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Understanding innovation and design and how they work together

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We see new products and services all the time. Some will leave us wondering what purpose they could possibly serve, others will stop us in our tracks. Creativity, curiosity, and the need to address a challenge or an opportunity are often the starting point for innovation. Design brings these things into being; the mix of innovation and design can lead to the creation of some wonderful things.

Innovation and design are intrinsically connected. One drives and informs the other, helping them to both continually evolve. Innovation – coming up with new ideas, methods, designs, products, and so on – helps improve our lives and experiences. Design is a key part of innovation, as it takes these new ideas and helps turn them into tangible, usable products, services, and experiences.

Design thinking and innovation

Design thinking is a user-centred, solution-based approach to challenges that emphasizes empathy, experimentation, and iteration to generate creative solutions to complex challenges. It is used widely to innovate and find new ideas and alternative perspectives.

The design thinking process can help teams find new opportunities and create new products, services, and experiences that are more impactful and effective. Design can drive innovation, and innovation can drive design. The two together are very powerful and mutually reinforcing.

Why should we pair innovation and design?

When new products and services are initially conceived in the ideation phase of the design thinking process, these ideas have to somehow get off the page and out into the world. This requires design. Whether it is a physical product, a service, or an experience, it will need to be designed in some form.

But first, you need the ideas. The ideation process encourages people to get creative. All ideas are welcomed, and none are too far-fetched. Diverse input can help broaden the net. However, to create something that is likely to work, designers will need to innovate and come up with feasible solutions.

Innovation can also drive design forward. New materials, technologies, and possibilities for design can be created in response to a need. For example, advances in digital technologies have opened up new avenues for designers to create interactive, immersive, and personalized experiences. And these will in turn create more opportunities for experiences to drive technology.

Both innovation and design are continually evolving to serve the other’s needs and purposes.

Why good design is important for innovation – and vice versa

  • Design can help solve problems: design thinking and other design approaches can help identify and solve complex problems in innovative ways. They offer a framework for creative problem-solving that emphasize empathy, experimentation, and iteration.
  • Design can improve user experience: innovative new products and services need to be useful, usable, and desirable for the end-user or they serve no purpose. New products and services that are impactful and successful will be designed around the user experience.
  • Design can communicate innovative ideas: there’s no point in having a great idea that you can’t articulate well enough to build support and secure investment. Design can communicate new ideas in clear and accessible ways. This could mean graphics, illustrations, and infographics, or physical and virtual prototypes. Using prototypes allows teams to quickly and inexpensively refine and test, leading to better and more impactful innovations.
  • Design can give you a competitive advantage: good design can set products, services, and systems apart from the competition. Innovative new offerings can be more attractive to customers.
  • Collaboration brings together diverse perspectives and skills: interdisciplinary approaches to design and innovation will help drive new and impactful solutions by drawing on the different strengths of various disciplines.

How do service design and innovation work together?

Service design focuses on creating an integrated and seamless experience for the customer. It looks at all the touchpoints and interactions that a customer has with a service and seeks to optimise them. This requires innovative solutions.

What is service design?

Service design is the process of designing and organizing people, infrastructure, communication, and any material components of a service to improve its interactions and quality. Service design doesn’t just look at the physical design of a product: it considers the entire customer journey, including the pre-service, service delivery, and post-service experience.

There are many methods and tools that the service design process can use, including ethnographic research, customer journey mapping, prototyping, and user testing. Its intention is to create user-centred, efficient, and effective services. These should meet the needs and expectations of both the service provider and the customer.

It can be used across sectors and either to improve existing services or design new ones.

How do service design and innovation work together?

Good service design centres on the needs of the customer. Really looking at what these are and how a company could serve these better can lead to innovative new ways of working. Likewise, streamlining and improving services can improve the customer experience and make them more efficient and cost-effective for the service provider.

Where can service design innovate?

  • Customer-centred solutions: service design methods emphasize the importance of understanding and addressing the needs and expectations of customers. Researching, mapping, and prototyping new services based on their needs and experiences can lead to innovative new ways of working. Innovative products, services, or systems need to be useful, usable, and desirable for their intended audience.
  • New service offerings: creating new service offerings can lead to innovative sources of revenue and give companies a competitive advantage.
  • Better service delivery: service design can help find inefficiencies and pain points in existing service delivery processes.
  • Better customer experiences: innovative ways of creating seamless, integrated customer experiences can lead to happier customers and higher retention rates.
  • Better internal collaboration: service design looks at processes holistically and often requires collaboration between various parts of a company. This can lead to greater engagement and improves teamwork. It will also help companies ensure their innovations are grounded in a wide range of perspectives and expertise.

Using service design to innovate in your business

Here at Engine Service Design, we can help you reimagine the future by improving employee and customer experiences. We work with you to understand where the challenges are and help you design and implement innovative services to serve your customers better, grow engagement and drive new business. Please get in touch if you need a trusted partner with whom to discuss where you can design and innovate: one of our service design experts will be delighted to help.

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