Book Review: This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases

By Jakob Schneider, Marc Stickdorn

Schneider, J. and Stickdorn, M. (2011) This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey

Guest Reviewer:  Jacqueline Wechsler

Design is not the narrow application of formal skills, it is a way of thinking.
– Chris Pullman

This is Service Design Thinking presents an inter-disciplinary approach to service innovation. Where the distinction between product and services is disappearing, and where the services sector within Australia accounts for approximately 70% of the GDP (Entrepreneurship in Australia the Missing Links (2011), Wood, F., p.4), designing for services is fast becoming an important capability across every sector.

The book has an interesting format, whereby the authors utilised service design thinking to inform the design of their book. They sourced information and opinions from practitioners and academics within this field through the use of contextual interviews, forums, group discussions, blogs, and practitioner and social media portals to inform its development. They even uploaded images of a ‘prototype’ book to the social photography site Flickr to get feedback about its design. The book’s primary content came from 23 practitioners from all over the world, yielding not only thorough background material on service design but also easy to follow tools and methods illustrated by real-world case-studies. For example, find out how the Scottish agency Snook designed a service for the UK police force, or follow the design approach of the Carnegie Mellon Design School when re-designing a health service for a hospital. Whilst many would argue that service design is not new, as a consequence of this crowd-sourced approach this book articulates very well the thoughts, opinions, practices and reflections of contemporary service design practitioners about their work.

Part one of the book entitled ‘Basics’ discusses the history of service design, its interdisciplinary nature and its different associated disciplines, as well as the 5 principles of service design thinking;
(1)    User-centered – services should be designed from the perspective of the customer
(2)    Co-creative – services should be designed by all stakeholders
(3)    Sequencing – services should be considered as a series of interdependent actions
(4)    Evidencing – intangible services should be visualised in terms of tangible artefacts
(5)    Holistic – the entire context of a service should be considered.

The second part of the book discusses service design tools and the iterative process of service design and its non-linear phases i.e. exploration, creation, reflection, implementation. The 25 service design tools and methods outlined are easy to understand, flexible and varied. They felt more to me like a pantry of varied ingredients than a packet cake mixture, as the book states “this is a toolbox – not a manual”. The tools are linked to the four different stages of the service design process and explain what the tool is, how it is made and when it is used along, with an example. Some tools discussed include; the business model canvas, customer life-cycle maps, storyboards, service role-playing etc. For me, the linking of tools and methods with case studies is an important characteristic of this book as it helps the reader understand the tools in the context of their usage as well as get some insight into some of the domains of service design.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain an understanding of the emergent field of service design and understand the type of work that service designers do. This is the first text-book on the subject and provides an excellent resource for students, educators, design practitioners or anyone interested in designing or improving a new product or service through collaborative design methods.

Jacqueline Wechsler is a user centered design consultant and teacher at UTS and the UNSW College of Fine Arts. She is passionate about the use of service design methods for the design of products and services which have positive social outcomes.

Comments are closed.