Quick takeaways from SDN Conference Berlin

We attended the Service Design Network conference in Berlin last week, where Service Design practitioners from around the world (mostly Europe) gathered to share their insights. Here are 6 high-level takeaways:

  1. The distinction between Service Design and Design thinking is blurry. Many presentations treated the two terms interchangeably, recognising no semantic difference between the two.
  2. Interaction design and Service Design are closely entwined to the point of being indistinguishable depending on the scale at which the design is being undertaken. (I wrote a piece recently for Core77 that demonstrated how interaction design practice ‘scales’ to strategic, holistic design to a point where it is indistinguishable from service design, without becoming something other than interaction design.)
  3. Service Design is not always practiced as design. It seems to be adapted from UCD in some agencies/departments – linear in nature; more aligned with incremental iteration/improvement than innovation/breakthrough. By this I mean that the approach people take to designing services doesn’t always bear a resemblance to a design process.
  4. The value of design still needs work in terms of demonstrating why results are better using design practices in a service context.
  5. The connection between academic research and Service Design practice needs to be stronger. Academic papers aren’t being read by practitioners as they’re not written in a style which is engaging or relevant to day-to-day work.
  6. Service Design practice is growing.

An interesting conference, although I’m undecided as to whether the time & effort required to attend was worthwhile.

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