Service Design

Researcher: Ileana Stigliani

We examine how Service Design, a new field of design consulting practices, has emerged and developed, and how it has been legitimised by practitioners in the field.

Drawing upon a multi-year qualitative study of service designers, we have conducted three studies:

The first considered how practitioners of a new occupation gain recognition and construct an occupational mandate. We show that service designers enacted their values in their daily work activities through a set of material practices, such as shadowing customers or front-line staff, conducting interviews in the service context, or creating ‘‘journey maps’’ of a service user’s experience. Moreover, service designers differentiated themselves from other competing occupations by highlighting how their values make their work practices unique. Both values and work practices, what service designers call their ethos, were, therefore, essential to enable service designers to define the proper conduct and modes of thinking characteristic of their occupational mandate.

The second study considers how industry founders assign meaning to, and convey meaning from, a new industry label during identity formation for both the emerging industry and its founding firms. Our work illuminates the central role that the label “Service Design” plays in the nascent industry’s identity formation and that of its pioneering organisations.

The final study examines how the new market category of “Service Design” was created, showing the interplay between the emergence of a new set of practices (i.e. designing new services) and the creation of collective meaning around the new category of “Service Design” in the marketplace


  • Study 1: Fayard, A. L., Stigliani, I. & Bechky, B.A., ‘How Nascent Occupations Construct a Mandate: The Case of Service Designers’ Ethos,’ Administrative Science Quarterly (forthcoming)