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How to start a career as a service designer | Design Thinking Camp 2019

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Missed the Design Thinking Camp Sofia 2019? Here is a summary of Marc Fontaijn’s talk.

Marc Fontaijn is a Founding Partner at 31Volts and the host of the Service Design Show. He was destined to have a typical IT career but luckily serendipity changed his path and led him to start the first service design agency in the Netherlands. Since 2007 he has been working with large organisations to put customers back at the heart of their operation. Not just because it’s good for business but also because it’s the right thing to do.

Fontaijn has also created the Service Design Show - a platform that helps service designers to make the next step in their careers and increase their influence on strategy and decision-making. His ultimate goal is to motivate people to create projects that make them proud by combining courage and curiosity.

At the first edition of Design Thinking Camp, he told the story of a Bulgarian friend - Julia, who managed to become a service designer without having any formal training or experience in the field. Here are some useful tips on how everyone can follow her lead and pursue a carrier as a service designer “without losing your mind or home”.

In order to make a career shift, you need to learn a lot about the field via different sources (videos, books, trainings). Julia’s journey began when she accidentally came across a video on service design and organisational change. She also found a lot of resourceful materials to read and learn from - “Service design for business”, “This is service design doing”, “Designing the invisible”, etc.

You also need to set a clear goal and make a commitment to achieving it. For instance, tell yourself that you need to find a service design client within the next 6 months and work hard until you make it possible. You can also get some hands-on experience and actually start doing service design in a safe environment. In Julia’s case, she was able to redesign the menu of the uncle’s restaurant in order to make it more easier for customers to make their pick. She also created different note templates for the waiters and the team in the kitchen. This resulted in way fewer mistakes when delivering the food to the customer.

“Your first service design might be your current job”. Illustration by Katerina Balakina

Another tip to becoming a service designer is reframing your skills and rewriting your portfolio. You can also share your experience and insights via different media channels, blog posts and events. Invite people to participate in your free workshops in order to spread the word about your line of work.

Last but not least, make it official on LinkedIn and don’t worry too much about the title – service design is about mindset and attitude, Marc said. Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission, don’t wait for formal education, don’t care what other people say or think. Just be aware that you will still have to educate your clients on how the method works. If you have trouble finding a client, look for a suitable job position in the field. You can also make a difference by applying service design in the firm that you are already working at. “Your first service design might be your current job”, he concluded.


Here are some powerful insights from Jesse Grimes on the trends in the world of service design.

Take a look at the photos of the epic first edition of Design Thinking Camp in Sofia here:


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