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Service design innovation for startups (by three experts)

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Service design innovation for startups (by three experts)


We’ve held a webinar with three experts on service design: Michele Visciòla, Daniele Catalanotto and Jin Kang Møller.

On this page, you’ll learn their definitions of service design, read their success stories and get three important tips on how you can use service design in your startup or company.

What you’ll find on this page.

  • Let us introduce ourselves.
  • Our experts on service design.
  • What is service design?
  • The principles of service design.
  • About experience design.
  • Three service design success stories.
  • Three tips: How you use service design in your company.
  • Your next steps.

Let us introduce ourselves.

We’re a non-profit investment and innovation promotion agency on a mission to establish the Basel Area as the Swiss business and innovation hub of the future.

The Basel Area is the name of the economic region of Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Jura. Companies, institutions and startups that want to explore business opportunities here can profit from our services in three main categories:

    • Invest: We help foreign or outer-cantonal businesses set up and find footing in the Basel Area.
    • Innovate: We mentor and accelerate companies in the Basel Area that focus on life sciences and industry 4.0.
    • Switzerland Innovation Park: We offer four locations with fully equipped labs and office space for collaborative innovation.

We held a webinar on service design.

Through the companies and startups we mentor, we’ve noticed that services have grown more and more complex over the last decades. Navigating this new complexity is a huge challenge for many companies.

A few brilliant, creative people explore and master this uncharted territory. We have invited three of them to cover:

  • What is service design?
  • How has service design innovation helped the startups and companies they work with?
  • How do you apply service design in your business?

Our experts on service design.

Michele Visciòla.

  • CEO & founding partner of Experientia.
  • More than ten years of teaching experience at universities.
  • Startup founder

Michele is President and founding partner of Experientia, UX research and service design agency. He has more than 10 years of teaching experience at several universities and as an entrepreneur; Michele has founded a pioneering start-up on usability and human-factors consultancy.

Learn more about Michele

Daniele Catalanotto. 

Daniele is a Swiss Service Designer and educator. He is the founder of the Swiss Innovation Academy, works as an innovation coach at the Salvation Army and has published several books on service design.

Learn more about Daniele

Jin Kang Møller.

Jin is a designer, customer experience strategist and the author of the book: the Simplicity Playbook for Innovators. As a practitioner, who has executed customer experience strategy in large financial services corporations in Europe and Asia, she truly believes that design holds tremendous power in creating more value for businesses and for customers.

Learn more about Jin

What is service design?

The definition Wikipedia gives us for service design is dry and academic.

“Service design is the activity of planning and arranging people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality, and the interaction between the service provider and its users.”



We’ve asked our experts what service design means to them.

“Service design is different for every company but can generally be classified as one of three things: The end-to-end experience design for your company’s front and back, the heterogeneous customer profiles used to deliver personalized services and how you shape your services and behavior for impact.”

—Michele Visciòla


“Whenever you hate your bank, your dentist or any other organization, service design could take the experience from ‘I fucking hate them’ to ‘that was lovely.’”

—Daniele Catalanotto


“Service design is how companies design the way they interact with the customers.”

—Jin Kang Møller


Michele works with three definitions. The first one identifies and optimizes touchpoints and internal processes. His second definition is about identifying clusters of customers that you can serve with a tailored approach. Lastly, Michele likes to take a holistic approach and look for opportunities to change the whole system.

Daniele’s definition is, as he describes it, less academic. To learn more about his approach, check out his book Service Design Principles 1-100

Here’s a little teaser.


The 100 principles of service design.

In his book, Daniele shows us 100 ideas, tips and examples to improve the user and customer experience in simple and practical ways.

10 of the 100 principles of service design are:

  • Principle 001: The First Draft of Anything Is Shit.
  • Principle 012: Stop Giving Coupons When You Failed.
  • Principle 024: Just Remember Me.
  • Principle 033: I Prefer Bots over Fake Humans.
  • Principle 037: To Improve Your Service, Start by Paying Your Employees Well.
  • Principle 047: Don’t Assume That I Know How to Spell Your Company Name.
  • Principle 059: Great Ideas from Yesterday Might Suck Today.
  • Principle 072: Keep It Simple Stupid.
  • Principle 084: You Are a Liar, so Let Me Ask Other Customers.
  • Principle 099: Uncertainty Makes Users Safer.

To learn more about them and the other 90 principles of service design check out his book.


“Let’s call it experience design.”

Jin suggests a shift of mindset from “we offer products” to “the experience is the product.” This forces us to focus on how our customers experience and feel about our services. It makes it about them instead of about us.

In her book, The Simplicity Playbook for Innovators, Jin introduces five strategic shifts that will transform how you look at your business — from customer research to product/service development. 

In each strategic shift, you will find a wealth of practical tools that have been applied and tested, particularly in legacy companies dealing with complex processes and systems. 


Three service design success stories.

Aging Gracefully by Michele.

DesignSingapore Council asked Experientia, Michele’s company, to explore health and wellness for the elderly in the Singaporean public sector.

Michele and his team spent around a year collecting evidence from service providers in the community and engaged over 200 people in different workshops.

The result was a master plan on how to provide services for the elderly in Singapore.

These findings paved the way for not only the government but also for various startups and established companies.

After six years, it still resonates with people so much that Michele receives regular emails about it.


Experience design in the financial sector by Jin.

When Jin started working with one of the top financial services companies on building a wealth management platform, the bankers wanted to know, “how can we make our product better?”

But Jin took a different approach. She used experience design.

Through her research, she found that the problem wasn’t the platform. People just lacked the confidence to invest money.

With her proposed shift from building a platform to building confidence, everything changed.

Within a month, the company was generating over 50% more revenue than with the old product-focused approach.


A small idea with a big impact by Daniele.

Daniele told us a story about his work as a consultant for the Salvation Army. One of their smaller branches struggled to find ways to be socially impactful in the city.

Daniele set up a small service design workshop.

Before the workshop, he researched what problems the city presents in this area. One problem was no affordable warm meals on Saturday and Sunday.

In his workshop, he established a base: “What do we already have?”

The participants came up with: A kitchen, a big room and several lovely elderly members living on a pension, ready to cook on Saturdays.

Matching that with the city’s problem, they didn’t waste time making a big plan. They just started cooking warm meals on Saturdays. 

Word got around and more and more people came. Today, that small location is making a big impact in the lives of many people in need.


Three tips: How you use service design in your company.

Tip 1: Do your research.

Service design is a creative process. But without data and evidence to base your action plan on, creativity is only guesswork. Always do your research first and then build on the evidence you gather.

Go out and talk to your customers. Observe their behavior. Map the emotions through their customer journey and add their impact on your company for each touchpoint.

Do your research at every step. When you’ve created your first prototype, give it to the people in your target audience for feedback. Let them review the next version, too. And the one after that. Never stop researching.


Tip 2: Choose the tools that work for you.

Not many tools are exclusive to service design. Service design steals from different fields like psychology, design and marketing.

The first tool you need to use is empathy. Talk to your customers and find out what their experience with you is like. Next, you need to make sense of that data. Combine it with your creativity to see what you can optimize.

Lastly, you need to communicate your findings. Service design is a difficult concept. You need to tell a story that makes sense to your decision-makers. Make them see what you see.


Tip 3: Stay connected.

Service design is ever-evolving. New methods, ideas and research constantly shake it up.

The easiest way to stay on top of everything that’s happening in service design is to connect with the right people.

Find service design experts you admire and follow them. Read what they write. Join their talks. Ask questions. A good first step is Daniele’s LinkedIn post, in which he shared more valuable resources about service design.


Your next steps.

Try it out! Gather evidence, draw up ideas to improve on what you have and implement them without fear. Double down on what works and scratch what doesn’t.

If you’ve got a service design story or question to share, drop us a comment below.

And, of course, make sure to join our next networking event!

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