Topic outline

  • The course material might change, so please watch this space regularly.

    Service Design Project Course 4 ECTS

    Responsible teacher: Dr Helena Sustar, @helena.sustar,   

    Where: Online, Microsoft Teams

    For a link to weekly Service Design Lectures, access here   

    I send the invitation to your Aalto University email, which you can access at by logging with your Aalto email address.   

    Course term: 11 lectures

    Time: 06.10. - 15.12.2021

    Days: Wednesday 18:00 - 20:30

    Workload: 108 hours: 34.5 hours: contact hours / 73.5 hours: Independent work

    Note: Course requires group work outside of contact hours, and you might find it demanding; therefore, reserve enough time every week.    

    Grading: 0-5

    Course Language: English (Finish)

    Twitter: #AaltoOpenSD

    Note! Grades and course certificates 

    The teacher sends grades at the latest one month after the course to Aalto Open University Office.  

    For grades and course certificates, please get in touch with

    or visit Certificates and transcripts of records - in English: 

    Todistukset ja opintosuoritusotteet - in Finnish:

    Course Description

    This course's main aim is the course participant ability to utilise individual service design (SD) expertise in the practical development of an innovative project. The participant understands service characteristics and knows how to consider when redesigning or developing innovative SD concepts. Then, the learner gets familiar with the design process and utilising appropriate SD tools at a particular stage of project development. At the end of the course, the participant applies gained SD knowledge during the practical project of selected (sustainable) services by proposing innovative systemic, strategic and user experiences solutions and concepts.

    Content and Structure 

    The course structure supports' student learning and gaining SD skills in various ways: through readings, lectures, discussions, blog reflections and practical exercises of utilising various SD tools. Course participants are encouraged to examine the given project theme holistically from the sophisticated systemic level, strategic and business perspective, to individual service user experiences.

    First, the participants employ design principles, selected strategic and business strategies, systems thinking, and SD tools with chosen Finnish company or public organisation. The learner gets familiar with relevant terminology related to digital complexity (DX, DXP, CX, digital platforms, AI, AR, VR, blockchain technology, IoT) and ethical and social implications of digitalisation for future socio-cultural systems. This assist participant in planning advanced SD strategies in digital environments. The third set of lectures introduces what future SD trends are. The learner examines service providers' perspectives and user sides by adopting several essential and specific SD tools. The set of lectures concludes with prototyping and visualisation techniques. Last but not least, participant works on a given project together with a project mentor had the opportunity to visit (virtually) an SD agency and listen to a talk of selected academic and industry-related guest speakers.

    Learning Outcomes 

    After this course, the student accomplishes in 

    1. Extracting business requirements, visualising the experience from the user, front and back-end operations and connecting the system joins to create new or improved service strategies;

    2. Collecting qualitative and quantitative data and insides in the specific context of a group project with ethical procedures in their mind. Collected insides allow learners to understand user's and stakeholders' needs and behaviours to design meaningful service value propositions;

    3. Selecting and employing appropriate strategic service design tools and methods in collaboration with the company/organisation project partner;

    4. Facilitating (if proper) co-design workshops with professionals from various disciplines to generate new business opportunity areas in the context of a selected enterprise; 

    5. Translating digital complexity with utilising systems thinking to minimise friction between the user and digital interfaces;  

    6. Recognising future trends to predict strategic service business expansions in diverse domains and contexts and 

    7. Constructively reflect on a group project progress, learning, lectures, (virtual) visits and other projects theme.

    Study material

    At the first lecture, the teacher presents a specific project that the course participant is working on. Besides, project mentors also might provide particular material.


    1. The innovative use of service design tools in the given project

    2. The quality of the project progress presented at the midterm presentation and the final presentation  

    3. The inventiveness of the project service design solution or a concept 

    4. The quality of the learning blog posts

    5. Participants need to attend the course at least 80%

    Individual lectures 

    Lecture 1: Course introduction & Projects themes            Wednesday 06.10.2021

    The first lecture consists of two parts: a course and a projects' introduction. The first part introduces the course technicalities, practicalities and course content. Following are individual and group work; important dates related to course deliverables, including the midterm and the final presentation. The lecture also instructs blog writing, constructive reflections on course readings, and following course assessment. In the second part of the class, the teacher will present four projects' themes. Each project mentor supports with relevant literature projects that mentors. The lecture concludes with a team-building exercise.  

    Group Blog 1: Reading 1 & Homework 1

    The practical implication of an SD tool: Three horizons (3H)

    Lecture 2: Understand the more significant picture                 Wednesday 13.10.2021

    This lecture concerns planning the initial part of the project; however, seeing it as a part of a more significant picture. A discourse on systemic design will explain systemic design and its relation to service design. The lecture will present why systemic design is essential now and the systemic design methods utilised in these complex projects following the first exploration of project themes by examining future trends and adopting three horizons exercises. 

    Group Blog 2: Reading 2 & Homework 2

    The practical implication of an SD tool: Strategy tools 

    Lecture 3: The role of strategy in service design           Wednesday 20.10.2021

    This lecture will discuss strategy's role in service design and related terminology, including strategy, strategic design, design strategy, and organisational strategy. Furthermore, a Danish Design Ledder is presented and utilisation of design strategy in the organisation. Finally, the teacher will explain several strategic design tools. 

    Group Blog 3: Reading 3 & Homework 3

    The practical implication of an SD tool: Digital complexity tool 

    Lecture 4     Service design in digital complexity                         Wednesday 27.10.2021 

    This lecture will translate digital complexity using a design approach to minimise friction between users and digital interfaces. Participants get familiar with relevant terminology (DX, DXP, CX, digital platforms, AI, AR, VR, blockchain technology, IoT) and digitalisation's ethical and social implications for future socio-cultural systems to plan advanced service design strategies in digital environments. Then, it will follow a short discussion on design ethics covering how to write a consent form and information sheet.

    Group Blog 4Reading 4 & Homework 4 

    The practical implication of an SD tool: MURAL Workshop planing 

    Lecture 5: Practical lesson: What makes a great workshop?               Wednesday 03.11.2021           

    This lecture will touch upon "What makes a good workshop?" where we will discuss matters required to consider before, during the workshop and after the workshop?  After the lecture will be time for mentoring individual groups.

    Lecture 6    Midterm presentation                 Wednesday 10.11.2021

    The entire lecture is dedicated to mid-term projects presentations, projects' evaluations, feedback and discussions. Feedback will be peer to peer-assisted in addition to mentors and responsible teacher feedback. 

    Group Blog 5Reading 5 & Homework 5 

    The practical implication of an SD tool: Prototyping tools 

    Lecture 7:   Visualisation and prototyping           Wednesday 17.11.2021       

    This lecture familiarises students with different types of advanced prototyping. The course starts with what is prototyping and why it is essential. Then, prototyping, sketching and paper prototyping, video prototyping, mobile application design, and how to create mockups, wireframes and prototypes with PowerPoint are demonstrated. Finally, are introduced prototyping apps to make prototypes faster and how to conduct user testing. 

    Reading 6 & Homework 6 

    Read Hellon's Sustainable Futures 2030 game for accelerating sustainability transformations within organisations text, which you can find here. Prepare questions that you want to ask Hellon. 

    Lecture 8   Virtual visit at service design agency               Wednesday 24.11.2021

    Virtual visit at Hellon, service design agency, Helsinki.

    Kirsikka Vaajakallio, PhD, Principal Designer, Futures Game developer and Emilia Gustafsson, Lead Strategist, will host the event. Besides the service design agency presentation, we will also talk about Hellon's Sustainable Futures 2030 game that Hellon developed to accelerate sustainability transformations within organisations.  

    Event agenda:

    18.00 Introductions 

    18.10 Hellon in brief

    18.20 Co-imaging sustainable futures

    18.45 Discussion and questions

    19:00 Finnish 

    Reading 7 & Homework 7 
    The practical implication of an SD tool: Sustainability tools (Planet Centred Design tools)

    Lecture 9    The future of service design themes (Sustainability)                      Wednesday 01.12.2021       

    This lecture examines future trends related to living a more sustainable lifestyle and digital transformation, calling for redefining growth. Furthermore, the class exposes the design as a change agent and its role in transforming towards more planet-centred service design concepts. Finally, the course presents examples of the newest circular and transformational business models, which longevity jet to be seen.   

    Lecture 10 Guest lecture             Wednesday 08.12.2021 

    Nitor, Janne Järvinen, People partner, and Annika Madejska, Senior designer. 

    Theme (tentative) ethics and sustainability along how Nitor developed mission, vision, and values.

    More info will follow. 

    Lecture 11     Finalising                Wednesday 15.12.2021           

    At this last lecture, each group will have the opportunity to present their Final projects' service design solution and get feedback, which will be peer to peer-assisted, in addition to responsible teacher feedback.