Part II – How the International Service Design Institute Hopes to Be Part of Every Service Designer’s Professional Growth

While taping a podcast to promote Be Relevant!, a guide to service design for a non-profit audience, I met Naomi Lantzman, a non-profit designer and consultant.  She and I quickly discovered a kinship, as in she wanted to share (teach) service design knowledge, and I was hoping to provide an organizational structure for service design.

Our interests quickly merged into an organization that became the International Service Design Institute which we envisioned as a professional development clearinghouse for service designers.  Our intention was for the Institute to serve as a source of credible information that service designers could use in practice.

All along we felt there was a strong need. We found a number of resources available to service designers, but there was little cohesion, and some of the materials by those who had never played a role in designing a service. Some of the materials we came across left us scratching our heads over how to put them in practice.

This is not merely self-interest or to disparage others, by any means, it’s just that in more technically-oriented practices there are roadmaps, typically developed by a select group of practitioners and then peer-reviewed. In my experience, I had taken part in preserving the Book of Knowledge for Systems Engineering and came to realize how a BoK protects a field of practice, and equally important, the value of a BoK for providing a means assess the knowledge and skills of practitioners.

A BoK is no easy task from any perspective. But we saw the Institute as perhaps a catalyst for servicer designers to come together and participate in building a BoK.  Hope remains.

In its absence, we would need to do our due diligence around the materials presented by the Institute.  Satisfying that minimum threshold, the Institute would have to ensure the techniques presented would work in practice.  As a starting point, we used our own knowledge and learnings based on accomplishments.  Additionally, we participated in design workshops in hopes of encountering successful service designers and learning from their experiences. And on top of that, we researched case studies and scholarly articles, discovering the origin and evolution of some of the techniques, and how they have been used. We were particularly interested in how the techniques were used to solve challenges in a range of sectors.

With the accumulated materials, notes, and resources, we set out to develop an outline that would guide us forward.  This outline was a means to begin laying out a progressive, sequential roadmap that could be used for designing a service from beginning to end—a guide for which we had not found elsewhere. More to the point, the guide was a significant milestone for the Institute, and given its importance to evolving our mission, we turned developed it into a brochure-type for our audience.

The International Service Design Institute is continually in a tug of war between credible content and its access to users. Access refers to how users can understand and use the materials, and also to how they can get it, including the technological aspect. These two issues are so intertwined, impacting each other.

Against this backdrop, a dilemma arose for how to satisfy service designers of various professional levels and with different learning objectives.  Some of the learners, we reasoned, would be new to service design and want to learn more; others would want to begin on a path to a service design career; then there would be those who didn’t want the basics, instead, wanting to refresh their knowledge of common techniques, and then there were senior service designers who came to us for advanced service design techniques.

Our materials do cover each of these objectives, but the Institute needed a way to appeal and distribute the catalog to satisfy each group’s needs.

In Part III – we discuss how the Institute evolves by satisfying different user needs and plans going forward.