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The difference between Service Design and UX Design.

I have noticed the words “Service Design” being thrown around a lot lately.

I’m a digital recruiter, specialising in UX, but it’s a fast moving industry. More and more companies I work with are looking for Service Designers –  yet when we meet to discuss their brief, they all have different interpretations of the role.

Maybe it’s too new an area for a universally-acknowledged definition. Perhaps in some industries, the role has naturally evolved.

As I understand it, a UX designer looks at all digital touch points, whether that is a website or an app for wearable tech. They work to ensure that all digital offerings are on brand and user-centric. A Service designer, meanwhile, looks at all touch points whether they are digital or not and ensures a seamless transition between them all.

So this makes me think the confusion may stem from the fact that some industries are purely digital – they don’t need two separate roles, they need their UX Designer to take on more responsibility. Often they call this more senior position “Service Designer”.

It’s tricky for more junior designers who have just come onto the market and are looking to carve out their career. Where should they be gaining experience and what should they be calling themselves?

At Zebra People we’re working hard to understand what companies need their designers to do for them and to recruit accordingly.

As such, we’ve put together a cheat sheet to try to clear up some of the misunderstandings.

* Holistic v specialist: Service designers tend to have a more holistic approach to understanding what the business requires. They then identify the problem areas that are not corresponding to these needs and work with relevant teams to combat this. UX designers specifically look at digital touchpoints and ensure they are all coordinated and user-centric.
* Empathy: UX designers and Service designers definitely share soft skills; empathy is one of them. A UX designer uses empathy and research to put the user’s needs at the heart of every design. Service designers use empathy to keep a user focus when designing for business needs and requirements.
* Seniority: Service designers tend to “float” above the surface, working on the bigger picture. Because of this, their work tends to be more senior. They often make the important decisions and are involved with activities usually reserved for directors.
* Opportunities: The current market has more options for UX designers. This is probably due to the majority of tech companies not classing themselves as a “service”. For example, social media companies do not have ‘non-digital’ touch points and therefore would not need a service designer. Banking clients, however, have multiple digital and non-digital touchpoints and so we predict more opportunities in this area for Service designers.

Still unsure?

Don’t worry, I’ve spoken to many different companies, service designers and UX designers – none of them agree! I’ll be posting more articles and video blogs on the topic – it’s a moving feast, so if you have opinions or experiences in this area, it would help everyone to know what they are! Feel free to leave a note below…

Leave a reply

4 responses to “The difference between Service Design and UX Design.”

  1. UX Lead says:

    Your point on Holistic vs Specialist is not true. If a UX Designer only looks at digital touchpoints, they are potentially not focussing on the whole experience.

    Your second point – are you inferring that a service designer doesn’t do research? Once again – completely untrue.

    Seniority – totally unfounded. We have heads of User Experience and UX Leads who may not think of themselves as Service Designers. What does Seniority have to do with defining a practice?

    I am pretty sure most larger companies do class themelves as a Service. They are all part of the services industry. O2 Is a mobile service. Tesco has an online shopping service. Uber is a taxi service. Banks are a service.

    As far as i am concerned, the process and the knowledge set for both Service Design and UX is the same. The difference is the experience the designer has in the platforms they’ve designed for. Service Design tends to encompass more enterprise and interaction driven apps and platforms. Since i hire Ux Designers and Service Designers, i think my authority on this subject is pretty good.

    Most of this article is incorrect. I don’t tell recruiters what the function of their jobs are. Man, recruiters really have to stop trying to define things they don’t know about.

    • Maryanna Constanti says:


      Thanks for your input, I actually spoke to various hiring managers and Service Designers to put this blog together and as I stated, hardly any of them agreed with each other so I tried to pull out the information that seemed to be less of a grey area for all.

      Feel free to email me @ if you want to discuss further and help with any content for future blogs on the subject.


  2. UX Lead says:

    Haha you deleted my comment because i ripped your blog apart. If you want to add to the conversation make sure your information is correct

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