Unlocking the Practical Magic of Service Design


Why is the concept of design so intriguing to us?

I THINK it’s because “design” represents the marriage of functionality and art. While art provokes thoughts and emotions, design goes a step further—it not only elicits emotions but also solves problems.

This excites me.

It also excites a bunch of other people, including authors, speakers, and business owners, who have collectively shaped an entire industry around design. Read: there are a lot of opinions, an abundance of thoughts, and no shortage of tools, methods, and models.

While I’m grateful for this, I also find myself in a demystifying posture at times making the case for why great design is possible in all organizations and – despite the overwhelming flow of academia out there – good design should yield meaningful, actionable results.

At The Bridge, we have made it our mission to speak the language of practicality and reintroduce the human element into our work, starting with the language we use to articulate our Experiences practice.

If you’re still with me, I want to break down a capability that illustrates this harmony perfectly. Perhaps THE MOST practical within our practice—Service Design.

What is Service Design?

It is precisely what it sounds like—designing services. According to the Service Design Network (SDN), it involves planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication, and material components of a service to enhance its quality and the interaction between service providers and customers.

What is a Service?

Unlike tangible products, services are intangible experiences that one party provides to another. Think about experiences like going to the DMV, booking a flight, setting up a banking account, or checking into a hotel—each a real-life encounter that significantly influences the end user’s perception of a brand.

How is Service Design Different from Product Design?

While products have static, predetermined interactions, services are dynamic and co-created with users. Service design focuses on the broader context and processes, considering the entire service journey.

What about Experience Design?

Though closely related, service design and experience design have distinct focuses. Service design considers the broader context, while experience design zooms in on detailed interactions. Both are essential, but they require different skill sets, frameworks, and tools.

What Does Practical Service Design Look Like?

This domain is fascinating to me due to its tangible/intangible nature. Service designers must visualize, formulate, and choreograph solutions across physical products, communication, and environments. The practicality lies in watching and interpreting needs and behaviors to transform them into potential services.

We believe that a commitment to exceptional service design can reduce overhead, breed innovation, enhance efficiency, increase employee engagement, support brand reputation, pave the path for meaningful differentiation, and create true business resiliency.

And while each engagement is custom, our foundational service design flow takes a user-centered approach to observing and mapping the entire ecosystem, co-creating POCs to test, design, and iterate, before infusing our Acceleration practice and change engagement leaders to drive adoption.

What could be more practical than that?

In conclusion, the best design achieves a harmonious balance between aesthetic, functional, and user-centric aspects. And in the realm of design, practicality isn’t just a necessary evil – it’s the heartbeat of innovation.

As we navigate the intricate dance between aesthetics, functionality, and user-centricity, service design emerges as the maestro orchestrating this symphony. It transforms the mundane into memorable, much like a masterpiece awaiting discovery.

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