Social Structures as Service Design Materials
Josina Vink, Kaisa Koskela-Huotari


Historically, social structures such as norms, rules, roles, and beliefs have represented externalities in service design. However, a view of service as a multi-actor value cocreation process, guided by institutionalized social structures, brings them to the fore as central service design materials. With the current article, we seek to extend understanding of social structures as service design materials and build knowledge regarding how to integrate these materials in service design processes. Drawing from institutional theory, we elaborate on the materiality of social structures and propose a conceptual framework that highlights their invisibility and duality, as well as their composition of multiple institutional pillars. Then with a research through design approach, we build on this conceptual framework to develop a practical process for exposing and working with social structures as service design materials.

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