Systems Thinking for Service Design: a natural partnership

Format: Papers, RSD3, Topic: Policy & Governance

Authors: John Darzentas and Jenny Darzentas

In the 1930s, nations’ economies broke down their figures into three main sectors. These were, in order of economic importance, Agriculture, Manufacturing, and whatever was not either of these was grouped under the title of Services. Today, the growth of what is traditionally called the ‘‘service sector’’ can be seen in the gross domestic product (GDP) statistics of nations. As currently measured, developed countries have 70–80% of their GDP and employment in the service sector (government, healthcare, education, retail, financial, business and professional, communications, transportation, utilities), with 15–25% in the manufacturing sector, and about 5% in the agricultural sector (Spohrer et al. 2010, Maglio et al, 2009).
Traditionally the academic disciplines that worked on services were those of management and marketing, operations research and engineering, but not only. Information Systems specialists were also active in this area, but with the move to self-services and more recently e-services, the area requires specialists in information systems and computer science. Moreover, it is not an area that can be broken up easily, as it needs this multidisciplinary treatment. Indeed, recently, IBM, understanding that its core business is no longer in hardware manufacture, but in services, has championed the understanding of services as ‘complex systems’ in which specific arrangements of people and technologies take actions that provide value for others.

Designers for the last two decades have been realizing a shift in working practices and output from product to systems design, that is, understanding the wider system in which the designed product is to function. This incorporates, the users, producers, (including the designers themselves) the activities and functions expected, as well as the context of use, and constraints and freedoms offered by technologies used in the product. Such work has recently gone on under other labels, such as interaction design and/or user experience design (UX). Lately, systems have begun to incorporate services, and service design has taken hold, as evidenced by a dedicated conference series and a number of researcher and practitioner networks and courses.

Presentation & paper

Citation Data

Author(s): OCTOBER 2014
Title: Systems Thinking for Service Design: a natural partnership
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 28 September 2014
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights