A group of women smiling in the camera, in the background there is a bridge.

Seeding service design: an interview with Birgit Mager

February 28, 2023

Professionals working in the field of experience management represent an array of skills and knowledge: designers and managers, researchers and engineers, data-driven and creative folks, CX, UX, EX… the profession has many faces. We are thrilled to have one of the most crucial community members share some of her background, her knowledge, and a few insights into her work: please meet Birgit Mager!

Birgit Mager holds the first worldwide professorship on „Service Design“ at the Technical University of Cologne, Germany. Furthermore, Birgit is co-founder and president of the Service Design Network, the leading non-profit organization committed to globally promoting and further developing service design.

Birgit Mager smiling and looking slightly upwards, wearing a black turtleneck. The background is light grey.
The first Service Design professor: Birgit Mager

My current job / my role / how I call myself

I’m a Professor for Service Design at the Cologne International School of Design (KISD) Germany, and President of the global Service Design Network (SDN).

My professional background and how I got into service design

I studied psychology, focusing on organizational psychology and systemic consulting.

After finishing my studies I worked as an in-house Human Resources & Organizational Development (HR&OD) expert for Hewlett Packard, where I got the chance to be part of the transformation from product and technology focus to solution-focused and systemic thinking. 

In 1995, I was honored with the first-ever professorship for Service Design at the Technical University in Cologne, Germany.

In 2004 I co-founded the global Service Design Network (SDN), a non-profit institution to promote a service design mindset all over the world. Nowadays, SDN for example hosts national and international events, publishes books, reports & case studies, and collaborates with academic institutions. 

Where I draw my inspiration from 

I think the “Theory U” from Otto Scharmer, as well as other resources from the field of organizational change and system theory, were highly valuable for me – and might be interesting for other people working in the service design field.

A great moment of success in my career / what I am really proud of

In 2020 I was awarded the “Sir Misha Black Memorial Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education” – an award that is given to people for their contributions to the further development of design, as well as education and connection of people within the design space.

What I expect from 2023

This year I’m looking forward to a great research project on the collaboration between Service Design University programs and the public sector.

Furthermore, we’ll have another inspirational service design Young Professional event in May – an event where we’re setting the stage for the next generation of service designers.

And last but not least, I’m excited we’ll maybe have the best Service Design Global Conference (SDGC) ever in my home country: Berlin, Germany on October 5th and 6th 2023.

A trend I observe in the field of SD/CX

Looking at the service design field, I observe interesting trends in three main fields:

  • Service design is becoming more strategic, and more business-related
  • We see more “Smart Service Design”, thus an increasing adoption of technology to improve services
  • The rise of ethics: here I see the increasing importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as well as the topic of sustainability, shifting the focus from human-centered design (HCD) to planet-centered design (PCD)

You can connect with Birgit on these channels 

You can get an overview of the work of SDN on service-design-network.org