Often people who are new to building subscription services ask the difference between service design and the service design narrative. For our conversation, you can think of the service design as being customer-facing structures. And the service design narrative as the rationale for taking action.


In short, you can think of service as what you do to help other people. For example, it could be something as simple as bringing water and a menu out to the table. It could also be as complex as forecasting what’s what going on in the fashion industry and suggesting which separates will allow you to upgrade your wardrobe for the least cost.


When most people talk about design in the context of subscription services they are talking design thinking. You should consider design thinking as another term for creative problem solving or collaboration. When you consider how best to evaluate design you should think in terms elegance or little no wasted effort.


For the sake of our discussion, you can think of narrative as the stories that you tell to convey the elegance of your service design. They are the stories you tell to change behavior and inspire correct action. You have probably heard that a picture is a worth a thousand words, which would be the service design while conveying why this picture matters is the service design narrative.

Here are the 3R’s associated Service Design Narrative:


The service design narrative must be relevant to the situation. For example, the best way to share technical knowledge is with peer-to-peer debriefs. Telling stories about how you got the most out of the subscription service is the best way to change behavior.


The service design narrative can be used to move your audience to take action and change behavior. For the record, resonance is the trickiest of the 3R’s. Relevance and Responsiveness are situational. Resonance is emotional.


Service design narratives must also be conversational.  And conversations work best when they flow both ways. The service design narratives must acknowledge both objections and praise for the service design as a whole.

Impact on Innovation

A lot of new people think that if they come up with a hot new idea then their subscription service will attract new members with their credit cards in hand. The hard truth is that most people will do nothing unless you have a compelling service design narrative that holds everything together.


Service design matters. However, it’s the service design narrative that causes the wheels to turn. It’s the service design narrative that enhances the way that the service design will be perceived.

Zachary Alexander