SD vs UX research

In a couple of months I’ll be giving a talk on the difference between the kinds of research we do to inform user experience (UX) design and the kinds of research we do to inform service design (SD).

This question can be approached from multiple angles. The most obvious is probably differences in tools and techniques. What tools are common to both UX and SD, which UX tools are normally not used and what new tools have been developed for solving service design problems?

Besides the tools used, are there any other differences in how the research is done? Are different questions asked? Is there a shift in focus or emphasis? Is analysis conducted differently or documented differently? Are different people involved in fieldwork or analysis?

The reason these questions are most obvious is they are likely to provide the most useful answers, so obviously that won’t be the angle I will take.

No, my angle will have to be one that gets at the essential difference between UX and SD, which drives the need to dig for different kinds of insights.

I want to take this angle because, to be frank, SD is much weirder than UX and any other design medium I’ve researched and I still haven’t nailed down what makes it so weird. I want to use this talk as an excuse to figure it out, or at least generate some interesting ideas in an attempt to figure it out.

My starting hypothesis is this: I think the goal of service design research is to uncover design problems and the precise relationships between them — in other words, design problem systems, spanning moments, spaces, design media and disciplines.

Discovering and defining such problem-systems is different in nature from discovering and defining problems constrained to one particular medium, and this might be the root difference that drives all the other differences.

If you know anything about this topic, please do shoot at my feet and make me dance. I need to think this through.

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