Last month, I had the privilege of attending the 8th Service Design Global Conference in New York City. Thought leaders and practitioners from a broad spectrum of industries around the world gathered at the Parson School of Design to share their passion and knowledge on the value of service design in the private and public sector. Service design is the holistic approach to orchestrating customer experiences across all the touchpoints as well as creating value for the service provider. System change, business impact, and quality of life were among the key topics in the conference.


Here is my list of top-level learnings from the conference:

The hot industries for service design today include the following; healthcare, finance, and the public sector.

New trends in financial services such as frictionless payment and live budgeting, demand designing new services to engage customers and providing real-time feedback for them.  

Service designers need to be nimble, learn from and integrate strategy and technology, stay human-centered, and steal ideas from management.

Designing services is grounded on research, where context has a central role in creating meaningful experiences.

Service Design is about communicating inspiration and opportunity areas in organizations; service designers catalyze learnings through hands-on workshops and co-creative platforms.

Designers must prove the value of design by:

  • Keeping thinking and doing interrelated
  • Investing in storytelling (short videos)
  • Looking at analytics to provide rigorous qualitative data
  • Transforming to human-subject design (ethical design)
  • Co-creating during evaluation stages to give participants a chance to approve what has been built for them

Consider human emotions, recognize and respond to the fact that people feel certain ways.

Strategies for working with the government:

  • Think and work politically
  • Build internal capacity
  • Frame up your value training
  • Set expectations
  • Bring in client’s leadership team in as soon as you can

Principles of co-creation:

  • Place design in the leadership level
  • Practice co-creation like an engineering’s best practices, be rigorous and meticulous
  • Form relationships that make things happen
  • Learn the company language and existing organization
  • Have realistic plans
  • Think of client team issues are design challenges (organizational behavior design)
  • Translate the client language and communicate findings to bring people to a common solution (gaining consensus)

Established companies underestimate their ability to create or acquire new ideas and overestimate their ability to implement new ideas.

Designers should move toward consulting not designing! Our job is not only to design the solution, it is also to help facilitate the conversations among client team members to work towards the solution- thinking of us as partners.

“Every service design is transitioning people to different types of lifestyles, different types of value considerations, different types of relationships.” Cameron Tonkinwise

At Essential, we leverage our interdisciplinary, creative, and rigorous approach combined with tools, such as journey maps, blueprints, and storyboards, to co-create valuable services for our clients and their customers. Service design is a new powerful discipline enabling people to make sense of and visualize the complex systems and deliver innovative, meaningful solutions for all involved stakeholders.


To read more:

Service Design for/in Transition, Carnegie Mellon University

Service Design Innovation, Fjord

Co-creating the Industrial Internet, GE