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Service Design for Start-ups - Adapting Our Practice for a New Frontier


10 Oct 2019

Given as part of the SDN's Global Conference, this workshop will introduce service designers to the challenges and opportunities presented by working with start-ups.

Service design is becoming more and more well-established in large organizations, from financial services to government and telecoms. However it is still largely an unknown quantity in the startup world. To take one example, Lean Startup makes no reference to service design, and engages with end users only superficially.


Responsibility for the customer experience delivered by a startup usually lays with several roles: Digital product designers, product owners/managers, and UX'ers. However they rarely bring the mindset and techniques of a typical service designer to their role, and have their hands full already.


The product-oriented focus of a startup - and unique pressures to discover, validate and scale a concept quickly and with limited resources - presents new challenges for service design. But with some adaptations to our ways-of-working, and new tools, we can deliver new insights and value.


The startup lifecycle also differs from the way traditional service design clients operate, and our value can be best delivered at some phases and less so in others.


In this workshop, we’ll explain how startups represent a very different way of working than your typical organization: How they think, what drives them, what terminology they use, and what their main goals are. Attendees will also learn what tools from their existing toolboxes can deliver the most value. They’ll also be introduced to the ‘Service Design for Innovation’ canvas, to build an appreciation for service design’s value in just one session.


Startups operate in different contexts - from standalone operations, to those hosted in incubators, accelerators and corporate innovation labs. Each of these offer potential new opportunities for service designers. Learning how to adapt a service designer’s skills, language and value proposition to these new context can mean exciting new work opportunities, in dynamic, fast-paced and often young environments.



  • Intermediate to advanced service designers

  • Intermediate to advanced UX designers who are moving towards service design

  • Innovation specialists/product owners/product designers


Activities and tools introduced

The theoretical aspects of the workshop will be split into two general sections. Firstly, a deep dive into startups, and how their perspectives, pace, goals and methods differ from traditional organizations. Secondly, advice on how to adapt known service design methodologies and tools to the startup context. Activities will include hands-on experience with the Business Model Canvas and the Service Perspectives for Innovation Canvas.

What will attendees be able to do after the workshop?

Learn how to position themselves to work in a service design role for a startup, and have been exposed to new and existing tools used by startups.

This workshop is given in conjunction with strategic innovation designer Kevin Quint (

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