Foreswearing UX

I’m a little surprised to see Design for Service listed on a Top 10 UX Blog roundup. I appreciate the shout-out and I follow many of the blogs on that list myself but I want to be clear:

This isn’t a UX blog.

I’m sorry if that seems less than gracious. Many aspects of the design of services seem closely aligned with Don Norman’s original conception of the term “user experience” in the mid-nineties but since then UX has metastasized and become largely conflated with the digital domain. Interaction design is limited by a similar set of perceptions.

Service design has been around much longer than either of these practices but it’s only now coming into the mainstream. This is a critical moment. Service design needs to keep UX at arm’s length to avoid suffering the same tragic fate.

That’s why I don’t write about Flickr or Facebook or any of the myriad digital services that exist out there.

I value UX Design and when I’m not wearing my service design hat you’ll frequently find me working in that context. Digital products certainly need our attention.

But that’s not what this blog is about.


  1. Jeff
    you are so right on. I always snarkle, yes snarkle, when people say user experience because now everyone and their brother is a ux designer. The digital world has taken this label and exploited beyond the context. True user experience looks at many sequences of activities that involve actors, digital interactions, and platforms.

    I’ve recently been trying to release that job title and move to being a design strategist that gives me the flexibility to cover all aspects of service design.

  2. More ‘my designism is bigger than yours’ is it?

    It’s all just design. Get over yourselves.

  3. Jeff

    Adam, that seems uncalled for. I’m not attacking you or others who self-identify as UX designers, and I wish Adaptive Path all the luck in the world in reclaiming UX from the digital realm.

    The distinction between UX and service design is important as a rhetorical tactic. I want people to understand the physical, environmental and social domains involved with service design. That potential is easy to obscure if we think in terms of digital design, which is what many people equate with UX.

    Design for Service isn’t a UX blog. That isn’t a value judgement. It’s just me choosing what I want to write about.

  4. I’m not attacking you. You’re not attacking me. We’re fine.

    But I really do believe my complaint is called for.

    I’m not a UXer. I’m not a SDer. Like you, I’m a designer. And there’s a pressing responsibility to resist the erection of redundant designerisms that comes with describing yourself as such.

    Design is design is design.

    You think a designer couldn’t design a service because they could also design a website, or a car, or a game?

    Of course you don’t, and I apologise for even asking such a rhetorical question.

  5. Jeff

    We disagree on this Adam. I don’t find these subdisciplines redundant. Their edges may be tough to discern but at their core they reflect significant differences in history, values, processes, techniques and deliverables.

    All design disciplines share common patterns of thought that tie them together, but the distinctions are non-trivial.




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