers to be human-centric, better understand the people to whom they are serving and serve them better by making their experiences easier and more fluent.”

Service Design Principles

There is no single set of principles for the field of Service Design but a number of different principles have put forward.

Principles from This is Service Design Thinking

Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider principles of service design are:

  1. User-centered, through understanding the user by doing qualitative research
  2. Co-creative, by involving all relevant stakeholders in the design process
  3. Sequencing, by partitioning a complex service into separate processes
  4. Evidencing, by visualizing service experiences and making them tangible
  5. Holistic, by considering touchpoints in a network of interactions and users

Principles from Good Services

Lou Downe’s 15 principles of good service design say that a good service must:

  1. Enable a user to complete the outcome they set out to do
  2. Be easy to find
  3. Clearly explain its purpose
  4. Set the expectations a user has of it
  5. Be agnostic of organisational structures
  6. Require the minimum possible steps to complete
  7. Be consistent throughout
  8. Have no dead ends
  9. Be usable by everyone, equally
  10. Respond to change quickly
  11. Work in a way that is familiar
  12. Encourage the right behaviours from users and staff
  13. Clearly explain why a decision has been made
  14. Make it easy to get human assistance
  15. Require no prior knowledge to use

Read more about the 15 Principles of Good Service Design

Principles from This Is Service Design Doing: Applying Service Design Thinking in the Real World

The 2018 book, This Is Service Design Doing: Applying Service Design Thinking in the Real World, by Adam Lawrence, Jakob Schneider, Marc Stickdorn, and Markus Edgar Hormess, proposes six service design principles:

  1. Human-centered: Consider the experience of all the people affected by the service.
  2. Collaborative: Stakeholders of various backgrounds and functions should be actively engaged in the service design process.
  3. Iterative: Service design is an exploratory, adaptive, and experimental approach, iterating toward implementation.
  4. Sequential: The service should be visualized and orchestrated as a sequence of interrelated actions.
  5. Real: Needs should be researched in reality, ideas prototyped in reality, and intangible values evidenced as physical or digital reality.
  6. Holistic: Services should sustainably address the needs of all stakeholders through the entire service and across the business.

Service Design Methods, Tools & Techniques

Roadmap / Evolution Plan

A roadmap shows a timeline of development and delivery of the service. The roadmap identifies the minimum features the service needs to be ready for the first release, and then the following enhancements that could be made to improve the service.

Hypothesis Journey Map

A Hypothesis Journey Map visualises your organisation’s internal perspective of the customer’s experience, revealing assumptions and existing processes. It guides research and builds a shared vision when compared with Customer Journey Maps.

Customer Journey Mapping

A Customer Journey Map is an illustration that details all of the touchpoints at your organisation that a customer comes into contact with as he/she attempts to achieve a goal, and the emotions they experience during that journey. It is representative of a typical experience.


The service prototype has the objective of replicating, as much as possible, the final experience of interacting with the service, in order to test and validate all the design choices. .

Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder mapping is the visual process of laying out all the stakeholders of a product, project, or idea on one map. The main benefit of a stakeholder map is to get a visual representation of all the people who can influence your project and how they are connected.

Current State Blueprint

Current-state service blueprints map an existing service experience to describe how the organisation is delivering that service experience. It can be part of an audit of the current experience and processes.

Ecosystem Map

The ecosystem map is a synthetic representation capturing all the key roles that have an influence on the user, organization and service environment. The ecosystem map is built by first displaying all the entities, and then connecting them based on the type of value they exchange.

Primary Research

Primary Research involves speaking to users of the service using methods such as ethnography, focus groups, intercept interviews in-depth interviews & workshops.

Research Insights

Key insights help to summarize and communicate the main findings. They should be built on research data and supported by raw data, such as quotes, photos, and audio and/or video recordings. Key insights should be carefully phrased as they will serve as points of reference for the further design process.

Experience Map

A user experience map is a method of visualizing the entire end-to-end user experience that an average user will go through in order to accomplish a goal. It’s product and service agnostic, so it’s used for understanding general human behavior in a larger context. It helps an organization visualize a baseline understanding of an experience prior to taking the particular product or service into consideration.

Experience Principles

Experience principles are inspiring values that help create a shared experience vision within an organization, by applying then consistently across several projects and initiatives. They are based on research, and incorporate insights about what users expect from the relationship with a specific organization or service..


A persona is essentially a fictional representation of users of your service, typically developed based on design research such as interviews, surveys and other insights. Most often, there are often multiple personas of service users if there are key differences in preferences, behaviours, needs and objectives. Prioritizing your personas based on whatever criteria makes sense to you allows you to either figure out how you can provide solutions to serve your diverse users based on their characteristics or to focus on those that are the top priority.

Prioritisation Framework

Visuals such as charts and matrices can help practitioners base important decisions on objective, relevant criteria instead of subjective opinions. A prioritization matrix serves to identify the most important problems. This structured, objective approach helps achieve collaborative consensus while satisfying the varied needs of the user and business.


Ideation is a creative process where designers generate ideas in sessions. Participants gather with open minds to produce as many ideas as they can to address a problem statement in a facilitated, judgment-free environment.


Storyboards communicate a concept by visualizing user interactions. They use the art of the narrative to focus on a person’s experience of using your service. Storyboard development is one way to prototype your service concept.

Future State Blueprint

A future state service blueprint visualizes the future state of a concept for a new product or service based on a specific customer’s (persona) journey and how their new journey is supported by different employee roles, processes, technologies of the business organization and third-party partners.


Service pilots and customer trails do not have to be executed at a massive scale to provide valuable insights. The objective is to capture the common service breakdowns, which account for the majority of customer complaints and dissatisfaction. Understanding these failures and designing ways to prevent them, leads to higher customer satisfaction and less customer incidents when going to market.

Secondary Research

Secondary research doesn’t involve direct contact with users but uses literature reviews, looking at how other organisations are delivering services, and data analysis.

Service Design Blogs

Emily Tulloh Two sides of service design, by Emily Tulloh from FutureGov

Jared M. Spool Service Design: Pushing Us Beyond the Familiar, by Jared Spool

Josef Shuman Designerly thought, by Josef Shuman

Service Design Resources

Practical Service Design

Practical Service Design Resources

Practical Service Design

Service Design Tools

Service Design Tools

Service Design Tools

Service Design Podcasts

Why Service Design Thinking – The world’s first service design podcast, dedicated to helping businesses and non-profits of all sizes learn and adopt service design and design thinking.

The Service Design Podcast – Hosted by David Morgan and Stina Vanhoof from Knight Moves in collaboration with the Service Design Network. The podcast brings stories and inspiration about service design and related projects to your ears.

Service Design Show – Light hearted conversations with the people that are shaping Service Design field discussing the current state of the industry, exciting new developments and challenges up.

This is HCD – Human Centered Design Podcast – This is HCD aims to educate and empower about human-centered design. This podcast brings together thought-leaders from various disciplines such as service design, user experience, interaction design, and product management to discuss the craft, and to better understand what it means to work within a human-centric method.

Power of Ten with Andy Polaine – Design operates at many levels, from thoughtful detail through organisational transformation to the changes in society and the world. As the famous Ray and Charles Eames Powers of Ten film showed, each power of ten zoom level on the world contains its own complexity, ecosystem and details, but they are all interrelated.

Service Design Books

This is service design thinking

Ths is Service Design book

This is Service Design Thinking introduces an inter-disciplinary approach to designing services. Service design is a bit of a buzzword these days and has gained a lot of interest from various fields. This book, assembled to describe and illustrate the emerging field of service design, was brought together using exactly the same co-creative and user-centred approaches you can read and learn about inside. The boundaries between products and services are blurring and it is time for a different way of thinking: this is service design thinking

Good Services

Good Services book

Service design is a rapidly growing area of interest in design and business management. There are a lot of books on how to get started, but this is the first book that describes what a ‘good’ service is and how to design one. This book lays out the essential principles for building services that work well for users. Demystifying what we mean by a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ service and describing the common elements within all services that mean they either work for users or don’t. A practical book for practitioners and non-practitioners alike interested in better service delivery, this book is the definitive new guide to designing services that work for users.

Service Design: From Insight to Implementation

Service Design for business From Insight to Implementation book

We have unsatisfactory experiences when we use banks, buses, health services and insurance companies. In most cases some of the touchpoints are designed, but in many situations the service as a complete ecology just “happens” and is not consciously designed at all. One of the goals of service design is to redress this imbalance and to design services that have the same appeal and experience as the products we love. Given that we live in a service and information age, a practical, thoughtful book about how to design better services is urgently needed.

Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience

Service Design for business book

Service Design for Business helps you transform your customer’s experience and keep them engaged through the art of intentional service design. You’ll learn how taking a design approach to problem solving helps foster creativity, and how to apply it to the real issues that move businesses forward. Highly visual and organized for easy navigation, this quick read is a handbook for connecting market factors to the organizational challenge of customer experience by seeing your company through the customers’ eyes.

Service Design courses

Service Design – Online Short Course at University of the Arts, London

Course: 100 Service Design Principles

SDN Academy online courses