One Line of Service Design

Marc from 31Volts is running an experiment to compile elevator pitches for service design. It’s called One Line of Service Design. He’s not really looking for definitions so much as examples that help focus in on the discipline:

I thought it might be a good idea to create an list of simple and easy to use examples that illustrate what Service Design is/does. To make this “stick” I suggest we refer to this list as the One line of Service Design toolkit. The goal is not to explain all of Service Design in this one line but to have an good entry-point for an conversation.

Here’s how I might broach the subject:

Service designers work with companies and governments to orchestrate positive encounters with people. For example, think of the last time you traveled by air; did you board the plane by zone or was it first come, first served? That’s a design decision; a touchpoint. Most services are composed of dozens of touchpoints that work together to shape the encounter.

Here’s another take summarized from Dick Buchanan’s Emergence 2007 Keynote, aimed at the design community:

Service Design is about making people more active. No longer passive in their communities. No longer passive in their lives. Service design is about the equitable distribution of resources and tools to make decisions; to change social relationships. To give information and the tools to construct knowledge, to make it actionable to use — either wisely or foolishly — so that people can live as they would choose.

The irony of this post isn’t lost on me in light of my observation yesterday that we were beyond defending the concept of service design. Still, I’ll play along and tag Carrie, Susan and Jack. How would you explain service design?

Update: I slightly tweaked my contribution to add the “positive” qualifier, and I should note that I broke the rules by writing a paragraph — not a line. I don’t think you can reduce service design to a slogan.

Also, Marc has posted some of the quotes.


  1. The description of Service Design definitely can’t be reduced one all en compensating slogan.

    In this case it’s about the easy and simple examples that illustrate SD. The example you give in your paragraph fits right into that. You shouldn’t give you’re grandma an definition of SD, you should give her an example😉




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