Goal Directed Service Design

Chris Noessel explores the synergies between Service Design and Cooper’s Goal-Directed Design.

Most people think of Goal-Directed Design techniques as focused on product design, but they work equally well for services. A service is comprised of the various “touchpoints” between a customer and a business. Touchpoints include public-facing systems such as web sites and web-enabled software, but can include other channels as well, such as brick-and-mortar stores, points of sale, interactive voice response systems, email and postal mail, too.

It’s a good exposition, but I’m surprised to see Cooper making it. They’re a dyed-in-the-wool software design consultancy and service design seems like an odd cultural fit. On the other hand, Chris is a graduate of the Interaction Design Institute at Ivrea where a lot of early work in service design took place.

Either way it’s bittersweet to see the discipline filtering into the mainstream. Just the other day I read on a blog that service design is HOT. We can do without the bandwagon.


  1. Dave Cronin

    While the bulk of our portfolio certainly is softwarer-related, for as long as I have been at Cooper, we have maintained that “interaction design” can include non-software related things like “customer touchpoints.”

    For this reason, we haven’t been quick to adopt the term Service Design, but as you aptly note, it seems that this has become an accepted term, so we’re making efforts to join in the conversation.

    I should note that the first “Service Design” project I personally did at Cooper (not sure of the first overall) was for Proctor & Gamble in 1999, and in the last couple years, we’ve done SD projects around chronic disease management, banking and personal finanance, and internet advertising.

    Thanks for the interesting posts and the opportunity to clear up this misconception.

  2. Jeff

    Those are great projects Dave, but I wouldn’t consider them to be examples of service design, except in the limited sense that they’re intangible. I hear the term “software as a service” thrown around every now and then, but it doesn’t belong in the service design pantheon.

    Goal Directed Design could almost certainly be adapted to Service Design, and the pioneers in the discipline were themselves former interaction designers, but there’s more to it than simply adopting the term. Quite a bit of cultural change has to happen to make the transition (including a new approach to research, deliverables, and the role of the designer).

    I would say that your Practicum classes are the best example of service design at Cooper. They give you a great platform for experimenting with the discipline.

  3. Dave Cronin

    I’m not sure you and I are talking about the same examples.

    For example, the project regarding chronic disease was to work for one of the country’s largest health care providers (think very large hospital) to help them align their comprehensive approach to chronic disease management including how patients are introduced to their disease, how educators work with patients, how patients communicate with each other about lifestyle changes, and yes, how software can facilitate some of this stuff. (I.e. this project was *not* the design of a thing or software.)

    As far as deliverables and approaches go, I’m quite familiar with the work of Live|Work and there are some pretty substantial overlaps between their methods and ours. Of course there are new ways of doing everything, including service design, and I can’t wait to hear about them. Hopefully right here on your blog.

  4. Jeff

    Interesting. That’s definitely a different chronic disease management project than the one I’m familiar with.

    I’d say the most significant departure from conventional interaction design methodology for aspiring service designers involves shifting the role of the designer from auteur to facilitator. The US design community as a whole seems to be reflexively hostile to the idea of co-creation, but it’s central to the service design ethos.

    The changes in research and documentation techniques are formidable, but much less of an ideological hurdle.




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