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Programme Overview

Service Design

Service Design involves an integrated approach to the design of human experiences and the socio-cultural, economic and technological systems in which the services are experienced. Service designers needs to be able to integrate multiple design disciplines to create a systems-based solution that resolves the often complex needs of many different stakeholders in addition to the human experience of receiving or delivering a service. It has the power to transform public services and communities, to enable companies to deliver new levels of value to their customers, and innovators to unlock the potential of new technologies that create value for society. From social enterprise to new business ventures, from social innovation to creating new service paradigms, the service designer will call on a wide range of technical, creative design and management skills. And at the RCA we aim to help you develop all of those skills.

The programme reflects upon and provides a deep understanding of the technological, commercial and organisational context in the conception and execution of innovative services as well as the tools, techniques and methods required in the practice of service design. Its overarching goal is to enable graduating students to engage at a strategic as well as an operations level in the design of services, potentially leading interdisciplinary design teams in the design and deployment of innovative services in the business, consumer and public sector. Building on Design London’s collaboration between the RCA and Imperial College London, the core design-based courses at the RCA is complemented by faculty from Imperial College’s Department of Computing and Business School, who will provide an introduction to – or enhance – students' technical skills in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as well as business skills such as strategy, organisational behaviour and innovation management. 

In 2016 we introduced three platforms to reflect the development of Service Design as a discipline, the desire for specialisation within a growing community of students and increasing diversity in the way service design is being applied as a discipline in practice as well as the intellectual and professional development of the discipline. Service Innovation addresses the use of service design to develop new or enhance existing service propositions offered by industry, and exploiting the very latest digital technologies to deliver those services. Public Service and Policy Innovation addresses the growing application of service design to not only transforming public services delivered by government, central and local and third sector organisations and social enterprises, but also the use of service design to develop policy. Finally, Envision explores the design of future services and brings together future forecasting methodologies, emerging technology platforms and service design techniques to envision radical new service experiences in areas such as health, education, transportation, financial services, and retail with a five to ten year horizon. Each platform is led by a platform leader who develops and manages the specialist taught modules in the curriculum, develops project assignments and tutors students who decide to specialise in one of more of the platforms.

The RCA is uniquely placed to provide an interdisciplinary design experience where students of this programme can learn to design services while immersed in an exciting design education environment. Students benefit not only from the design-led education provided by the programme, but also a broader interdisciplinary educational environment. 

The programme and the project assignments maintain a special focus on the themes of society, health and wellbeing, energy and the environment. Students examine services that are delivered in a business to consumer, business to business and a public sector context, exploring business models that include social enterprise, not for profit and private enterprise. This involves working with private and public sector organisation to tackle service projects in these thematic areas and demonstrating that design can transform the nature, experience and value of their service offerings, making them more compelling to the users and other stakeholders, and efficient and profitable for the organisations that deliver them.

"In 2016 we introduced three platforms to reflect the development of Service Design as a discipline, the desire for specialisation within a growing community of students and increasing diversity in the way service design is being applied as a discipline."
Service Design Studio
Service Design Studio