Service designers have been gaining a well-deserved reputation for their unique problem-solving skills: an empathetic, holistic, and collaborative approach with a promise of desirable, feasible, and viable systems solutions.
But behind this growing recognition service design is still a relatively young discipline that continues to expand its reach in new ways – recently in the public sector and in civic engagement industries. This fast growth has already established the scope of service design training programs as among the broadest in the field of design. It is this very evolving nature that provides these programs with a key advantage over other established, traditional design programs: By continuously adopting new models of education, service design programs can train competent designers who are equipped to solve some of the most complex business, political, social and economic problems of today. Redefined financial solutions, climate change, inclusive healthcare, food security, and immigration crises are just a few contemporary issues that can benefit from service design.
In a recent issue of Touchpoint, the Service Design Network journal, Chris Parlato and I reflect on our service design journey, address the current job market, and outline four desirable core traits for success in an evolving service design practice: Human, Technical, Quantitative, and Business.

  • Human skills, the most prominent among the four traits, refer to the ability to have a healthy collaboration with other people both individually and in groups, and to build and contribute to a culture.
  • Quantitative skills are the keys to linking service design value to business value, enabling designers to promote the discipline, to define a ‘right-scoped’ project, and to ensure the project’s success.
  • Technology skills, fueled by the holistic and agile nature of service projects, can play a vital role in capturing research findings, documenting work processes, and bringing services to life.
  • And finally, Business skills are central to defining a vision for new businesses, delivering and augmenting long-term solutions at scale, and applying experience design factors to business models.

Setting the bar for success, schools need to orchestrate training programs that work in harmony with the evolving needs of industries and communities. Successful programs will do so through curricula and pedagogies that equip students with these core skills, while top programs will differentiate themselves by enhancing opportunities for one-on-one mentorship, connecting theory to practice, and being open to experimentation with other disciplines. Service Designers, with the right preparation, will be able to address the most complex issues, designing and delivering tailored, effortless experiences with a smart, efficient use of resources.
For more on service design education and for a deeper dive into the four core skills that service designers should develop, read this article published by the Service Design Network: “Desirable Traits: Educating for an Evolving Service Design Practice”. (Written by Naz Mirzaie and Chris Parlato for Touchpoint (2017) Vol.9 No.1)

Naz Mirzaie is a Senior Designer in Innovation Strategy at Essential Design.

Essential Design is a leading Innovation Strategy & Design consultancy. We work across the healthcare, consumer, and commercial industries, helping our clients conceive and drive to market comprehensive digital, physical, and service experiences.
Image Credit: Christian Lendl (March 8, 2014) Vienna Service Design Jam 2014