Full interviews

Marzia Arico pic

Marzia Aricò

Service Design & Strategy Consultant
at Livework Rotterdam

20 October, 2015

Marzia, where is Livework located? How does London ecosystem influence the service design discipline in your opinion?

Livework's headquarter is in London.
London is a truly interesting city in respect to service design. It is the city where many service design agencies were born. I'm referring to agencies that are solely focused on service design, like Livework or Engine. Today there are a number of other design agencies heavily investing in service design like DesignIt or IDEO. London is by far the most interesting city regarding the "design of services".

When was Livework founded? Did you see any recent change in its business?

Livework was founded in 2002 and today has offices in London, Oslo, Rotterdam (where I am currently based), Sao Paolo, and Beirut.

Service design is an extremely new discipline which emerged from interaction design. Today it is still facing many major changes.
Livework was initially mainly focusing on customer-experience, focusing on improving the quality of users and customers experience. One of the main limitations of that approach was an unbalanced focus towards the final user, while lacking to consider the complete system that delivers the service. Clients used to be corporates, with substantial budgets available from innovation departments. Projects were very "explorative", "future-oriented", aimed at understanding how to better anticipate customers' needs.

"The starting point is still the customer but service design on steroids builds on two additional pillars: business drivers and organizational capabilities. These extra two pillars require a profound understanding of the capabilities of the client organization and its way of operating. "

However, often those projects didn’t get implemented. Big budgets, awesome projects - with an exceptional attention on the customer's experience - but difficult to implement – often because there were not sufficient capabilities in play or the business drivers were not solid enough.

In 2009, the big financial crack impacted heavily on Livework and similar agencies. Many employees – almost half of the workforce - had to be made redundant, mainly because their clients, the big corporates, had to cut innovation budgets. Those large investments didn’t actually produce any business relevant results and agencies had to reinvent themselves in order to keep thriving and maintain their clients. During the same year, there has been a wave of publications related to design and its business relevance, such as Tim Brown’s "Change by design", Frog’s "A Fine line", Verganti’s "Design driven innovation". It became quite clear that design alone was not enough to tackle the organizational challenges clients were faced with.

Livework partnered in 2011 with Melvin Brand Flu, an experienced business professional who was quite new to the design world - with a background in econometrics and business management. With the help of Melvin Livework invested into a better understanding of how to improve the service design offering. As a result they came up with the concept of “Service Design on Steroids” which combines service design with service transformation. The starting point is still the customer but service design on steroids builds on two additional pillars: business drivers and organizational capabilities. These extra two pillars require a profound understanding of the capabilities of the client organization and its way of operating. In the intersection between customer, business, and organization, the role of the Business Designer has emerged. Today almost any project at Livework has both a service design and a business design component.

How would you describe which kind of agency is Livework?

Livework’s website states: "we design services for customers that impact on businesses". So Livework designs services that make sense for customers, and leverage business drivers and organizational capabilities.

Which kind of clients does your company work more for?

I’d say that 70% of our work is in the private sector while the remaining is public or third sector.

Which kind of services are usually requested by your clients?

Generally, clients don't know exactly what they want or at least struggle to articulate it. Digital or cross-channel are hot topics.

How many people work in your company (London agency only)?

About 20 people.

What’s the role of members of the team?

We don’t have many different roles. In Rotterdam we have service designers and business designers. Depending on how big a project is, the team changes. We start from a minimum of 1-2 service designers that, most of the times, are paired with a business designer. Usually there's a project leader – most of the times an account manager - and the work always involves a close cooperation with the client organization.

What’s the background of service designers that work with you?

There are a couple of people coming from Innovation Management, a couple from Strategic Product Design, some interaction designers and a few graphic designers.

Have you ever heard about Product Service System Design?

I have never come across a “product service system designer”, it’s quite an academic jargon.

I remember an article about “service dominant logic” (2004) which argues that products don't exist: they are simply mechanism of service provision. Hence separating products from services doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

In my opinion design thinking is an attitude, that any designer has. It is not a set of tools or a methodology. It doesn’t mean more than that, it is just a word, adopted by IDEO and used for marketing purposes. Design thinking is what subtends any kind of design action – being, industrial, interaction and so on.

How do you differentiate service design from customer experience?

Service design is a practice, which involves a method, a process and specific tools. Customer experience is the “ultimate goal” or object under analysis.

How do you think service design will evolve in the next few years?

I think it will be interesting to see what the recent acquisitions - Designit by Wipro, Fjord by Accenture- will lead to. There are just a few serious agencies that have remained independent. I believe service design will keep moving towards increased business relevance – a lot has been achieved but still a lot needs to be done. It has become some sort of buzzword – everyone seems to be talking about it, claiming they are doing service design.

I believe it's still not yet clear what are the business challenges that require a service design approach - and which don’t - and consequently what should be service design’s role in business. There's even another interesting discussion which is the role of service design within the public sector: the latest Service Design Network conference, that took place in New York, was exclusively related to the topic.

Moreover, a number of multinational companies are investing in hiring service designers to build the capabilities internally. I found these companies extremely interesting – what will this investment generate? They differ from other companies that use service design as a way to promote themselves through a shining appearance: those companies are actually changing from the inside, with some potential interesting outputs that will start becoming visible within the next 5 years.

I’m conducting a PhD research on the added value of service design for business. I’ve recently read a research from Daniela Sangiorgi that states that on average 50% of service design projects do not get implemented. Hence, I’m very curious to understand what's the real impact of service design and how we can effectively measure its impact.


More interviews

Back to Top