Why Service Design / Design Thinking?

What is service design / design thinking?

You hear it more and more “Design thinking” of “Service design”. But what is it really? The UK Design Council uses the following definition:

Service design is all about making the service you deliver useful, usable, efficient, effective and desirable

This definition contains a number of important elements:

  • useful: the service (product or service) must be useful, it helps the customer to do something of which he or she sees the added value
  • usable: the customer must be able to use it
  • efficient: with as little effort as possible you get the best results
  • effective: it must be able to do what you want to use it for, deliver it
  • desirable: you really have to want the customer, often this is the appearance / looks / image of the product

I myself use the following definition:

Design Thinking is about designing customer experiences

The basic principles of Design Thinking / Service Design

The word “design” still too often evokes the association with physical or external design. The word “Design” comes from the way of looking at products and services. As a true designer, we first immerse ourselves in the environment, the customer, the function of a solution. The word "designYou can therefore broaden the scope. It's not just about the core product, but about the whole. The product must be useful, user-friendly, efficient, effective and attractive. To arrive at such a design, a number of basic principles are used within Design Thinking / Service Design:

design thinking/ service design principes1. Focus on people: view the issue from your customer (this can also be an employee or relation)

2. Do it together: involve your customer in focusing on the problem and in finding the right solution

3. Adjust continuously: accept that you will not immediately find the perfect solution, work in small steps and adjust

4. Step-by-step: spend enough time exploring the problem and do not immediately go to a solution: you run the risk of tunnel vision and suboptimal solutions

5. Let the customer experience: expose the customer to a sh! tty prototype as soon as possible, this could be a sketch, for example. Make sure the customer does not hesitate to reject your idea and be open to feedback.

6. View the whole context: the customer uses your service in a certain context. What is that context? You need to understand that context to improve your product or service!


Difference with regular approach within organizations

You may recognize it within your own organization: You have a fantastic idea for a new product or service. You are sure that the customer will be happy with this.

First of all, you need to make sure that you get a budget to get started with this project. You do a kind of preliminary study to see if this is technically possible and to make an estimate of the costs. Then a business case is made to see whether this initiative will be profitable. Then you get started with the realization. If you work Agile (and apply it really well) you will be confronted with the opinion of the customer in this phase.

Unfortunately, in practice the product owner appears to work mainly from his own assumptions and the testing with the customer only takes place at the end of the cycle. Or not at all..

A lot of money has already been spent, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to adjust / adapt / stop the project.

With a Design Thinking approach we do it the other way around. We start always from the customer's point of view.

  • Problem: What is the customer's problem / challenge?
  • Job to be done: What is he or she trying to get done?
  • Idea: What does the customer think of our idea? (Desirability)
  • Prototyping: What does the customer think of our prototype? (Desirability, feasibility, viability)

Of course we also look at technological feasibility. We focus in particular on the parts of which we are not sure whether we can do this or what the costs are. The business case? This depends on the type of product / service we are launching.

If we have a improvement / renewal implementation in our current offer, we can draw up this business case. In the case of a total new product or business model it gets a bit trickier. Here we will have to experiment a bit more to see what works and whether our model is scalable.

design thinking/ service design

Why should you apply Design Thinking or Service Design?

That is simple, you will then be better able to satisfy your customers and become more innovative.

According to Gartner, “Customer experience the new battlefield"(Gartner, 2015)

According to a study by McKinsey, organizations that have implemented an integral design approach show an outperformance compared to the benchmark. (McKinsey, The business value of Design, 2018)

In addition to these financial reasons, I can say from my own experience that job satisfaction is significantly increased. Employees can finally use their creativity. They no longer waste their energy on projects that they have known for a long time will lead to nothing. Employees work together with colleagues from other departments and continuously learn. They come into contact with other companies and customers and work more autonomously. They actually feel that they can contribute to the success of the organization!

For which organization is Design Thinking / Service Design applicable?

Design Thinking / Service Design can be applied to any organization, small and large, profit or non-profit. It's not difficult or complicated, but you may need some guidance at first. It mainly requires a different one mindset. Design Thinking can be used for process improvements as well as for major, groundbreaking innovations.

Within Design Thinking you have access to a range of methods and techniques. You have to learn in which phase and for what kind of project you get something out of your backpack. And above all, you just have to start with it. Start small and learn. Celebrate the successes and move on. Find out what works and what doesn't work for your organization.

I order you the book “This is Service Design Doing” if you are looking for a practical approach.


Service Design or Design Thinking offers added value to almost every organization. It is a matter of starting small, learning, experiencing and adjusting. If you do it right, the result is an improved customer experience and associated better results.

Want to know more?

We are happy to discuss with you how Service Design can help your organization further. We also offer Design Sprints via Studio Pimcy. You will find more information here.

Or contact us!

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