The International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR)  conference on the 1st November 2011 came at an opportune moment for the beginning of my Research Associate position at the Academy. It promised to be an intensive two days to absorb myself in current design research and debates to get up to speed with what is happening in the industry. I spread myself out between two threads of speakers. Firstly the Emotions thread which focused on how emotions are researched and used in design and secondly the service design thread, looking at service design case studies and research.

I would be lying if I said it was wholeheartedly inspiring. The emotions papers presented on the whole were delivered with a distinct lack of any emotion at all it seemed, and considering it was design research the standard of presentation skills both verbally and visually did not help attention spans.

What I would like to pick up on is a question that has been on my mind for a while now. Is service Design a new discipline of design in it's own right, or is it an evolved discipline born from traditional designers realising they could apply their design skills to service problems?

I myself would not consider myself a Service Designer specifically. I would consider my self a designer and researcher who applies my skills to a service design sometimes. I always presumed that the terminology Service Design came about from brave innovative designers who were finding new applications for design skills. In other words Service Design being an evolution of traditional design disciplines. However it came to my attention that some talk about Service Design as an new design discipline, almost an invented discipline. These people seem to be a different breed or species of designers that I know. They are designers who I struggle to trace their design heritage, not literally but in how they speak or approach problems.

Initially it didn’t bother me that maybe some Service Designers were just a new species of designer that have purely been taught service design terminology and processes and later go on to implement them. However in the same instance it makes me nervous and it seemed to me at the IASDR that this service design breed all sounded terribly similar. 

My question is more a fear that the discipline of Service Design could find it’s self becoming rigid. I missed that personal flair and insight that is so often associated with designers. The book in this image is not called This is Service Design, but This is Service Design Thinking. The rules change with services and designers are required to think differently, this design thinking is not new. It is not something that is taught in books, but learnt through designing and is born out of creative minds. This is not an anti-service design post, far from it, but my plea is actually something that Mike Thompson touched on earlier in his post 'what is a designer anyway?', and that is that designers first and foremost must know who they are and what their world view is and know what their skills are and apply it to social or service problems. Ultimately this will result in a far richer outcomes when applied to such problems as services.

Published: 23-Dec-2011 13:14



    This is service design thinking