Skip to main content

Service designer

Find out what a service designer does and the skills
you need to do the job.

Updated: January 21, 2021

Introduction to the role of service designer

Service designers tie together human, digital, and physical interactions to create service experiences that are usable, efficient, and even desirable. Service designers are expected to understand the problem and organizational landscape, identify opportunities, and iteratively develop services and solutions.

Service designers create or change how an organization operates in order to create or improve a service. This involves changes in processes, communication channels, organizational strategy, and technology.

Below you’ll find the full list of skills for becoming a service designer at Skylight and a description of the skills required at each level. These descriptions offer insight into the scope of work someone at each level should be capable of doing on a consistent basis. We use these role descriptions both as a guide during the hiring process and as a springboard for discussing career progression at Skylight.

Required skills

Systems thinking

You have the ability to research and then change how elements of an organization interact and influence one another. You establish a shared view of the system and reframe problems from different perspectives to uncover new solutions. You switch between the holistic and user view continuously. You know how to focus on outcomes rather than solutions and activities. You help your team do its best work by ensuring everyone has a shared sense of purpose.

Research

You’re able to plan, synthesize, and present research. You know that the best way to understand how a service operates is when you’re experiencing it firsthand or alongside users in their context. You have expertise in ethnographic research methods and know how to pair them with more UX- and technology-focused methodologies to gather insights that inform project direction. You accurately scope research efforts and use that research to inform project direction. You’re able to facilitate co-creative workshops to generate personas, journey maps, system maps, and service maps. You have expertise with a variety of research methods such as contextual inquiries, diary studies, and field observations.

Ideation and prototyping

You use the understanding you’ve built about the big picture to help find the right problems to solve and pick the best solutions to experiment with. You gather feedback and iterate on service design work early and often. You’re familiar with different design processes such as double diamond, design thinking, and equity-centered design.

You can facilitate many ideation activities and create inclusive and creative spaces so that users, stakeholders, and your team can do their best work.

You create or design prototypes of services and applications. You use these prototypes to validate assumptions, understand restrictions, and improve interactions. You use artifacts and methods like service blueprinting, brain writing, and the business model canvas to identify opportunities and generate ideas.

Organizational strategy

You design adaptable organizations by understanding the current structure, its component parts, and the interactions between them. You know how to align policies, technology, infrastructures, and systems to drive outcomes. You’re adept at prioritizing and balancing user and business decisions.

You know how to work within technology, policy, regulatory, and financial constraints to propose feasible solutions.

Community, collaboration, and communication

You’re constantly seeking to meet user and project goals. You facilitate discussions to prioritize the team’s work and identify opportunities to partner with others in the organization. You lead collaborative design activities, influence others, and build consensus.

You know how to negotiate trade-offs when necessary. You incorporate storytelling for effective and engaging communication. You use different mapping tools to identify the right places to focus, surface insights about your stakeholders, and pick the most impactful solutions to experiment with so you can go beyond the obvious and design lasting solutions.

You’re able to build positive influence in project direction, stakeholder relations, and organizational leadership.

Service designer career pathway

Associate service designer

  1. Associate
  2. I not completed
  3. II not completed
  4. Senior not completed
  5. Staff not completed
  6. Principal not completed

As an associate service designer in an entry-level role working with more experienced designers, you’ll need to have an understanding of the role and show potential, although you’ll need guidance and training to produce good work and develop your skills.

Skills needed for this level

Systems thinking

You understand that the way components within an organization interact determines outcomes. You can help develop a system map.

Research

You’re aware and have some understanding of research methods (contextual inquiries, diary studies, etc.). You can support planning, synthesis, and take effective notes.

Ideation and prototyping

You can draw a line between the big picture from research, the identified problems, and the solution experiments. You know about design processes and why they’re necessary. You can assist in facilitating ideation activities with help and instructions. You know about prototyping and can explain when and why to use it. You can help design and execute a prototype with guidance.

Organizational strategy

You understand the need for processes and organizations to change in order to deliver better services and outcomes. You understand the need to prioritize and balance user and business decisions.

Community, collaboration, and communication

You know about the need to communicate effectively with stakeholders. You help edit and improve service design artifacts with guidance. You recognize how to advocate for your team.

Service designer I

  1. Associate completed
  2. I
  3. II not completed
  4. Senior not completed
  5. Staff not completed
  6. Principal not completed

A service designer I is embedded on a multidisciplinary team. At this level, you’re expected to have some practical experience, but need regular guidance and training to produce your best work and develop your skills. You’ll work in combination with a more senior service designer.

Skills needed for this level

Systems thinking

You’re proficient at considering the user view and understand the holistic view. You can work with senior members of the team to determine desired outcomes. You can map some systems after research.

Research

You have experience with basic service design research methods. You understand why research is important, can lead research sessions and co-creative workshops, and provide insight with some support. With assistance, you can use quantitative and qualitative data to synthesize research into outcomes.

Ideation and prototyping

Based on your understanding of the big picture, you can help identify the right problems to solve and pick the best solutions to experiment with. You have a working understanding of most design processes. You’re proficient at facilitating some ideation workshops. You know some prototyping methods (role playing, storyboarding, etc.) and when to use them.

Organizational strategy

You can design processes to drive outcomes. You understand the constraints and can work within most of them. You participate in activities that help prioritize and balance user and business decisions.

Community, collaboration, and communication

You can translate basic software design decisions to non-technical audiences. With assistance, you can use service design artifacts to help communicate concepts to your team and stakeholders.

Service designer II

  1. Associate completed
  2. I completed
  3. II
  4. Senior not completed
  5. Staff not completed
  6. Principal not completed

A service designer II is usually leading design or collaborating on a multidisciplinary team. At this level, you’ll be expected to work independently on a team. You’ve worked in most stages of the service design lifecycle.

Skills needed for this level

Systems thinking

You’re a strong systems thinker and can solve many system and design challenges. You can switch between the holistic and user view continuously. You can design digital, human, and physical touchpoints to work together. You know how to differentiate between solutions and outcomes and can lead a team through determining desired outcomes. You’re an expert at mapping systems and identifying opportunity areas.

Research

You’re proficient in research and can effectively synthesize and extract insights to design and improve services and organizations. You advocate for the needs of the user and the business.

Ideation and prototyping

You use the understanding you’ve built about the big picture to help the team find the right problems to solve and pick the best solutions to experiment with. You’re an expert in many design processes. You’re an expert at facilitating ideation workshops and ensuring you create inclusive and creative spaces. You know how to use a variety of prototyping methods as well as how to design a prototype to validate a particular set of assumptions.

Organizational strategy

You can design large processes to drive outcomes. You know how to work within the various constraints (technology, policy, regulatory, financial). You’re adept at prioritizing and balancing user and business decisions.

Community, collaboration, and communication

You’re good at translating technical software, design, and organizational decisions to non-technical audiences. You’re adept at creating service design artifacts and then using them to facilitate discussions and decisions with stakeholder groups. You’re inclusive and transparent.

Senior service designer

  1. Associate completed
  2. I completed
  3. II completed
  4. Senior
  5. Staff not completed
  6. Principal not completed

You’re an expert at helping your team find the right problems to solve and the best solutions to experiment with. A senior service designer is an experienced practitioner who’s able to plan and lead a service design effort on large teams within more complex spaces. At this level, you’ll be expected to build leading service design practices and processes within a team, supervise and develop other members on your team (or within the service design practice), and lead design activities. You’ve worked at all stages of the service development lifecycle.

Skills needed for this level

Systems thinking

You’re a strong systems thinker and can solve complex system and design challenges. You lead the team in considering the holistic view. You’re an expert at designing digital, human, and physical touchpoints. You’re an expert at mapping complex systems and identifying opportunity areas.

Research

You can lead a research effort without guidance. You understand practices and use common methodologies. You’re able to take your insights and turn them into actionable items. You’re able to speak to the clients about the value of research. You champion user research to focus on all users.

Ideation and prototyping

You can coach others on how to build understanding about the big picture, find the right problems to solve, and pick the best solutions to experiment with. You have experience with a wide range of design processes. You share leading practices in prototyping and can coach others. You’re adept at prototyping both applications and processes.

Organizational strategy

You can design entire organizations to better achieve user and mission outcomes across multiple processes. You help teams prioritize and balance user and business decisions.

Community, collaboration, and communication

You know how to facilitate complex discussions and decisions with diverse senior stakeholders. You’re an effective advocate for your team.

Staff service designer

  1. Associate completed
  2. I completed
  3. II completed
  4. Senior completed
  5. Staff
  6. Principal not completed

You’re confident in leading a project with no guidance and direction. You understand and have extensive experience with a wide range of service design processes. You’re a strong systems thinker and can solve complex system and design challenges. You’re able to provide expertise to people outside of your team on service design processes. You’re able to introduce new tools and methods to your team.

Skills needed for this level

Systems thinking

You’re a strong systems thinker and can solve complex system and design challenges. You lead the team in considering the holistic view. You’re an expert at designing digital, human, and physical touchpoints. You’re an expert at mapping complex systems and identifying opportunity areas.

You help leaders define and focus on outcomes rather than solutions and activities.

Research

You have experience with a wide range of research methods (for both user and organizational research) and know when to apply the right approach to a situation. You can lead the synthesis of research with complex journeys, users, and scenarios. You’re able to educate and lead colleagues on research methods and leading practices. You’re able to positively influence clients and turn them into champions of research.

Ideation and prototyping

You can coach others on how to build understanding about the big picture, find the right problems to solve, and pick the best solutions to experiment with. You have extensive experience with a wide range of design processes. You share leading practices in prototyping and can coach others. You’re adept at prototyping both applications and processes.

Organizational strategy

You can advocate for large scale organizational changes. You help teams prioritize and balance user and business decisions in complex scenarios.

Community, collaboration, and communication

You’re an expert at facilitating discussion and decisions in high risk, complex, and constrained timescale situations. You’re an effective advocate for the service design approach and the work of multiple teams.

Principal service designer

  1. Associate completed
  2. I completed
  3. II completed
  4. Senior completed
  5. Staff completed
  6. Principal

A principal service designer leads other service designers within an organization and attracts and builds talent. At this level, you’ll be expected to be an expert practitioner who can define and assure leading practices, influence organizational strategy and priorities, and collaborate with partners across all aspects of government. You’re comfortable transforming service design practice at the leadership level across organizations.

Skills needed for this level

Systems thinking

You’re able to provide transformational expertise to leaders on the value and applications of systems thinking across large organizations. You help leaders define and focus on outcomes rather than solutions and activities.

Research

You’re able to positively impact research at an organizational level to improve and innovate their user research. You’re experienced in meeting the needs of the user across a variety of channels.

Ideation and prototyping

You help transform organizations into ones that can identify and prioritize problems to solve. You’re an expert at creating a culture of experimentation. You can design and run multiple prototype efforts at once, validating numerous hypotheses. You know how to communicate the value of prototyping at the leadership level.

Organizational strategy

You lead teams of service designers through organizational change. You’re an expert at advocating for large and complex organizational changes with skeptical stakeholders and senior leadership.

Community, collaboration, and communication

You’re an expert at facilitating discussion and decisions in high risk, complex, and constrained timescale situations. You create new types of service design artifacts. You’re an effective advocate for the service design approach and the work of multiple teams.

References

We’re hiring!

Let’s work together to change the way government
serves millions of people.