Reading Time: 10 min | Nov 2021

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Design Special

Service Design Special: Creating Experiences

Bigger parts of the western world live a life of abundance: Too much information, too many ideas, concepts, opportunities and offerings. What to do? What to believe? What to eat, to buy and not to buy?

As for customers and companies alike: It is always good to know the real needs, to be taken by the hand and to take by the hand. This is why Service Design is getting more and more important every day: Now more than ever, companies, who do not want to be left behind, need to adopt a radical focus on user needs.

This growing focus on the user and customer is what we, at iF, have noticed as well: The entries for the iF DESIGN AWARD for the young discipline of service design have more than tripled in the last four years!

For our big iF Design Special on "Service Design", we talked to experts on their turn on the topic, we show the best of the best in this discipline and give you some service as well: With the best pages on the topic and our five steps to the perfect service design experience!


2019: Endoscopy Department Transformation / Hospital interior design (Philips)
The goal of this re-design was to optimize the entire end-to-end endoscopy experience from the moment a patient is scheduled to their follow-up call post-procedure. A seamless workflow, patient flow, and service delivery strategy was co-designed with staff and supported by a spatial environment design. Intelligent zoning of procedure and scope cleaning rooms improves safety and staff performance while reducing travel distances. Dedicated prep bays with tunable ambient light canopies enhance patient privacy and comfort and help create a unique experience for patients.
2019: SXT Partner Notification Service / Digital service by bitzesty
Each year around 357 million people are diagnosed with a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). The challenge is getting diagnosed patients to notify their partners whom they might have infected - which is not a conversation people like to have. This novel digital service allows diagnosed patients, or the clinic, to anonymously notify partners that they are at risk of an STI via text message, encouraging them to get tested and helping them to find the nearest clinic and book an appointment online. The designers made sure that the service is easy to use for clinicians, patients and partners. Since its launch, over 7,500 people have been notified.
2019: WeChat Scan&Go / Retail scanning app
In the last decade, the retail environment in China has been transformed beyond recognition, both in terms of choice and comfort. However, one inconvenience has stubbornly persisted: the long checkout lines at major supermarkets during peak customer flow periods (mainly after work and at weekends). Thanks to WeChat, China's premier social media app (over 1 billion monthly active users), that hassle can now be a thing of the past. The multipurpose app includes a code scanning feature that turns every smartphone into a virtual checkout counter. Just scan, pay and go. No need to queue. It's as simple as that.
2018: werk_39 / Co-innovation architecture
Werk_39 is the new co-innovation lab of the medical technology company Aesculap AG. It represents a holistic approach to brand architecture that goes far beyond business cards and branded biros. Werk_39 reflects the context of the historic factory architecture and combines tradition with modernity to generate an authentic and remarkable brand. To initiate a creative working culture with a start-up-like infrastructure, the designers developed a collaborative approach that involved those who work in Werk_39 and the interior designers.
2018: High Risk Pregnancy Toolkit / Antenatal toolkit
This product was designed to help lay and professional healthcare workers recognize and explain the signs of high-risk pregnancies to women living in fragile environments. This toolkit comprises a durable tear-proof set of referral cards, which act as a teaching aid, plus a battery-less fetal stethoscope (fetoscope) that allows both the health worker and expectant mother to hear the baby’s heartbeat, thus offering a unique experience at the healthcare facility. Philips Design, the International Committee Red Cross, and the Philips Foundation joined forces to help healthcare workers in the field provide better services to pregnant mothers with complications.

"Service Design" is one of the most exciting disciplines every year in the iF DESIGN AWARD. As the number of entries grew over the years, so did the quality. From digital to real life services: We are impressed how innovative user-centric design can be! See below our best practice examples by swiping through the most recent iF gold honors - from solutions for better patient-care in hospitals to finding the best hotel via app!

Download Service Design White Paper: Five Principles of Good Service Design by Oliver Gerstheimer

„'Holistic design' is one of the major components of Service Design“, says iF Juror Oliver Gerstheimer, founder and CEO of chilli mind – a think tank for Digital System Design and UX Design Innovations. He has been also a key speaker and expert on various events and lectures on Design Thinking, Customer Experience and Service Design since 2001.

There is probably no other discipline, that is harder to differentiate – even for professionals in the field. Though, it is no question of definition only. It is a question of what good Service Design is – we asked him about his personal day-to-day principles when “designing a service or service strategy”.

Oliver Gerstheimer
"For service designers, it's important to internalize that a holistic service system is completely and freely designable and configurable – both analog and digital."

White Paper "Five Principles of Good Service Design"


Service Design Book Recommendations

There is no other design discipline with this abundance of literature like Service Design. The lists of counselor books, tipps and best-practice handbooks for professionals seems never-ending. The theories go in many directions. Below you can find three most recent recommendations, that offer a great overview and are helpful in the everyday work as a service designer:

2013: Thinking Design:
Transdiziplinäre Konzepte für Planer und Entwerfer (Rittel new edition): Reuter, Wolf D.; Jonas, Wolfgang (Editor); Birkhäuser

2016: Contextual Design:
Design for Life: Holzblatt, Karen; Beyer, Hugh. Morgan Kaufmann Second Edition

2017: Introduction to Service Design:
Designing the Invisible; Lara Penin, Bloomsbury Visual Arts

Video_Interview_ Service Design with Professor Birgit Mager

Video: Service Design with Professor Birgit Mager

Birgit Mager is not only an iF Juror since 1995, she also holds the first European professorship for “Service Design” at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne, Germany.

Birgit is also the founder and head of “zefo”, the Center for Research Communication, a member of the research project for “Digital Technologies and Social Work” at the TH Cologne, a founding member and president of the international Service Design Network as well as the editor of “Touchpoint”, an international journal for service design. She lectures and teaches as a speaker and visiting professor at many universities around the world.

In the video interview she talks about the challenges to define Service Design and the challenges designers in this field face.


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