Palmu Society: 10+10 – The Future of Service Design

Event: Palmu Society: 10+10

Time: 20.9.2018 klo 8.30-13

Place: Tennispalatsi, Helsinki


The service design agency Palmu, now part of Solita, celebrated their 10th anniversary with an inspiring event that brought Palmu’s talented professionals on stage to discuss the next 10 years of service design and related topics from various angles.

Designing things is natural for people. It started with designing artefacts and physical items and has expanded to designing services, organizations and what not. “Is there anything that can’t be designed?”, asked Maria Niemi, one of the hosts in the event, and continued “or do we designers just consider us as gods that can do anything?”. Having started my journey in the field of service design less than a year ago and feeling still very enlightened, I’m prone to believe that everything can be designed. Judging by the presentations, the experts at Palmu seem to feel the same, but when everything is possible, the real questions are actually what should be designed and by whom.

Some key themes that were present throughout the day were:

  1. The balance between business value and the value for the customer
  2. Diverse teams
  3. Making an impact

As Esa Rauhala, Palmu’s SVP of Design, said in his opening speech: “The more wicked the problem, the more versatile skills and knowledge are needed to solve it”. He also pointed out that there’s a long way from sketches and concepts to actually changing things – and that Palmu really wants to make the changes happen, which is why they’ve taken a broader approach to service design by e.g. bringing in business people and Solita’s resources to help their designers achieving the best results.

From service design to behaviour design

The first keynote was held by Palmu’s service designer Johannes Hirvonsalo. He took us on a walk down memory lane by telling how Palmu brought service design to Finland 10 years ago.


Service design for an imaginary fitness center Motiva 10 years ago.

Since then, service design and design thinking have become mainstream. We encounter amazing services and excellent customer experiences everyday, which means that it’s no longer enough to compete in the market by just offering good service. Also the world starts to be so complex that the problems companies need to address are far more holistic than improving a single service process or user experience. In order to solve a problem like that the companies will first need to figure out who the customer actually is and what should be solved, and only then can they start building a business around it.

According to Johannes, the aim of design in the future should be to

  1. achieve a change in people’s behaviour
  2. figure out what the customer wants and what does it take to get there
  3. give people tools for getting where they want to be
  4. manage trust

For doing this, we need diversity and cooperation between various fields such as psychologists and anthropologues, we need better specialists but also better generalists, and we need data. If we succeed in all this, we should be able to create holistic, adaptive services that change throughout the customer lifecycle to meet their needs and desires in each phase.


Motiva 10 years later – holistic solution where different fields collaborate.

The job titles in a service organization of the future

Liisa Karttunen and Reima Rönnholm wanted to raise discussion around the future job titles in the post-service design era. They pointed out that service designers didn’t exist 10 years ago so who knows where we’ll be after the next 10 years.

Liisa and Reima brought up a scenario where the physical, digital and biological worlds are combined, 20-47% of current professions have disappeared and AI is everywhere. In a world where artificial intelligence can organize everything for us and we as humans only accept its decisions, it is crucial to pay attention to how the new technology is taken into use and what kind of services are designed. As Reima pointed out, “sometimes you just need to feel disappointed” – we can’t let the AI to make everything perfect.


Seven jobs of the future.

Liisa and Reima introduced seven future jobs and made us think about the following questions:

If all encounters will be digital, what are the moments where you start missing a human?

If everything can be personalized, what is worth personalizing?

If data gives you the assumably best option, who dares to take risks and try something else?

Who decides, what kind of empathy is taught to a machine? How do we even teach them “the unwritten rules” of humankind?

How to achieve people’s trust so that we get the data we need from them?

According to Reima and Liisa, service design has been sort of a Trojan horse that brought customers in the centre of all development. Now that the seed is planted, we can focus on making the most out of the future.


What will service designers be in the future?

The other talks of the day were about accelerators helping to create new business by Mikko Väätäinen, a panel discussion about the role of business designer in the future and a touching presentation about people and change by Tarja Kivistö and Marko Taipale. Some takeaways from those presentations:

  • Current businesses are about optimizing, wild ideas need “seeking organizations”
  • Ideas need also people and enabling structures to make them happen
  • A business designer is a bridge between service design and business (or a shit plow)
  • Change is always a crisis that provokes feelings
  • Feelings are not a problem, not handling them is
  • In a change situation we should solve the causes and not the effects

Don’t invest in messing around.


The different aspects of business design.


Fundamental emotional needs.

All in all the whole event was super inspiring and I’m very happy for joining. As a service design student and enthusiastic who still hasn’t worked a day under the title of service designer it was both amusing and slightly disturbing to hear the experts say that service design starts to be gone with the wind already. I mean, I don’t want to lose my job before I even got the job. Luckily, I’m certain that the need for empathy, creativity, user-centered design and other service designer skills is not going anywhere, so we won’t be left twiddling our thumbs in the future, either. Maybe we just call ourselves customer mythbusters or chief trust officers.

More information and ideas:


One thought on “Palmu Society: 10+10 – The Future of Service Design

  1. Nice update of the event. The new jobs described in the post are interesting and a Business Designer is probably what most of us Laurea students would become.

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