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Service design and positive impact

25/7/2023

Our economy is increasingly based on services, and less and less on the sale of physical products. Moreover, in the midst of the climate crisis, producing and selling more and more products no longer makes sense. But, if the trend is towards producing less, what will be the role of people dedicated to design?

Service Design: a broad view of design

In a story about Berlin Design Week we talked about new roles for Design. Specifically, we talked about Service Design, and how other design disciplines (industrial, graphic...) can be present within this broader discipline. In fact, Service Design already has its own award category in the iF awards, as we mentioned in the previous story.

Service Design is an activity that has a lot of potential to help organizations (not only companies) to create value. And, at the same time, contribute to making brands sustainable and committed to their environment. It is an activity that goes beyond products: it focuses on the complete experience that an organization offers, as well as the processes that make it possible.

In our daily lives, we interact with different services all the time. When we go to a restaurant, we are not only buying a product (food), there is a whole service. We are welcomed and served, we are offered a place to stay, we are cooked and our food is brought to us... It is not only the food that is part of the experience. It is also the person who serves us, how they speak to us and how they treat us. And the restaurant space, with its interior design and furnishings. And what happens in the waiting period between when we order and when the food is brought to us.

In addition, services have a part with which users interact. It is the experience we receive through different points of contact: the front end. But they also have another part that is not seen, which are the processes that make that experience possible: the back. Going back to the restaurant example:

  • The person who has taken our notes must take them to the kitchen;
  • For the kitchen to work, the ingredients must have been purchased on time;
  • And so, many other processes that occur behind the curtain.

Service Design can look at the whole human experience. Not only on those who receive the service (users), but also on those who make it possible (workers, mainly).

Designing services with positive impact

How does Service Design contribute to sustainability and people's well-being? A very clear example is through servitization: a Circular Economy strategy that consists of transforming a product into a service.

We have cases of servitization in the electronics sector, with companies such as Repeat that, instead of manufacturing products to sell, offer a subscription service. Thus, when the user no longer needs them, they can be returned to the company to be circulated, offering the same product to another user. We also have cases of servitization in the food sector, with companies such as Bumerang from Barcelona and Reusa'm from Valencia. Both companies offer food packaging as a service: people who use these containers then return them to one of the network's establishments so that they can be reused.

In all these cases of servitization, the entire service is designed with the experience of the people receiving it in mind. Of course, for servitization to work, i.e. offering a Product as a Service, the product itself needs to be designed appropriately. Repeat's headphones or the food packaging offered by Bumerang and Reusa'm must be designed to be durable over many uses.

Servitization is an example of service design with positive impact that is increasingly being applied in companies. However, there are more examples, even in public organizations. Mariana Salgado, creator of the podcast Design and Diaspora, works as a researcher and service designer within the Finnish Ministry of the Interior. Also Muhammad Khan, who we know through the World Design Organization, works in Service Design in the public sector, in this case in Canada. Muhammad does research on how to improve the experience that migrants have with the services offered by the public administration. For example, the processes they have to follow to get documentation, with different points of contact such as the web, forms, phone calls...

Public administrations offer different services that have a great impact on citizens, their welfare and the sustainability of the city. Undoubtedly, the public health service is an example. So is the service of issuing documents such as ID cards or passports. And, of course, the public transport service, which is key to sustainable mobility.

In relation to sustainable mobility, we were talking with Oyer Corazón of Hecho&Co about the design of the identity of Metro Madrid, made by his father Alberto Corazón. This was a talk we had at the headquarters of SANNAS Asociación de Empresas por el Triple Balance, to which both Hecho and Monnou belong. We came to the conclusion that the work with Metro Madrid had not only been a visual identity design work. Service Design had been applied, studying the whole experience that citizens can have with the subway, with different points of contact: cards, maps, signage ... Undoubtedly, a work where it is very important to take into account the accessibility and sustainability of the entire route that is made with Metro Madrid.

The design of Metro Madrid's identity system shows how important it is to take into account the whole context of a service. But it also shows the importance of aesthetics at every touch point. During the IF Awards gala we talked to Ana Relvão from Relvãokellermann studio about this. We were talking about how the final aesthetics is part of the overall experience you have with the service, and therefore should not be neglected. At Monnou we pay a lot of attention to this: designing sustainable services with a well thought-out route, in which, in addition, each point of contact has a carefully designed aesthetic.

Service Design at Monnou

When designing new services for companies and startups, or redesigning existing ones, user research is key. In the case of circular fashion startup Alternew, the service digitally connects tailors with customers who have their clothes repaired. Research was conducted with tailors, customers and also with Alternew's internal team (remember the importance of the organization's internal users). Thus, we shaped the journey people take when interacting with Alternew and the processes involved in making the service work. But we also shaped the different touch points: the app for tailors and customers, and Alternew's internal admin panel. Here, aesthetics and brand identity are part of the experience and had to be applied judiciously.

At Monnou we have also designed the training experiences we offer in our Academy, with a Service Design approach. One example is Summer Bio Lab, a weekend experience in Nature created together with Imita Natura, where we carry out activities related to Biomimicry. Here, we have designed the entire journey that the participants make, the branding of the event, and some specific products: a notebook; canvases and other printed materials; molds for biomaterials; etc.

Another of our training experiences is Vórtice Circular, a Circular Economy Escape Room that we have created together with Cultura Circular. Here, again, not only the whole journey of the user experience has been designed. Also, every element, physical or digital, with which the participants interact. Digital PDF presentations, physical boxes that are part of the activity, cards and other printed materials... have been designed with sustainability and aesthetics in mind. Even music, lights and the interior space where the activity takes place have been taken into account in the design.

Service Design also helps us in the design of brands that are conscious and committed to their environment. By analyzing the entire experience that each brand offers to its stakeholders (not just customers), we can work on each brand touch point to design sustainable corporate identity materials with positive impact.

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