Service Design Thinking in the HBS and UAS programs


by Else Zwarteveen, graduate Saxion Hospitality Business School

Else Zwarteveen-122

Service Design Thinking

I first met with SDT when I joined the Hospitality Excellence Programme (HEP) in 2013. Laura Niño presented this process as a way to create or innovate (existing) products or services. I thought it was amazing that the user is at the heart of this process and co-creation was also a concept which caught my interest. Unfortunately at that time, Service Design Thinking was not yet part of the curriculum at Saxion, so the process actually disappeared to the back of my mind. I met SDT again when I did a minor in Service Management in Copenhagen, where I had a subject called “experience economy”. During a guest lecture in this subject, I got inspired for my thesis project and by then I was sure that my thesis assignment should be related to experience and service design. Now of course, Service Design Thinking is the method for the Expedition projects, and that is great.



I asked Xander Lub, who recently started a research centre in “Experience and Service Design”, and if he offered any thesis assignment in this field and fortunately he did! In consultation with the corporate real estate agency of Saxion (Bureau Vastgoed) and the manager of the HBS, he had an idea to use Service Design Thinking (SDT) to come to an innovative spatial concept for the new building of Saxion Apeldoorn. From the start I was really enthusiastic about this assignment, since I was happy to use the SDT process again, but at the same time to be involved with the new building of Saxion Apeldoorn. Specifically, I researched the needs and ambitions of future students of Saxion Apeldoorn with regards to their learning process and learning environment. The several steps within the SDT process kept me extremely motivated, as well as all the input I received from stakeholders. Most people were very willing to help and they gave great feedback, generated amazing ideas or they inspired me in other ways.

Before I started with my thesis I had never expected to have so much fun in writing my thesis. Of course, I also had days where the writing went badly and I was extremely uninspired, but overall it was quite a success. I am sure that the great support of my first examiner helped me much during the whole process, since my meetings with Bas Jansen were always inspiring and helped me lots in researching and writing for the thesis.

Even though I had fun with using SDT for my thesis, I also faced some difficulties. This was mainly the case because of the rather conventional way of assessing the Thesis Proposal Defence and the Thesis Report. The criteria on the score sheet are not always easy to meet when the SDT process is used, especially for the TPD, where you should describe exactly the process should look like and how the advice will be shaped. However, the fun thing about the SDT process is that you don’t know what you will do exactly, since it is an iterative process, and the advice is a product of your findings and cannot be predicted beforehand. This also requires flexibility of the examiners, since they also have to be creative in scoring you. I recently handed in my Thesis Report and expecting to hear the result soon.

Moodboard Prototype


From September onwards I will start a Master at the University of Barcelona. This Master is called “Innovative Hospitality Management” and Service Design Thinking is one of the aspects. When I graduate, I hope to work as a hospitality consultant and provide companies or organisation with advice about how hospitality can be integrated to serve their guests, customers, clients or employees.

Service Design Thinking at HBS

At HBS you learn how to create a business plan and a strategic plan, based on traditional marketing tools. If SDT is also handed to the students as a toolbox for designing or innovating products or services, the results of marketing or strategic plans will be much more creative, innovative and diverse. This can already be seen in the Expedition projects. If SDT is integrated further in HBS, I would recommend using This is Service Design Thinking written by Stickdorn and Schneider as required literature for such a course.


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