A day in the life of a Service Designer

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What does a Service Designer do all day?

We asked Engine Service Designer, Sam Hirsch to share.

what does a service designer do all day

Well, the first thing I do is make a coffee and write my to-do list; something I carry with me everywhere I go. Work is flexible, self-directed, and challenging so I try and keep myself sharp by exercising and eating well. When I feel good, it’s easier to maintain my focus throughout the day. Cycling has always helped me with this and provides a buffer between home and work. All being well; by the time I’ve arrived at the studio I’ll have my day planned and be ready to hit the ground running.

There’s no such thing as a typical day, my time is generally split between client management and project work. While I could be working on anything from designing a future vision for air-travel, or an end-to-end customer journey for a high street bank, the common factor across all of my work is the need to tell compelling stories about the way things should be in the future for our clients and their customers (as well as lots of Post-it Notes!). With a diverse client base and work undertaken across many industries (aviation, automotive, utilities, transport, healthcare, financial services, telecoms, etc.) there are many stories which are transferable across sectors. The fact that so much of service design knowledge is applicable in different industries makes a service designer adaptable, and while I’m not a subject matter expert in all fields, I am able to sit in a room with specialists and have valuable conversations. In fact, it’s working across so many industries and with so many experts in different fields which is one of the most exciting parts of my job.

My work is a combination of writing, strategy development, service and graphic design, and face to face consulting with clients. With different tasks requiring different approaches, from the detail-focused writing and graphic design of client deliverables to the ‘softer’ skills of client-facing engagement like negotiation, persuasion, and presentation skills. My work varies from being a highly collaborative, social activity to intense periods of individual, in-depth thinking. Additionally, I must frequently be able to jump between taking a high-level strategic view and a detailed view to tackle complex problems with many interdependencies. In my mind, service design requires a blend of rational thinking and creative spark - and it’s this application of creativity to real-world business problems that allows us to create experiences that feel truly special to customers and valuable to our clients. When you throw experts from different disciplines into the mix, as we do frequently, you have the knowledge and capability to create experiences which really resonate.

A large part of my job involves broadening our clients’ understanding of the design process. Often, they are as keen to understand the process as they are excited about seeing the outputs such as customer personas, strategic frameworks, target journey maps and service blueprints, so I can put a lot of time into explaining things in everyday terms, without jargon. I’m immersed in the industry and culture of design so it’s easy to forget that to many people the design process is mysterious and intangible. A key part of my job is to help my clients to understand it and its value in solving complex business problems.

Usually I take a walk to clear my head over my lunch break. If I’m working on a big challenge, I’ll step away from it for a while and come back with fresh eyes after lunch. Sleeping on a problem works wonders too but unfortunately, it’s not always an option. I find a walk and some fresh air helps me to get back into the right zone.

In the afternoon I might be preparing for a client workshop. These are the ‘set-pieces’ where I encourage my clients to experience the service design process in action, first hand. These workshops make the design process look perfectly rational, when in reality it is anything but. We spend a great deal of time and effort making all the steps in our process very clear; visually rich and engaging; and this really helps to inspire our clients. Despite the seemingly simple structure and flow of the workshops, the process of creating them is not.

I’m constantly striving to make things better for my clients; refining, developing, and ultimately improving the effectiveness of their services and experiences. This means while my work isn’t without the occasional re-steer from the client, I pride myself on operating with agility. I’m flexible and quick enough to reposition what I’m doing to make sure I produce effective and appropriate outcomes for my clients.

Towards the end of the day, if I have an imminent client delivery, I may have a group critique. This involves evaluating work in progress as a team, this could be for ease of use, visual integrity, or straightforward comprehension. Either way, it’s important to get a group consensus and ensure that everyone is aligned. Generally, feedback is instant, visual (we get through a lot of Post-its), and above all constructive. Working as a tight-knit team, trust is essential, and criticism of the work shouldn’t be taken personally. If we are working towards a client deadline, I may spend a bit more time to get things finished to ensure the client is getting great work that is right for their business. The best part of my job is when everything comes together - and I see the clients’ appreciation for what I’ve done. The creative environment I’m in is great and it’s exciting to work with so many smart and interesting people.

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