Introducing the big picture

Introducing the big picture

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  • Danielle Zsifkovits
    Danielle Zsifkovits Service Designer, designaffairs

Service Design is known as a human-centered innovation approach in the field of design, that focuses on the enhancement of services, by uncovering and re-designing services in the form of processes.

I will leave the explanation at that, as service design can be described in much more depth, but this would venture too far from the main point of this blog, the big picture view. One of the main advantages of service design is the big picture view it is taking on any service (= activity) and the consequential entanglements to the services, such as stakeholders, experiences, devices, environments, etc. or other services. The aim of this big picture view is to show the involved elements (who and whatever they may be), the possibilities for improvement, the consequences of the current “way” and the improvements, as well as the limitations provided by these elements. Ultimately, this big picture view is nothing else but a detailed map of the ecosystem in which the service is embedded in and the entanglements the service has to deal with – also called Service Ecosystem Design.

Why and where should the big picture view be used?

The big picture view provides a competitive and qualitative advantage in two areas (as we practice it at designaffairs):

  • within projects
  • within companies

The main reasons for the advantage in both areas are the same, diversity of stakeholders and the complexity of services (especially when considering the intangible aspects of a service).

Internal Project - Service Design Graphics
Internal Project - Service Design Graphics

Within projects:

For example, a service is made up of tangible and intangible elements (activities, interactions, devices, etc.) and linked to different stakeholders, used in different situations, environments and for different purposes. Sounds reasonable, right? Now, imagine for a second a seemingly “simple” service like checking out your groceries at the cashier and what it would look like when you start to write down or map who and what all is involved in this service, their actions and their relationships? Suddenly, the list or map becomes a lot bigger and a little complex. Yet at the same time, all this input is necessary as it shapes the service, the experiences of people, as well as the tangible devices and products that are placed within this ecosystem (i.e. the design of the conveyor belt is defined by the questions for whom, what activities, which environment, etc.). Next, imagine you are in the project about said “checking out of groceries”. You won’t be working alone on this project, instead there are your team and project partners, the end-users (i.e. the buyers of groceries), the employees (i.e. the cashier), etc. These are all people from different professional, cultural and social backgrounds and with different aims, needs, relationships, requirements and experiences and all of them need to be considered when researching and redesigning the service, as they are involved in the service. When going back to your previous list or map and you are adding all the input the project team brings, you may realize that your list or map exponentially grew, and you are now facing a pile of information that basically screams “complexity” at you. The problem is, in order to create a sustainable, outstanding and competitive service (as well as experiences and products), you need to involve all of these stakeholders, elements, views and opinions. This is where service design steps in and offers the possibility to map this complexity early on through extensive research, to later on determine “what can be changed?”, “what can’t we change?”, “what needs to change to achieve our aim?” and “what could the change look like?”. Or simplified, a service designer will figure out the ecosystem of your service and show you what would be the best solution, the consequences this solution will have for all stakeholders and hand a roadmap to the project team to get to the solution.

Note here, that none of this will be possible without collaboration and co-decision making.

Internal Project - Service Design Graphics
Internal Project - Service Design Graphics

Within companies:

Companies can be considered little communities/ societies that follow their own set of norms, dispose of a hierarchy, follow a vision, service others as a company and are filled with diverse people that carry out different tasks, provide different services for others and have their own aims. To give you an example, designaffairs is an international innovation & design company with a focus on combining the modern life and its consequential connectivity, with traditional design craftsmanship. This means, designaffairs disposes of experts from and operates in the fields of industrial design, mechanical engineering, usability, interaction design, user experience design, visual design, brand research, design research, etc. Hence, this company is made up of diverse people, that work differently, work for different clients (in different fields) and ultimate (inter-)act differently. Yet, the intend of designaffairs is to deliver quality services (and products) to its clients and employees, whether they focus on enhancing the collaboration between different (internal) experts in a project or catering to the client. As you can see the company is defined by services, actions, stakeholders, etc., diversity and complexity and therefore provides the grounds for applying service design and exploring/uncover an ecosystem (with the extension of hierarchies, visions, company culture, etc.). While the aim to enhance the services, experiences and actions (within and outside of the company) stay the same as for a project, applying service design and the big picture view in a company, differs in size and eventually in to-be-considered degree of detail or elements (i.e. hierarchy, company culture) than for a project that focuses on a service like “checking out of groceries”.

Internal Project - Service Design Graphics
Internal Project - Service Design Graphics


The big picture view, service design is able to provide, has the benefit of uncovering and mapping the entire ecosystem of one or multiple services or of an entire company (organizational change). Thought creating this big picture view takes major investment in research in the beginning, it will reduce the number of iterations and redo’s in the long-run and provide pin-point solutions as more variables (tangible or intangible), possibilities, limitations and consequences are known, to better cater to the stakeholders and towards the desired aims and experiences.

Join me in part 2 as we overcome mediocrity.

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