David Beckham the Service Designer

Rob makes an analogy to explain the varied role of a Service Designer of today.

Graphic of a grey football pitch with team tactics drawn on it.

David Beckham was a world-class right midfielder, but he was also a formidable player when deployed in the middle of a pitch.

Positioned down the middle, he could link-up play, turning defense into attack generating lots of opportunities. But so what?

As we hit world recession, companies are tightening their belts and scrutinising costs. This typically means taking risks are for the brave or start-ups. Companies are also looking at roles on projects as a way to cut costs e.g. Do we need that role, is that not a duplicate of skill X? Could we get by with just a “regular” designer?

When structuring project teams in today’s climate, there is comfort in familiarity as well; researcher, tick, BA, tick, project manager, tick. But what about Product and Service designers? Are they designers? Are they like designers? Do we need those if we have a BA?

Sure there is overlap with the BA, the researcher etc, but this is the case in many walks of life, we have the skill which we are best at, but to employ that skill well you need to have a broad range of skills to help facilitate the thing you are expert at.

Service Designers thrive on joining together the dots, facilitating discussions that shine a light on more than just what the customer sees. In doing so, a Service Designer creates long-term change, and long-term change means long-term savings. They fix foundations, versus building a bridge over the leak.

I don’t think Service Designers are a new thing, maybe the title but like fashion, if you are around long enough you see things come and go, those with longevity come back but often with a slight nuance. In this case, the skillset of a service designer is something that’s kicked about for decades, only now are people waking up to the need to look beyond just putting lipstick on that proverbial pig, this has created a need for people with the skills required to act on this.

So to my original point, David Beckham was a world-class right midfielder, but he could also do a job in the middle of the pitch. If you see a Service Designer appear on your cost book, know you are in safe hands. Service Designers identify and improve customer problems and lift the lid on their origin through a deeper understanding of your organisation and the multiple moving parts that go into powering what the customer sees.

As you well know, we live in a world where everything and everyone is labelled. Sometimes that’s useful. When thinking about design, however, naming conventions more or less always complicate matters. While a service may form part of an experience, a Service Designer thinks and works holistically, and will always consider the ecosystem in which the service functions, and consult on the overall design.

Designers don’t think exclusively in terms of their specialism. Specialism being the operative word. At the core of every designer is the innate desire to improve and iterate on behalf of the customer. To do so requires a multipronged approach that’s much more nuanced than just fixing the service, or — my favourite — “doing the UX” for example.

If we consider the football analogy once more; it would be like asking David Beckham to just score goals, nothing else. To score a goal requires much more than the finish or being in the right place. It’s a series of events.

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