Service Design has been adopted by Amazon, Google, Airbnb, Toyota, Uber, Capital One, Pepsi, and Marriott and many other renown brands to build and improve lines of service (LOS).

Apple founder Steve Jobs experimented with Service Design techniques, according to his biographer. Jobs applied Service Design principles to influence consumers and speed up the sales cycle for the company’s products and services. One can see the effects of service design’s user-centric approach in the design and feel of its products, the retail store experience, customer support, and even packaging. Service Design was the overarching discipline for conveying the possibilities consumers could realize using Apple products and services. The results included long lines of loyal fans waiting outside retail stores to be among the first to own the latest product release. The techniques were also responsible for the company’s rise from near-obsolescence as an education-based product, to the largest company in the world, far surpassing its nearest competitor Microsoft.

Service Design, meanwhile, is the only practice solely focused on ensuring successful Lines of Service (LOS); much like product design offers a process for building products. Until its establishment as a practice, services were trial and error, and mostly error.

Service Design is a practice whose seeds were planted by G. Lynn Shostack, who in 1983 wrote of a need for standards and a common lexicon for achieving quality services.  “No one systematically quantifies the process or devises tests to ensure that the service is complete, rational, and fulfills the original need,” she said, adding, “No R&D departments, laboratories, or service engineers define or oversee the design.”

Shostack proposed a service a Service Blueprint as a starting point, and her ideas were embraced by academics in Cologne, Germany.  This group showed services could be designed and tested using tools and models familiar to ethnographists, behavioral scientists, human systems integrators, sociologists, and systems engineers. Some of the models have been re-tooled for Service Design. Others are recognizable from the field of marketing. In total, they comprise an emerging field that working groups with sufficient knowledge of their organizations can use.

Service Design evolved from the laboratory to practice, when some European Union governments looked to Service Design to help integrating public works projects that could serve a variety of multi-cultural users. The practice proved successful and caught the eye of several entrepreneurs including Apple Founder Steve Jobs. According to his biographer, Jobs began experimenting with Service Design techniques to leverage the user-centric approach to the sales cycle.

Jobs applied Service Design throughout the company’s customer interactions, purposefully conveying the attitude and feeling behind owning an Apple product.  The techniques were used to influence buyers by emphasizing lifestyle enhancements around arts, culture, and music, accessible through better internet browsing, photography, movie making, music making, and organizing entertainment collections.