Topic 1

Viable service ideas solve a user problem, make a routine task easier, or achieve a desired outcome. Each of these criteria share in common the objective to serve a user need, which is the purpose of service design.

The field of Service design is defined as a non-aesthetic user-centric discipline. Non-aesthetic in this context means the design process does not rely on visuals. While visuals play a role in presenting ideas and results, service designers do not need graphic design skills to develop designs.

The reference to user-centric describes the focus on users, specifically developing services around users. In fact, all the tools and methods of service design are at all times intended to ensure the user remains the focus of a design.

This brings us around to developing ideas for services in ways that meet user needs.

Below are some of the methods we have found valuable.

 1. Probing Personas

2. Seizing an Opportunity

3. Spotting a Trend

4. Creating a Need


A persona is a representation of a group of like-minded users. Each persona is represented by a fictional person who reflects the larger group, all of whom might share a desirable trait, interest, or motivation.  For service designers, a persona is an important tool for designing services that serve a collective group of users.

Google, Airbnb, Walmart, Starbucks, Uber, Capital One, and Marriott are among the many service-oriented consumer brands that rely on personas. They use personas in a variety of ways, including for new service ideas.

These companies will survey the personas to explore unmet needs.  Once these needs are identified, service designers can expand on them for viability, using such techniques as brainstorming.


Individuals with similar interests, motivations, and other characteristics are grouped into a template (image to right). The completed templates, named after a fictional individual, become a persona that serves as a valuable tool for designing services.

Its primary use is to define the users of the service. The template and the fictional naming is intended so the persona is memorable; it also serves as a shorthand when referring to the target audience with others.

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Personas For Strategy

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Exercise to Develop Your Skills

The image to the left represents how multiple personas can be used for organizational strategy.  This one reflects a non-profit organization’s desire to grow and sustain its membership.

Identify three personas in your organization and identify a service that might meet their needs.


Your personas should be surveyed using either focus groups or sample polling.  The results from either of these research instruments will be a start to generating ideas.

These ideas should be captured and brought forward into brainstorming exercises with group participants.  Brainstorming, an ideation technique used the world over to generate innovation, has evolved over time to include a number of ideation methods.

Alex F. Osborn, (May 24, 1888 – May 5, 1966) is the creator of brainstorming.

The Origins of Brainstorming

Osborn was the ‘O’ in BDO, one of the largest advertising agencies. He rose to executive VP and later served on the board. before resigning to write books on innovation. 
He described brainstorming in his 1942 book “Think Up” as a method of extracting spontaneous ideas from groups of participants. As part of the method he came up with the well-known phrase – “No idea is a bad idea.”      


Moderator’s Role

Brainstorming, a technique that relies on a moderator supplying cues and inputs to group participants, is intended for creativity and problem-solving. A brainstorming group can also be tasked to sort through a collection of ideas and select the ones that are most worthy.

For either objective, choosing the right moderator is quite important.

Brainstorm Moderator’s Credo

Aim For Quantity: Foster as many ideas, the more the better, increasing the likelihood of an effective solution.

Withhold Criticism: No idea is dismissed, particularly in the early brainstorming stages. This encourages uninhibited responses with new perspectives.

Success Is Fidelity To The Process:  The initial aim is to collect a stack of suggestions to then develop further.

Combine And Improve: At any point in collection, divert the group to any idea-generating techniques, from association, to extensions, and building on.

A collection of techniques to use in brainstorming

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Next Steps

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