Jennifer McCutchen

Content Strategy in Service Design

Google the terms “content strategy” or “service design,” and you’ll find a plethora of online resources. Google the phrase “content strategy in service design,” and you’ll encounter the digital version of crickets. In other words, you won’t find much.

This is unfortunate to us here at Fjord, which is why at the end of April, Fjord LA opened its doors to the Los Angeles content and design community to talk about this very topic. In partnership with the Content Strategy Southern California organization, the event, titled “Content Strategy in Service Design,” drew local content strategists, interaction designers and visual designers who were interested in learning how content strategy and service design work hand in hand to deliver useful, usable service experiences.


Dima Todorova-Lilavois, Fjord LA’s IxD lead, and I (content design lead here in LA) kicked off the evening with an ice breaker activity centered around a fundamental improvisational technique called “Yes, and.” Communication is at the heart of content strategy and service design, and interestingly, communication is also at the heart of improv. In the “Yes, and” exercise, one person begins with a simple story that establishes a plot and setting, such as “In the year 2053, a purple elephant rode a spaceship to the store and bought a purple ball” (the crazier the story, the better, in our opinion). The next person then replies with “Yes, and …” before continuing with the story. The premise is that participants must accept the storyline given to them (“yes”) and build on it (“and”). As service designers, we must do the same. Actively listening, collaborating, adapting and building on the ideas of our teammates and clients – even if those ideas appear out of the ordinary – are fundamental concepts to service design thinking.

After the ice breaker, we gave a 40-minute “content-strategy-meets-service-design” presentation. Providing a primer on the two disciplines, we then jumped into the meat of the talk: why content strategy and service design need each other.

Yes, we said it: The two need each other. Even at the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, this is what we believe at Fjord. Considering the two disciplines are both focused on designing for the frontstage and backstage – coupled with the fact that we believe content is inherent in any service experience – it seems silly to not talk about them in the context of a symbiotic relationship.

Let us break it down for you:

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We live in a service economy with evolving liquid expectations. Content is a fundamental component of how users engage with a service, and content strategy is the mechanism that enables that service experience to be delivered holistically and consistently across all touchpoints.

After introducing these ideas, we walked through a few real-life examples that demonstrated the role of content strategy in service design, hitting on two service experiences nearly everyone can relate to: ridesharing (the Uber and Lyfts of the world) and flying (Virgin America and American Airlines, specifically). Illustrating how content is delivered on the frontstage but created and managed on the backstage, as well as how content can either strengthen or weaken the service experience, helped drive home the symbiotic relationship between service design and content strategy.

For the second half of the event, attendees broke off into teams, where they were tasked with reimagining the service experience of the event. Dima and I walked guests through a few service design techniques, including directed storytelling, affinity diagraming and journey maps. Employing a content-focused lens, teams mapped out the current state user journey and identified the front stage content elements at play.


The event announcement (which deliberately gave very detailed instructions for how to get to the Fjord LA offices), posted signs at the event, Fjordians who greeted attendees at the door and even I were all identified as content touchpoints that facilitated the event experience.

The workshop-style format of these activities really helped attendees understand exactly how they can apply the principles of content strategy and service design to their trade. We believe this is what made the ideas presented in the first half of the event tangible.

Afterward, the teams shared their learnings and insights to the larger group, which they were particularly excited about. This helped guests feel as if they were a part of the event experience – not just observers in the audience.


All in all, the event was a huge success, and many local content strategists and designers walked away with a clearer understanding of how their work fits into the service economy we all find ourselves in.

For more details and photos of the event, check out the photo story, created by Audrey Baechle, one of Fjord LA’s visual designers.

Thanks again to Content Strategy Southern California for engaging Fjord LA in this event and giving us the opportunity to geek out about two topics we happen to love!

Jennifer McCutchen

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