Predictions on the future of service design

Figure 6.

Possible future scenarios for service design

As service design popularity keeps rising, it becomes evident there are many possible threats that come with it. From its methods being absorbed by commercial marketing to not being able to live up with its expectations ( 3 ), the multiple natural risks embedded in becoming an autonomous discipline can't show precisely what will happen to the future of service design.

If its popularity will stabilize and practitioners will be able to provide tangible results, the discipline will likely be able to form specifically trained professionals and become a solid and distinguished component of business ( 2 ).

The aspired scenarios sees service design being able to both satisfy business requirement - addressing users' needs and at the same time to make a positive impact on society ( 1 ).

James Moed quote
James Moed

former Portfolio Director, Financial Service Design at IDEO,
freelance Consultant

“So if you want to have an extension to where service design is going, you know that a lot of design agencies are being bought up and I think what we’re finding is that design thinking and the role of design solving skill is becoming another standard pillar of the business toolkit.

What I find interesting is where will pure design thinking agencies go in the next many years. McKinsey has a design group, Bain has a design group, companies are building their design groups in-house. Those groups don’t just do design thinking: they use design in the context of all the other parts of the business. Which is always the weakness of design innovation companies, because they are good big thinkers but they are not really good at financial modelling or technology planning: for all those other pieces they have somehow to borrow skills or to make assumptions. So now that design has become one of the five key business skill set, what is left for design innovation agencies to do? Will they actually start going back to do more formal design? Leaving more of the strategy to the business consultancies?”

Jonas Piet quote
Jonas Piet

Partner and Lead Service Designer
at InWithForward

“I personally can't take people seriously if they just present some design research or a bunch of interesting ideas and not showing me something that's been actually implemented within an organisation. I wonder if those services are still alive after 2 or 5 years: what happened to them?

There are many different people interested in moving into this field of service design - which is very different from what it used to be around 15 years ago when the very first ones coined the name and started their agencies. They developed a definition, a practice around service design and when I see people bringing in different backgrounds I can see things changing. So it's interesting to understand what people say service design is and what is not. Those people seem quite successful in attracting clients and establishing business relationships that last a year or two. But what will that lead to?”

Joel Bailey quote
Joel Bailey

Director at Livework UK,
Founder at Strategic Design Resourcing

“It’s very hard to know what will happen in the future!
I think we might go through a period where there's going to be a lot of bad design contaminating the service design practice. You have different ways of working, different cultures and practises bashing up against each other: the management consultancies way of work has its own culture and a totally different view about where value comes from compared to a service design perspective which is much more user centric, iterative and generally more agile.

That's going to take ages to settle – hopefully good design will prevail getting through this upcycle, avoiding trust despondencies because it has liven up to its hopes. So I'm hopeful we'll get through that and we'll get to the other side: there are good and bad aspects but at least we now have realistic expectations. My fear though is that we end up going down the road of system thinking as a method to trust to do everything and I don't think that's true at all.

Eva Kirchberg quote
Eva Kirchberger

DESMA Research Associate
at Engine London

“I think there are different possible scenarios and we cannot predict which one will become reality. It depends by the different firms’ behaviours and by the market as a whole. I think that quality is important: clients might be satisfied by service design results or they might decide it’s just a trend that don’t really deliver on his promise. So I think there’s a bit of a risk there.

Those are the possible scenarios I've outlined:
Option A could be we will have more companies re-labelling themselves as service design agencies and increasingly doing service design, claiming less they are doing digital, which will just be absorbed by service design as a whole.

Option B: is that digital design will actually own service design and everything we understand related to service design will automatically be implied when talking about digital design.

Option C: the label become useless as everyone does something different and clients don’t really understand what it actually is hence service design will still be done, not as a distinct practice but as other disciplines absorb its tools. So it could be that consumer marketing uses the user journey mapping to do what they do and people talk less and less about service design. I don’t think there's a risk for it to disappear – it might just become less demanded.

The opportunity is that if service design steps up more, projects can become bigger and service design companies could partner more with management consulting agencies to work on huge customer experience projects. So, we will see.”

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