Accessing literature and resources on service design, involve navigation in a myriad of interrelated terms and concepts. In this section we want to briefly clarify how key terms and concepts can be defined and understood. We underline that there are concepts and terms which lacks unified definitions, and not all may agree with our definitions. However, we believe that our efforts to clarify can still be helpful.
We use service design as an overarching concept referring to a way of constructing services bottom-up by focusing on the service process and service encounters, and by placing emphasis on the direct or indirect involvement of service users and other stakeholders. What is referred to as ‘service design’ is often contrasted with the use of closed, top-down implementation processes in the construction of services. Moreover, service design acknowledges the construction of services as a design process and draws on thinking, methods and tools from design disciplines and architecture.
Service design can in this way be seen as a set of methods and tools that are meant to unleash creativity and enable the creation and implementation of new solutions (innovations) in service settings.
Design thinking has in this way become a specific and popular consultancy and management concept that has spread across contexts. When travelling, the concept gets enacted in different forms, implying that design thinking may in practice mean different things in different organisational contexts. Design thinking and service design is interlinked and often used interchangeably. However, design thinking is a broader term than service design, as design thinking may be used to spur innovation based on the way designers think and work in diverse settings. Moreover, ‘design thinking’ is often associated with a specific iterative process model, originating from the d.school at Stanford University. This process model structures design processes around five sequences of activities:
Design thinking has in this way become a specific and popular consultancy and management concept that has spread across contexts. When travelling, the concept gets enacted in different forms, implying that design thinking may in practice mean different things in different organisational contexts.
It is noted that the management concept associated with ‘design thinking’ has become quite detached from designers’ actual work practices. Thus, some point to the need for distinguishing between ‘design thinking’ as a management tool and designers’ actual work practices and mindsets. The latter is often referred to as ‘designerly thinking’.
Policy design can be understood as the deliberate attempt to define policy goals and consciously connect them to policy instruments intended to reach those goals. Service design in public service settings links to policy design, but it is not the same. Designing a policy (a written document of some kind) is quite different from designing the many elements that constitute a service. However, the design of policies affects the design of services, and service design processes set in service organisations may raise issues that needs to be addressed at policy levels.
Human-centred design is an umbrella concept that refers to a shift from focusing on artefacts, technology or objects of design in itself towards a focus on how design objects are interpreted by various actors in different situations. The human-centred design approach may underpin the design of services, but also design of products, artifacts and spaces.
Service design intersects with other forms of design, and the boundaries between different design disciplines and subcategories are not clear cut. Particularly, the boundaries are blurred between service design and interaction design, and with user experience design (UX design).
Interaction design is anchored in human-computer interaction and engages in various ways with the design of digital interfaces and interactive artefacts. Increased digitalisation of services, and of society at large, makes digital service encounters a central part of most service experiences. As such, interaction design may often play one part in broader service design processes. While interaction design focuses on examining and designing specific (digital) touchpoints in a service process, service design takes a more holistic approach to the entire service experience.
User experience design UX design) seems positioned in between interaction design and service design. It places particular emphasis on understanding user needs in the design of products, services or systems to enhance the overall user experience. UX design is also more linked to the design of technology and digital solutions compared to service design, which may deal with broader organisational processes.