Human-Centered Service Design

I am a Senior UX Designer but a Junior Service Designer. And I’m excited about every opportunity to learn more about service design. So I took IDEO U:s excellent online course about Human-Centered Service Design. These are my main takeaways from that course.

Human-centered service design -title image

The course

Human-Centered Service Design” was a five-week online course. It had high quality video-lessons, great online reading material, hands-on practices and peer-reviews. The goal was to complete a practice service design -project during the course.

The course proceeded along these lines:

Service design course outline - tasks per each week

I found the course very useful and can recommend it to anyone interested in this topic! 👍

From UX Designer to Service Designer

Turned out that as a UX Designer I’m already somewhat equipped to do service design. There are so many similarities, even though there are differences, too.


As a UX Designer I have a design thinking mindset:

  • I put users first
  • I prefer facts from research over opinions,
  • I like to prototype, test & iterate, and
  • I like to collaborate with different stakeholders.

For a Service Designer, the mindset is pretty much the same.


As a UX Designer I have the following toolset:

  • user research methods,
  • data visualization techniques,
  • UX & UI design
  • prototyping
  • user testing and usability evaluation

For a Service Designer, many similar techniques are in use. Although in service design…

  • The research has wider scope, because the design target is wider, too
  • The prototyping methods are more diverse. This is because the elements that we prototype are more versatile, too. They are not only digital ones.
  • The visualization techniques are more focused the big picture. They illustrates all the components that affect the service as a whole.


As a UX Designer I…

  • discover information and insights from research,
  • ideate solutions,
  • prototype,
  • test
  • and iterate.

For a Service Designer – the process is the same.

Design target and scope

The biggest differences between UX and Service Design are the design target and scope.

As a UX Designer the main focus is often on a single service moment. Typically it is a digital one, such as a web application. Also the focus is mostly on the users or customers of that service moment.

For a Service Designer the focus is much broader. It is the whole service, with its many service moments before, during and after the service. These moments are interactions between the customer and the service provider. And they can be digital, physical or interpersonal. The focus is not JUST on the customer. It is also on the people providing the service (hence it’s “human-centered”). Service design considers both the elements that are visible to the customer and the elements that happen behind the scenes.

A service blueprint with a service designer looking at the whole service and UX designer at one service moment

It is possible to do service design even with a UX Designer background. (Even I completed the course and got a certificate.) But there are also things to learn. I’m looking forward to learn even more! 🙂


Read also about the fitness class service design project I did on this course!

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