Service design: mastering the orchestra

August 30, 2018

Jarkko Kurronen and Sandra Viña, service designers at M4ID, offered a snapshot view of three ways service design functions within our field

By Margaret Ann Collier

M4ID has recognised the correlation between a strong service design team and optimising health solutions in low-resource settings. How exactly does service design function within a social impact company? Drawing from myriad experiences, these two seasoned designers shed light onto some key elements of service design and its functionality in tackling global health challenges.

  1. A systemic approach

In healthcare, it is nearly impossible for an individual designer or design agency to create solutions that consider all possible implications. This information can only be obtained through interdisciplinary knowledge networks spanning across different professions and institutions. Local experts, policy makers, and organisations working in international development must become involved in the design process.

“The role of the service designer is not to come up with solutions, but to facilitate the service development process between the different stakeholders in order to form a common understanding of the challenges and to co-create a vision of the desired outcomes,” says Jarkko. “By building prototypes, designers can help in testing where there are worthwhile future investments.”

  1. Two foundational levels: macro and micro

Taking into consideration an interdisciplinary work model and the network of stakeholders, Sandra tells us that a zoom-in and zoom-out practice is created. When one zooms out, the whole picture or message of a service is visible on a macro level, which also relates to the systemic approach described above.

By zooming in, one can see on a micro level, the individual points contributing to the overall, macro picture. These micro points may include individual products, digital solutions, and face-to-face interactions, rooted in human-centred design. Achieving these individual micro components must be done skillfully, taking into consideration the particular setting and its developmental needs.

“Service design is like mastering an orchestra” says Sandra. “You see the whole picture, but you need to zoom in to see the intricate details that create resonance, contributing to a whole.”

  1. Cultural competence

In service design, one must gain an overall understanding of the cultural backgrounds and life courses of those we intend to serve. Sandra tells us that we cannot develop viable solutions for a specific place without a strong understanding of social codes, belief systems, cultural views and other conventions that influence daily lives and practices. It is hence critical to place partners and communities at the forefront of our work and to support the design process through facilitation and technical assistance. Additionally, service design requires a strong network of partners who are rooted in the context and community we seek to support.