Navigating the sociocultural landscape in service design

This paper reports on a case study where a service design approach was implemented to develop strategies for scaling-up a social enterprise, building on design as a meaning-making and framing practice. Context deconstruction methods drawn from semiotics and cultural studies were introduced during user research. These methods facilitated exploration of global and local sociocultural trends, mapping business category themes and competing offers, and identifying potential user groups’ cultural codes – i.e. expectations, aspirations and socio-symbolic aspects of consumption that influence users’ value perception. Subsequently, insights translated into strategies and guidelines for reframing the service value proposition and touchpoints to appeal to a wider potential user range. Results indicate that widening exploration from a user- to a context-centred approach enhances designers’ strategic skills, building stronger capability to observe and interpret sociocultural needs and attitudes. In turn, this highlights the central role of the service designer in leveraging the acceptance and diffusion of innovations.