Upcoming courses | Study structure

Designing for Services

About the course

The Designing for Services course takes service design beyond problem-solving by seeking potentials for something better. It addresses the question of what designers can actually do for services, especially when moving to more strategic and transforming level in public, third sector and private organizations.

The course provides an overall understanding and practical capabilities for service design thinking and doing. It consists of two parallel running modes, theory and hands-on project work. The students work with and for a partner, usually from the public sector, on assigned real-life case projects. During the course, designerly approaches for problem-solving and stakeholder involvement are applied to find out, describe and build on emerging practices. The design for services concepts may address issues such as new ways of providing a more customer-centric service, tools and methods to support human-centred service development in the organization or inspirational service concepts to provoke understanding customer needs.


Workshop — Body Storming (left), workshop — Service prototyping (right)
Lecture — Organization Network Modeling
Workshop — The Role of Assumptions
Workshop — Storytelling

Course Content

The theory mode (5 cr.) consists of lectures, topical research literature, student-organized presentations and workshops, and inspiring talks by various professionals in the service field. The students participate actively in lectures and take turns in groups in organizing workshops, reflection cafés to create discussion and reflection on ongoing project and theory work. This allows practicing creative workshop methods and facilitation skills. In addition to students participating on the Design for Services course module, there are five available spots for taking only this theory mode.

The second mode, hands-on practice (5 cr.) focuses on applying service design tools and methods in practice. The practical project is done in collaboration with an organization partner (past partners e.g. City of Helsinki, Social & Health Services, Helsinki Central Library & Vamos Helsinki Deaconess Institute). Students, divided into groups, aim to tackle given cases collaboratively, and communicate their learning processes both in teams and individually.

The students participate actively in teamwork assignments, complete individual literature assignments and learning diaries. The module is quite a work intensive, equal to full working days, and it is not recommended to take additional studies during the period.

Learning Outcomes

This course aims to increase your knowledge and skills on the following:

  • To become familiar with key terminologies and perspectives in service design and research.
  • To learn to make sense of networked service systems and organizational structuresTo develop skills in and understand concepts of co-design, co-creation and co-production and their role in design process and approaches.
  • To practice cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural co-operation in a case for a real life client, in a real life service development project.
  • To apply service visualization and prototyping methods to realize the ideas.

Student projects

Check the three ways of designing for services in the Student projects section!

Comments by students

“Though I knew the name transformation design I never understood the difference between designing the touch points of a single service and implementing design capacity into an organization”.

“It was really motivating and interesting to work with a real client (especially a client form the public sector), and it was also exciting and challenging to work on a project that was about concretising and taking a concept idea further, instead of starting from scratch as we usually do, and end at the concept phase”.

“I think the best thing was that we got to experience how the public sector actually work and how designing for the public sector needs a different approach”.