How to transition into the wonderful world of service design
There are two points in every year when it’s most obvious to take stock and re-evaluate the happiness-level of your current work situation – the new year and September, back-to-school time. As the nights draw in, right now is a good moment to reassess what you do in your job and if it still aligns with your values and what you would like to achieve in your work life. It’s a good time to scan the horizon for exciting new areas of work.
With that in mind, I’d like to help anyone thinking about moving into my profession, service design. After six years in service design working with organisations such as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Cabinet Office and IKEA, I’m going to answer the question: what does it take to change career path and become a service designer?
My journey started 20 years ago in visual and brand design. Working as a visual designer, I had come across the field of service design, but only had a fuzzy idea of what it was. I got intrigued by the user-centred design approach and design thinking – something I had practised only to a small degree, but resonated with me as the way I wanted to work going forward.
But nagging doubts and worries kicked in – would I have the right capabilities and skills to transition? Would any company take a chance and invest in a transitioner?
Those thoughts held me back for a long time before I was brave enough to take the big leap and change my career path into service design.
I would like to share some of my experiences and learnings that might help anyone considering and exploring a career change into service design.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any formal service design training
Generally, you don’t need a service design degree to become a service designer. Service design is still a fairly young discipline and most service designers transition from related backgrounds such as other design disciplines or research to name just a few. You will be well equipped with relevant and transferable skills and experiences to get started. The rest you can learn ‘on the job’.
Learn from the best – get out and meet those who practice service design
When learning about service design, you should put the feelers out to those in the industry and hoover up every bit of information you can get. Sign up to relevant design events, industry meetups and networking opportunities. Ask for chats over coffees – in my experience service designers love to share their experiences working in their field. You not only get insights into design practices, methods, ways of thinking and pitfalls from their first-hand accounts, but each and every conversation gives you new pointers - books or blogs to read, events to attend or other service design practitioners to meet.
This is how I met Caution Your Blast’s amazing and most knowledgeable MD Ben and my journey into service design started.
Find an area in user-centred design that really resonates with you
The boundaries in user-centred design disciplines like service design, UX design, user research and others are blurred. Each discipline demands certain capabilities and skill sets at their heart but there is a lot of overlap into neighbouring disciplines. This allows you to explore and experiment where your skillset best fits and where you really feel at home. Companies and organisations define the different disciplines in various ways – they might bundle service design and user research or service design and UX design, or have them all as separate roles.
At CYB we like to work with T-shaped people who have real depth in their profession whilst showing a great curiosity for neighbouring disciplines - I focus on service design as my main discipline whilst gaining experience across UX design and user research.
Explore companies you would like to work for
This is about finding the right place with people you share values and interests with. Get to know the service design ‘scene’ for a good understanding of what type of companies are out there and which clients they work for. Most importantly, find out what they are passionate about and what drives them. If you’re seeing a career change as a process, take time to find the right place. Consider companies that might not necessarily recruit at the moment. It’s about making connections and creating a network. If you do that, opportunities will come.
I’m sharing these learnings as it would have made a massive difference to me if someone would have given me this advice when I first started considering a career move into service design. But ultimately, I would like to encourage anybody to explore a similar career change – the service design community is always looking for talented people who can improve the quality of our everyday services. Just go for it - it’s worth it!
And if anybody needs a practitioner to quiz about service design over a cup of coffee – I’m happy to chat.
Caution Your Blast is looking for a talented Senior service designer to join its team at an incredibly exciting time for the company. If you think our organisation and the role matches your skills, experience, and interests, send your CV along with a few paragraphs outlining why you’d like to take on the role to firstname.lastname@example.org.