Sacred service: The use of “sacred theory” in service design.
Whilst attention has been given to the sacred in consumer behaviour, often high- lighting its potential for meaningful experiences and customer loyalty, little research has been undertaken which investigates how such experiences might be designed for. This article describes a new service design approach that marries material from sacred theory and the tools of service design with the aim of designing for sacred service experiences.
The method was developed through a research by design approach during three service design projects. Although not fully implemented and limited to a Norwegian context, the solu- tions show innovation in process and outcome, particularly when it comes to designing for meaningful experiences, incorporating central elements of the sacred experience. It can be concluded that the method operationalizes the sacred and was considered a useful and usable addition to existing service design approaches.
The method is one of the first approaches that specifically incorporate cultural material into the service design process, raising the importance of meaning and values alongside that of the functional. It shows that service designers can act as cultural intermediaries and that service design lacks a cultural orientation in its existing practice. Based upon this, the article encourages the rethinking of several service design terms and suggests how the approach that has been developed could form part of a ‘semantic turn’ in service design.
The article contributes to the research and practice in service design by introduc- ing an approach for the design for sacred experiences and for incorporating cultural influences into service design. Further, it introduces cultural theory in the form of sacred theory as material for service design and establishes a discourse regarding the service designer as cultural intermediary. It introduces a discussion about exploring culture as a design material in service design.