The Service Design Role | Wired Sussex

14 Sep 2021

14 Sep 2021

Unshrouding The Secrecy Surrounding The Service Design Role

What The Heck Is A Service Designer & What Do They Do?

Here at Wired Sussex, we’d be willing to bet that when it comes to UX or graphic design most people have a rudimentary understanding of what these jobs entail. Service design roles, on the other hand, remain somewhat of an enigma. Even if you possess some prior design industry experience, the service design job title is vague, wishy-washy and very little can be deduced from it. With that in mind, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to lift the lid of secrecy and mystery that surrounds the service designer role. So, what are you waiting for? Join us as we get to grips with service design basics and find out precisely what working as a service designer entails. Let service design lesson 101 commence!

So, What Is Service Design?

According to the Service Design Network, a not-for-profit institution for expertise in service design, it can be described as the following:

“Service design is the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers. The purpose of service design methodologies is to design according to the needs of customers or participants, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers”. 

Now, hands up who struggled to wrap their head around those two sentences? Quite frankly, if you did, we don’t blame you! Service design can be hard to comprehend. Let's unpick exactly what it means. We’ll do that first by rewinding a few steps and getting to grips with what a service even is. Put simply, a service can be considered an interaction between a user and company which helps the user to complete a goal. Simple enough, right?

As far as what service design is, well, at its core, it’s all about planning for or creating interactions between customers and companies. Service designers are generally most concerned with designing for the bigger picture, both on and offline, and always have users at the forefront of their mind. They must consider factors that will affect a human at every single stage of their interaction with a service. 

One way to break this definition down even further is to use an analogy. Take the example of a restaurant - it consists of individuals with various roles: pot washer, front of house staff, chefs and managers. From sourcing ingredients to how the front of house staff communicate food requirements to chefs, service design focuses on how the restaurant operates as a whole and delivers the food it promises. Each moving part plays its role in helping the food arrive at a customer’s plate, even if the customer themself doesn’t explicitly experience the behind the scenes elements.

Got It! But Hang On, What’s The Difference Between Service Design And UX?

The difference between service design and UX design is the nature of the design problem they are trying to solve. UX designers work out problems that are confined to an individual product or moments, known as ‘touchpoints’, within a service. Alternatively, service designers tend to focus on the wider, end-to-end, experience. Their perspectives also vary in that UX designers tend to start with the ideal end experience and work their way backwards. Service designers, you could argue, do not commence their work in this way. Instead, they look to make broader improvements to people, processes, assets and culture within a company which, indirectly, influences a customer's entire experience. 

Ok, So What Does A Service Designer Do On A Daily Basis?
Service Design Roles & Responsibilities

In a service design job, your daily duties and responsibilities will vary according to the company you work for and their precise business goals. That said, there are some common, day to day duties a service designer is likely to take ownership of. They include, but are not limited to, the following tasks: 

  • Mapping the service experience of users
  • Understanding and explaining how services need to change from a user-centred perspective
  • Using both quantitative and qualitative data insights to design solutions and strategic propositions
  • Working closely with researchers to define users needs
  • Designing, setting and building usability tests for service prototypes
  • Measuring the impact of their work and communicating it to clients, management or stakeholders
  • Promoting service design principles, innovation and change throughout their company

Let’s Talk Service Design Skills: What’s Required?

Now we’ve cleared up what service design is, and explored what a typical day looks like, let's demystify the skills that are required to succeed in a service design job. A combination of the following soft and hard service design skills are necessary: 

  • Have A Design Driven & User-Centric Approach
    Service designers need to be able to understand users, identify who they are and what their needs or pain points are, based on evidence. They put users first and propose design approaches or services to meet their needs.
  • Be Empathetic
    Somewhat related to the above, central to service design is the ability to put yourself in other’s shoes. On the one hand, you need to demonstrate empathy to users, who will navigate the experience you have created. On the other hand, you need to be able to empathise with internal stakeholders who are doing their best to deliver the service despite constraints. Service designers act almost as a mediator or facilitator between the two. 
  • Be A Systems Thinker
    An ability to think on a systems level is key to being a service designer. This means balancing a high-level view and a more detailed view throughout the design experience and being able to make sense of both. Indeed, how all aspects of the service integrate and impact each other, in the context of the larger service ecosystem, fall within a service designers remit.
  • Other attributes a service designer must possess include curiosity, storytelling and leadership skills.

Finally, What’s A Typical Service Designer Salary In The UK?

Your earning potential as a service designer, naturally, relies on many factors, including the type, size and location of the company you work for. As a rough guide, though, the average service designer salary in the UK is approximately £41k. If you are just starting out in this career, you can expect your junior service designer salary to be around the £27k mark. Once you become more established, have plenty of experience working on multiple projects under your belt, a senior service designer salary will see you take home somewhere in the region of £56k.

Next Steps....

Are you seeking a service design job, based in Sussex? At Wired Sussex, we connect talented job seekers with awesome companies. Why not check out the current service design vacancies available on our jobs board?