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Design School Senior Researcher releases new book ‘Designing for Service: Key Issues and New Directions’

Written by
Jake May
Published date
20 April 2018

Dr Alison Prendiville, Senior Researcher from LCC’s Design School recently unveiled her latest book, Designing for Service: Key Issues and New Directions. Service design is the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers.

Bringing together a wide range of international contributors to map the field of service design and identify key issues for practitioners and researchers such as identity, ethics and accountability, Designing for Service aims to inform a more critical debate within the field. The contributors to this innovative volume consider the practice of service design, ethical challenges designers may encounter, and the new spaces opened up by the advent of modern digital technologies.

We spoke to the co-editor of the book, Alison, to hear more about what it involves and its importance today…

Congratulations on the launch! How does it feel to see it come to fruition and be published this year?

Producing a book is an immensely rewarding experience but also quite an endeavour. Working with Daniela Sangiorgi was also very inspiring and I feel very priviledged to have worked with such an accomplished person in the field.

Why do you feel it is important for students of the MA SEDI to read this book?

As Service Design as a field of practice and research reaches maturity, it was felt by Daniela Sangiorgi and myself that it was time to review and critically engage with the harder questions that relate to its adoption and implementation within organisations and communities.

Students need to see Service Design as more then a set of tools and methods but as an area of design that actively engages with changes within organisations and communities. This raises many issues around ethics, responsibilities and evaluation and also expands the discipline itself.

In addition we wanted to make students aware that the adoption of service design and design thinking by non-designers is also now critial and they need to understand their role within organisations and that of the non-designers and the differences they may deliver.

Dr. Alison Prendiville

Can you give us a brief overview of Designing for Service: Key Issues and New Directions?

The book consists of twelve co-authored essaying covering a range of issues relating to Service Design research which emerged through an earlier funded AHRC Network grant in 2012 “Mapping and Developing Service Design Research in the UK.” The essays arose through the Network activities and identied a number of areas that needed addressing:

• The ambiguity of designing for service and the difficulty of setting up clear cut borders and definitions.
• The recognition that services are deeply embedded in organizational systems.
• The need for more evidenced based framework to evaluate SD’s contribution innovation
• The attention drawn to SD’s capacity in Social Innovation and the need for speed to deliver sustainable models to replace existing public sector services.

The book is divided into four sections: The lay of the land in designing for service; Contemporary discourses and influence in designing for service; Designing for service in public and social spaces; Designing for service, shifting economies, emerging markets. In each section a range of authors address, with case studies, topics that fit within the broader headings.

What are some of the subjects included in Designing for Service?

Designing for Service covers many themes and subjects. For example Eva-Maria Kirchberger and Bruce Tether provide a fascinating overview of the chaning nature of commissioning service designers and how they are increasingly tasked with complex challenges such as Engines commission of Dubai Airport and how this inevitably will transform their offering including change and management approaches.

Glenn Robert and Alistair MacDonald explore the key differences between the approaches used by designers and non-designers in the field of healthcare improvement with this touching on the need to integrate complement existing service design language and culture. Myself, Ian Gwilt and Val Mitchell looked at service design and its role as a sense making activity in large-scale digital data sets through a process of translation, visualization and persuasion’ to help organizations turn the abstract and intangible nature of Big Data into human-centred services with social and economic value.

How long was it in the making – what was the most challenging aspect?

The book really came out of the AHRC grant started in 2012 completed in 2013. So from the end of the research to 2016 approxmiately three years. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges is ‘not seeing the wood from the trees’. After the twelve essays had been submitted we categorised them into the sections but we had a sense that we were missing something in the overall structure.

What did you hope to achieve through this work?

We both felt it was important to develop the discourse around service design and further develop its criticality especially its fit with the boundaries of other service related disciplines. Further, we needed to expand and redefine its role and reach. The different contributions are from lots of different academics and experts in their own fields and we wanted to reflect the diversity of designing for service and different lens for understanding it.

“Students need to see Service Design as more then a set of tools and methods but as an area of design that actively engages with changes within organisations and communities” — Alison Prendiville

What do you want readers to take away from the book?

We want people to realise the scope of the area as well presenting some of the more contentious issues relating to service design. This is an amazingly exciting time for practice and research but we also wanted to hightlight and open up discussion on its diversity and complexity. Service design is highly interdisciplinary and offers many opportunities for new contexts so we hope the book also provides inspiration to explore the area further whilst engaging with its limitations.

What might students of the MA Service Experience and Design Innovation course go on to doing after graduating?

The majority of the MDSEDI students go on to work as Service Designers in a range of commercial service design consultances from those focusing on digital products, local government and public sector work and also more commercial projects. The employment record is very impressive and very broad.

What are you currently researching or working on?

Currently I am working on two research projects. The first is an AHRC grant as a Co-I with Glasgow School of Arts as PI on a project callen RIPEN (Re-envisioning Infection Practice Ecologies in Nursing) this is part of the AHRC call looking at anti-microbrial resistance in the built environment. The second is a EU Horizon 2020 grant, Pharma Factory, working with St Georges and nine other partners developing public engagment around plant based molecular farmed pharmaceuticals.

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