Service Design is a term that comes up in almost every recruitment client meeting we have at the moment in the UX team at Futureheads Recruitment. More often than not, Service Design seems to be misused and so we’ve put some thoughts and references together to clarify the latest phrase to be bouncing around the UX market.

– Service Design is a distinct discipline, you can get a degree in it. It’s often, however, used casually; whilst no one’s going to be locked up for doing so, it’s worth understanding the discipline before advertising for a Service Designer to avoid hiring the wrong person.

– UX Designers can become service designers because they have a common mind-set. And vice versa. But they are distinct disciplines and it takes hard work, training, and mentorship to transition.

Service designers work to unpack briefs and problems that then lead in to the design of services that are delivered across multiple touchpoints (both physical and digital)

– Service designers work to unpack briefs and problems that then lead in to the design of services that are delivered across multiple touchpoints (both physical and digital) for the customers. UX Designers are primarily focused on designing those digital touchpoints, which are otherwise known as digital products, websites or apps.

– UX Designers may think about the full service and how that relates to the digital product they’re designing, but ultimately key outputs lead in to the development of a website, app, or other digital product.

– Like UX Designers, Service Designers will often have a broad appreciation of other disciplines. These disciplines could be ethnography, architecture, visual design, interaction design, wayfinding.

– Service Designers will have an understanding about how to design and build digital products, but they would rarely be involved at a detailed level.

– As well as consumer facing touchpoints, Service Designers will normally outline the back end processes, systems and operations (again both off and online) needed to launch a new service.

– Service design has a more holistic perspective than UX. This perspective is important and means that it’s a service designer’s responsibility to consider everything together from the service proposition, to marketing, to the fulfilment, and ultimately leaving the service.

– As you can see from the above, the types of briefs and challenges a Service Designer and UX Designer tackles are quite different. As a result, the deliverables produced are different too. Service Designers will normally deliver things like insights, high level concepts, design principles, service maps, blueprints, customer journeys, proof of concept, and service prototypes. These deliverables are in comparison to a UX Designer’s toolkit of deliverables such as user journeys, sketches, sitemaps, wireframes, lo-fi and hi-fidelity digital prototypes.

Links to events, articles and books

Service Design Network (SDN) UK:

And SDN’s LinkedIn Group:

Service Design meetup:


If you’re interested in some of the professional qualifications, or just to see how the curriculum differs from other design and UX related disciplines, take a look at the courses delivered at the universities below.

Royal College of Art

Glasgow School of Art


London College of Communication – University of the Arts

To wrap up, it’s a positive move for Service Design to be buzzing around the market so hopefully the above will be a useful resource for clients looking to clarify what service design is, and also for UX Designers thinking about transitioning in to the discipline.

If you have thoughts on the above or references and events to share, please get in touch:

P.s. Many thanks to Dan Letts for helping proof read and tweak this article for me


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