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I defended my Ph.D. project!

Actionable service design deliverables

What did my research focus on?

My doctoral research is centered upon designing services that dominate today’s economy, such as telecommunications, banking, and e-commerce, among others. Previously, services were designed by people not educated in design. Currently, they are the focus of designers who practice service design as a human-centered and design-led discipline of developing new complex systems.

Although services are intangible, service design is a highly visual and tangible practice. In the canon of service design visualizations, there are service blueprints, customer journey maps, and personas. By using various visualization techniques and design materials, service designers externalize their thinking, share their ideas, communicate design insights, and capture the experiential aspects of services. Furthermore, visualizations are usually the outcomes that designers deliver to their business clients as a result of the service design process.

Sharing the outcomes in the form of visualizations is a common practice when outsourcing design expertise. Outsourcing is the predominant model of practicing service design in Poland, the country of my origin in which I conducted the doctoral research.

Business clients typically work with factual data, so they find it challenging to work with design outcomes without support from designers. As service designers lacked guidance on providing design outcomes that could operate independently in a business context, my doctoral research focused on investigating the attributes of visualizations relevant to business clients.

What is the main result?

The result of my doctoral thesis contributes to the field of service design by developing knowledge regarding actionability, the quality or the state of being usable and capable of being acted upon in a business setting. In short, actionability allows a decision to be made and be put into practice. This contribution regarding actionability was then used to create a toolkit which supports service design practitioners in adding actionability to the outcomes of their processes when working with business clients.

Service design outcomes require reframing to become actionable. Therefore, by using the developed actionable attributes and qualities, service designers can deliver outcomes that provide multiple layers of meaning, while also making the design insights tangible and shareable with others, thus allowing clients to focus on the important aspects of service implementation.

The concept of actionability aims to encourage service design practitioners to think about the impact of the outcomes they deliver during the service design process and to think beyond the scope of the design project. In this sense, actionability reframes service design as the practice of co-creating change and value.

What is something that no-one has written or talked of before?

The novelty of this doctoral research is rooted in the discussion regarding transformative aspects of design outcomes. The research developed a set of actionable attributes and qualities that invite service designers to transform their outcomes into forms that are, for instance, memorable or experienceable, if that would be essential for service implementation. The actionable qualities inform and inspire designers to go beyond their standard forms of outcomes and be more open to experimenting with various forms of sharing design insights that are individually curated and actionable for non-designers. These novel attributes support the adjustment of the deliverables to the business context, needs, and capabilities.


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