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5 Essential Service Design Books [2021]


When you’re diving into a new field or brushing up on your skills, the Internet is a great place to get started, but there’s nothing quite like holding a solid book in your hands.

At Neuromagic, we’re bookworms— and for good reason. There are lots of great reads introducing Service Design skills, tools, case studies, and more online and in bookstores. From beginner to student to well-seasoned Service Design professional, these books provide tons of value and are great to keep by your side for reference.

Here are our current top 5 books related to Service Design!

1. This is Service Design Thinking

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of what Service Design is, look no further. Published in 2012, This is Service Design Thinking addresses the most basic ideas in service design— that the boundary between products and services are blurring, and Service Design brings a new way of approaching every aspect of business and organizational challenges. It elaborates on what Service Design is and how it’s used in both a practical and philosophical context. Written by 23 service designers from around the globe, this is definitely a staple on the shelves of many services designers.

2. This is Service Design Doing

This is Service Design Doing
This is Service Design Doing (source: https://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com/)

If there’s one book to keep by your side for reference, it’s This is Service Design Doing, the long-awaited practical sequel to This is Service Design Thinking, released in 2018. This instant classic in Service Design comes was edited by four top Service Design professionals— Marc Stickdorn, and Jakob Schneider, co-founders of More Than Metrics, and Markus Hormess and Adam Lawrence, co-founders of WorkPlayExperience), with contributions from more than 300 service designers all over the world. It lays out a plethora Service Design tools in a neat and easy to understand way, with plenty of pictures and detailed explanations.

It breaks down Service Design activities, like:

  • Research
  • Ideation
  • Prototyping
  • Implementation
  • Process and Management
  • Facilitating Workshops

… and more, even covering how you might introduce Service Design to your organization.

This book is useful for everyone from those just dipping their feet in Service Design to top Service Design leaders. If you’re a Service Design professional getting started on a new project, it can help to refresh your memory about what kinds of tools are available to you. And if you’re just getting started it is a great way to look beyond the theoretical, see how people practice Service Design in real life, and figure out which tools you might want to try out.

3. Value Proposition Design

Value Proposition Design
Value Proposition Design (source: amazon.com)

How can we create the services that people actually want and need? Value Proposition Design can help you figure that out. After all, there’s no service design without services, and there’s no lasting service that doesn’t fit user needs.

Value Proposition Design comes from Strategyzer, a globally respected consultancy, most well known for inventing the Business Model Canvas. They have written numerous best-selling books and are astonishingly good at breaking things down and making them understandable through the creation of various strategy tools.

Value Proposition Design is broken down into:

  • Canvas
  • Design
  • Test
  • Evolve

So that you can use tools (like the canvases they provide) to find the value proposition of your service. Check out the first 100 pages for free, here!

4. Change by Design

The book that started it all! Though not specifically about Service Design, this seminal book by IDEO CEO Tim Brown changed the game in business and design by formally introducing Design Thinking. In IDEO’s words:

Change by Design is not a book by designers for designers; it is a book for creative leaders seeking to infuse design thinking into every level of an organization, product, or service to drive new alternatives for business and society.

(source: https://www.ideo.com/post/change-by-design)

If you’re just getting started in Service Design, it’s a good idea to get a grasp of Design Thinking first, as its principles are interwoven into many Service Design tools and methodologies.

If you’re not familiar with Tim Browne or Design Thinking, check out the TED Talk he gave shortly after the release of his book in 2009:

5. Good Services

Good Services
Good Services by Lou Downe (source: amazon.com)

What sets Good Services apart— besides its cool neon orange cover— is how readable it is. Lou Downe does a great job of lighting a passion and building an understanding of what great Service Design can do for an organization, and for the people that organizations serve.

Lou Downe is the Director of Design for the UK Government, lead the transformation of Gov.UK, and was ranked as one of the 100 most influential people in Digital Government by Apolitical in 2018. Though their experience with government and civil services is extensive, Lou created a work that can really be relevant to all kinds of Service Designers and all sorts of products and services.

In the book, they break down 15 principles that all good services share, along with tips for how to make your service meet those principles. Though not the most practical and directly applicable (there is no guide for using specific tools to get specific outcomes, like in Value Proposition Design or This is Service Design Doing) it is a great read if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the change good service design can make in people’s lives.

We’re looking forward to more great Service Design publications in the future, though we will always keep these at hand.

Elena Iwata

Digital Content Producer

Originally from Philadelphia (USA) Elena is passionate about storytelling and designing for equity. Her current focus is on content strategy and creation, from research, to writing and photography.