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Service Design in the C-Suite


By: Marisa White
07/22/2019

Recently, a role emerged on google alerts for a “Chief Service Designer” at Volvo. This caught my attention as the Chief Design Officer is still a relatively new and undefined title. What does this new specialized role entail? Does this mean there is space in the C-Suite for multiple HCD leaders?

In actuality, this particular role did not sit  C-Suite level, indicating in the description the direct report is the Design Director, however opens up an interesting conversation of the role of design in the c-suite.

In part, this evolution must take into account the evolving definition of design. Design is not just visual or product oriented, but instead with the emergence of UX design we see design as a process for empathizing with people, driving ideation through a reiterative process of prototyping and testing, until the final outcome offers more viable results.

So in turn, the emergence of this view of design in the C-Suite offers a direction to stay off disruption via the quickly emerging experience economy.

However, looking into the idea of a “Chief Service Design Officer” vs. a regular “Chief Design Officer” offers another level of analysis on the purpose of design in this position.

Service design offers a purposeful look at the holistic nature in which we offer service to customers, inclusive of back stage and front stage players. Service Design is also innately service oriented (however much so the principals of Service Design can be applied to traditional Product Design) which offers a perspective that this position may be well-suited for the organizations heavily service oriented or product companies looking to implement service components.

In many situations you can see the overlapping of the C-Suite positions and emerging design titles. Is Service Design the modern day Operations? Is UX replacing Technology & IT leaders? Is design at large taking over the validity of marketing?

The Design Management Institute’s Design Value Index shows that design-led  organizations outperformed the S&P by 228% over the past 10 years. Prompting the researchers to comment that, “The most innovative companies in the world have one thing in common: they use design as an integrative resource to innovate more efficiently and successfully.”

However, the final component is moving past lip service. Organizations thriving in the experience economy make decisions informed by design first and above others.

 Some great resources for the success of design led organizations: 

  1. McKinsey Business Value of Design
  2. DMI Index


Interested to learn more? Hear from our own Design Leadership at our Advanced Service Design Track! Check out the Agenda Here



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