You Design What Now?
You Design What Now?

Common Ground with Marketing

“Even a brief review of the main ideas within marketing has shown to what extent they have diffused through contemporary design, in particular service design. Indeed it is perhaps hard to identify two distinct fields, such is the close correspondence between them but there are some important differences, shaped in part by the influences of the social sciences within marketing and by the educational backgrounds of many service designers in art and design schools.”

Lucy Kimbell, from “Marketing: Connecting with People, Creating Value” found in This Is Service Design Thinking by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider

I don’t think I’m the only designer who tends to have a negative knee-jerk reaction when someone equates design with marketing. If you believe in the potential for design in the world, it can be hard to accept selling things as the pinnacle of its work.

But that is perhaps an unfair characterisation of marketing, and the comparison to design isn’t without grounding. Especially with the emergence of service design, designers are increasingly interested in how to develop systems that appropriately link people, places, and products. The hope is that better service systems can benefit both those who profit from the operation of those systems and those who are embedded inside those system.

“This Is Service Design Thinking” is one of the first couple of dedicated service design books that I’ve seen published, which may indicate a wider acknowledgment of the concept. Kimbell, who teaches service design to MBAs, uses this essay to outline the commonalities and differences between service design and marketing. She concludes that, in the end, the convergent goals around designing services means that it matters little what we label the activity, only that we start to understand and value the relationships between people and their environments when building services.

On a broader note, reading this book reminded me again that interaction design doesn’t belong solely to interaction designers. Perhaps that’s true of any field, but I think it is felt more keenly in interaction design. If you examine the work in fields like marketing and business, journalism, video game design, and many more, you find experts in those fields tackling the same themes and concerns as interaction designers (though not always with the same approaches or opinions). It reinforces my belief that the skills of interaction design have the most to do with re-framing, recognizing resonance or dissonance between concepts, and remaining open and humble towards incoming ideas.


Business & Design

  • […] recent literature on the convergence of business marketing and service design that I’ve noted previously, I can imagine how this book and others like it started to indicate the emerging links between […]

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