Past blog segments have talked about the value of doing the work. They have suggested that your primary responsibility to yourself and your fans is to do the work. In this blog segment, we are going to talk about designing a specific form of monetization called subscription services.

Let’s start with “what is a service?” For our purposes, a service is an action taken on behalf of someone else to lighten their load. Imagine going to a restaurant, and a member of the wait staff brings you a menu and a glass of water. These are overt actions taken on your behalf. These are services.

On the other hand, we are more likely to be designing online services or subscription boxes. Obviously, these are two different kinds of services. One service provides the customer access to some online resource while the other requires the movement of physical goods.

What they have in common is the notion of recurring revenue. Generally, you pay a monthly fee to receive the service (i.e., access to the resources or delivery of the box of goodies). The benefits to the customer are that they can stop their subscription at any time. The challenge for you is that you must design a service that’s compelling enough for them to renew.

Next, we come to the heart of the matter, “design.” For conversation, you can think of design as a form of planning. A way of looking at the world and figuring out exactly which components are necessary to satisfy a given customer base at a given price point.

Design should also start and end with the notion of purpose. You start by declaring what the purpose of your subscription service. Clayton Christenson of Disruptive Innovation fame talks about what the customer will be hiring your subscription service to do.

At the end of the project, you will come back to the purpose you started with and determine if your solution solves the challenges associated with your original purpose. This is called, “fit for purpose.” If it doesn’t, then you need to go back to the drawing board and figure out a new solution.

As a matter of pride, designers are always trying to produce elegance. Elegance is a term of art which suggests a given solution has all it needs and no more. The activities proceed from one the other with the least amount of friction.

Elegance is achieved by including a mix of qualities called, “ilities.” For example, you think of the “durability” of the products that ship in your subscription boxes. You can think of “affordability” when it comes to a service like Netflix. You can design for “usability” when it comes to your registration process.

Now, let’s talk about future trends. As a rule of thumb, everything is getting simpler and cheaper. Think about Steve Sammartino book called, “the Great Fragmentation.” Mr. Sammartino suggests that this is in part due to the state and quality of OpenSource software.

Here at, we suggest that you take this sentiment to its logical conclusion by thinking of design the most important function in business. Anything that results in a paper trail will be changed by machine learning.

This means that you will be able to do more with fewer people. However, machine learning won’t be able to change the design profession. Machine Learning may provide a starting point or insights into what the customer wants. However, people will be needed to find the inflection points that create new value. To design the new subscription services.

Zachary Alexander