IDEA Service Design Competition

Earlier this week I received an e-mail about the 2010 International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) sponsored by the Industrial Designers Society of America. Apparently they’ve added a service design category to the mix this year.

Service design comprises three distinct interactions: person to person; person to machine; and machine to machine. There are three categories of revenue-generating services, non-profit services, and government services.

I’m not wild about focusing on person to machine interactions for a service design competition — and machine to machine interactions make me despair.

But looking through the entry process I’m struck by the obvious disconnect between product design and service design. The entry form asks for dimensions, weight, materials, software and technical specifications. It goes on to request a “glamour shot” that is “attention-grabbing, visually compelling or sexy.” Not the best strategy for dealing with the intangible.

They also ask for a short document or video to explain the project, but it’s pretty clear that they’re framing service design as a second-order discipline. That’s disappointing.

Based on the submission guidelines I can’t imagine how the judges could possibly evaluate a service. A quick scan through the archives uncovers a few projects that are in the ballpark and demonstrate the shortcomings of the form. Projects for Umpqua Bank, American Red Cross and the Transportation Security Administration. Is a glamour shot and a 900 character overview enough to capture a service?

To be honest it doesn’t even seem adequate for graphic design and industrial design. What’s the baseline for a legitimate service design competition?


  1. I noticed that too! What interesting is that design competitions focus very much on the (tangible) result. It just might be that in order to judge service design entries you should look at the process. Because what is there to judge in a service? The increase in happy customers?

  2. Jeff,

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention! We are going to modify the general entry form to better serve this new category. We are always looking for feedback from industry members to ensure we are meeting your needs.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me with any other suggestions!

    Aimee aimeeo@idsa.org

  3. Well I suppose first of all it’s good to at least see service design in there. But I think the categorisation is always over done in design competitions. Having judged many digital/interactive awards, I have always found the categories to hamber rewarding cross-disciplinary projects, which most SD projects inevitably are. This means that projects are often entered into the wrong category or that agencies with the money bomb all the categories with the same project a play the odds. I feel categories should really be as broad as possible and not have sub-categories at all.

  4. Andy,

    The IDEA jury actually re-assigns categories when they feel a submission would be better judged in a different category. And while we have had the same design entered into more than one category, I would say they are entered in no more than two categories.

    Aimee




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s