Skip to main content

Design is Service

Design is service —not manipulating, nudging, coercing, persuading…

The interrelationship that binds, animates, and defines a design capable
system is service. Service is a contractual relationship where purpose and
intention is blended with instrumental skill, judgement and agency (Nelson and
Stolterman 2000). Service is a word that has many meanings in different
contexts. It has a sense of ennoblement at the same time that it has negative
connotations for the reasons given by James Hillman (Hillman 1995):

Service offends deep strata of human dignity. We may
all want service, but who wants to give it? For service still
means menial service (not banking, brokering, telephoning,
teaching, installing, diagnosing or writing). The first trouble
lies in the word, which invites in it cousins—serf, servile,
servant, servitude, servility, all descendants from the
common Latin ancestor, servus, slave. Service, as it is
defined in our culture, is hardly empowering, or
empowering only to those persons who can command
service and the system for which we slave.
James Hillman
Service
Kinds of Power
Pp. 66-67,

In education one studies the liberal arts, not the servile arts, a
representative and enduring cleaving of mind from body and spirit from
matter. It is representative as well of the aversion and fear of submissive
relationships of control, in contrast to control over one's own self interests.
Service is perceived as putting one’s self in an inferior role at the beck and
call of demands issuing from above or below depending on your station
point.

These service relationships are without much appeal to anyone except
martyrs or those who willingly enjoy sacrificing their own self-interest for
the benefit of others. However, service can be seen in a more positive and
more appealing light, as there are other systemic, service relationships that
do not require self-sacrifice or martyrdom.

Service can be defined as a self-referential, systemic relationship as in
self-serving. In the search for truth (scientific, artistic or religious) one serves
ones own purposes i.e. artists express their own feelings and emotions while
scientists follow their own curiosity and passion and believers search for a
true god(s) and metaphysical invariance.

From a design perspective, service is defined as other-serving. Design
service is the quality of empathy, embodied in design communication, which
is mutual rather than unilateral. Service, from a design perspective, is very
different from the kind of empathic relationship employed in helping or
fixing as explained by Rachel Remen ((Remen 1996)):

Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on
inequality; it is not a relationship between equals…. Service
is a relationship between equals…. Helping incurs debt.
When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like
healing is mutual. There is no debt.
Rachel Naomi Remen
In the Service of Life
Noetic Science Review
pp 24-25

Design service is defined by the contractual (formal or informal)
relationships of mutual and diverse benefit. In a relationship where there is
an exchange of value of equivalencies there is no inequity, inferiority,
domination, obligation, or unilateral control. Design, as service, is dependent

on the presence of an authentically empathic system of relationships.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Design, Wicked Problems & Throwness

Horst Rittel is one of the seminal residents in my 'Berkeley Bubble'. Recently a friend and colleague sent me an article about ‘double-wickedproblems’ . I have become ever more aware of the increasing number of references to ‘wicked problems’ in all forms of media that seem to have missed Rittel’s deeper insights . This brought up the concern I have about the use and miss-use of the term ‘wicked problem’.  The term ‘wicked problem’, first introduced by Rittel in West Churchman’s seminars at Berkeley, was in reference to his conceptualization of the impossible challenge of dealing with significant social issues using traditional, rational, ‘problem solving’ methods. In most cases what are miss-diangnosed as ‘wicked problems’ are actually complex or complicated problems that can be simplified or broken into smaller 'tame' problems allowing for a straight forward 'problem solving' approach to be taken. This approach is believed by many to be capable

Chinese edition of The Design Way

Interesting experience last week. Discovered by accident (Amazon advert) that there is a Chinese edition of The Design Way. It has been available for a few years and has sold several thousand copies. Who would have guessed? If by chance anyone has read this version of the book please let me know. I would like to hear what you think of the quality of the translation. The Spanish edition has been delayed by the virus but is still scheduled to be printed.