Service Design Blueprint


Service design, or the design of value exchange between a service provider (company) and a service participant (customer), is an approach with enormous potential; delivering on that potential requires action. Service design is meant to inspire and direct action in the form of implementation. To make deliverables that drive action, I propose three key considerations.

Service design and size

Designers are familiar with the complex processes of identifying human-centered needs and addressing them with new or redesigned products. Service designers, taking a systems view, identify system-wide human needs and address them by coordinating complex solutions across touchpoints. It’s about, among other things, scale.

Accordingly, service design deliverables are often large scale communication pieces. Service blueprints are often posters, as are customer journeys, ecosystem maps, and even diagrams and matrices of service offerings. The intent behind these large scale communication pieces (I’ll call them posters for brevity’s sake) can range from capturing the present state, to identifying breakdowns, to envisioning an ideal future.

Designing at large size is a natural inclination when communicating large scale. Posters, often rare in the age of slide decks, get people excited about change, and they physically bring people together around a tangible object. As designers, the poster format allows us to design multiple levels of information - from the big picture story down to the supporting details - making for a more thorough examination of the service delivery. However, large scale is not always the right size.

Service design and time

To operationalize complex service insights, we need to design for clarity of message, customer value, and stakeholders goals, but it’s easy to forget one key consideration: longevity. How long is the deliverable relevant? And how can it stay involved in the process of change?

For all its positive qualities, a poster is sadly static. Internally, it’s unlikely that a company will go back to a large print piece and update it. It is simply too difficult to re-distribute, personalize, and re-socialize. It is a moment in time, and even if it serves as a reminder of the customer or end-to-end experience, its shining moment of relevance is always behind it.

In truth, this is often not a problem. If service design is being used to examine and better understand key players, processes, or breakdowns in the current state, the timeline of relevance is short and sweet and the poster serves as a physical trophy of an organizational win. However, if designers are trying to incite and design change, consideration of longevity is absolutely essential.

Designing (for) change

Change is an ongoing conversation. It takes time for an organization to align its business units, coordinate touchpoints across them, and deliver a new, more seamless, and more successful service to the customer. The larger the organization and proposed changes, the longer it can take.

The mapping of that delta needs to be inspiring, but it also needs to stay in circulation, stay in discussion, and be easily edited and updated as part of a (hopefully) collaborative internal effort of change. There are many reasons the slide deck is king, and the meeting of these needs is high among them. Sometimes, a service blueprint in an excel document or a customer journey broken up into a PowerPoint presentation is the most effective deliverable.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing an alternative to the poster (and a topic near to many of our hearts): Experience Prototyping. At its most strategic, experience prototyping includes things like screens prototyped in defined contexts, scripts for ideal service delivery that stakeholders can act out, and photo-based stories of a future state presented in a slide deck format. The act of designing the Experience Prototype brings focus and clarity to the service, and the prototype itself can be designed to change and grow with the organization over time.

If we want service design to have the impact we as designers think it can have, we need to create the stimuli that shapes conversations. We can only be change agents if we act as strategic partners who make strategic deliverables. That means size, time, and change are essential considerations for service design deliverables.