We felt nearly fashionable when we first used one of these expressions, and if you work in design, you've definitely wondered what the difference is at some time. I recently heard someone suggest that they were all the same, including Design Thinking, with different labels. Are they?

I gave an introduction session to Service Design to my UX and UI colleagues at work last month. I knew it would be crucial to define it, but underlining the distinctions with what we know as UI/UX was also necessary. So, in this piece, I'll review the highlights of that session and explain in very basic terms what the emphasis of each of these domains is, where the limits are, and when it's okay to use each of these phrases.

I'll begin by categorizing User Experience (UX), Customer Experience (CX), and Employee Experience (EX)

User Experience (UX)

UX is acknowledged in academic literature and industrial context to be concerned with human experiences while engaging with digital devices such as phones, Smart TVs, computers, video games, or any other type of digital platform. Some refer to it as information architecture since one of its primary focuses is the logical and hierarchical processes of human thought. UX designers are interested in the what, how, and why of digital interactions.

Usability and aesthetics are critical components of a digital experience. This is where User Interface (UI) comes in. Here, attributes such as accessibility and consistency are specified. However, inconsistencies between UX and UI are conceivable. You can have a nice-looking, easy-to-use program (excellent UI) yet complicated flows (bad UX) that result in poor user experiences. As a result, it is expected that UX and UI would constantly collaborate.

Most UX and UI Designers have prior experience in Graphic Design, Interaction Design, or even Industrial Design.

Customer Service (CX)

Some refer to it as the "new Marketing." It is concerned with the Customer Experience, as the name implies. CX is concerned with everything that a client comes into contact with when dealing with a service, whether real or digital. CX is concerned with how your consumers interact with your product, service, or brand.

Marketing's traditional strategies of gathering insights from hard data and surveys distributed to a wide number of people have been supplemented with qualitative ways to connect with and sympathize with customers.

Because workers in this industry do not often have a formal design education, job titles range from CX Specialist to CX Expert to CX Designer.

Employee Knowledge (EX)

It's simple to figure out. It is about an organization's employees' experience. Previously, human resources was the only department responsible with employee well-being, social benefits, medical services, savings accounts, social security, and so on.

In the last 15 years, the breadth of employee well-being has expanded dramatically. Nowadays, it is the responsibility of the entire firm to establish an atmosphere in which employees feel valued and respected. When looking at EX, the two most prevalent aims are:

  • Retaining talent by promoting long-term growth inside the organization.
  • Increase production) by having contented personnel.

HR Specialists, Psychologists, and other behavioral scientists are examples of professionals in this sector.

So far, qualitative methodologies have been utilized in the three disciplines described, UX, CX, and EX, to understand people's expectations, requirements, and frustrations in order to create courses of action that would enhance the existing state of a defined environment to a preferred one.

Service Design

When we hear an organization say that they place the user at the core of their process, who do we mean? In the preceding sections, we discussed several types of experiences for various types of users, both internal and external. So, who should stand in the middle? Who pays for the service: the client, the employee, the supplier, the end user?

Regardless of which one we choose, failing to consider the needs of others might have major consequences in the business. Furthermore, while putting "the user" at the center of the process sounds wonderful, if value is not produced for the firm, it is no longer a business.

So, how can businesses ensure that they are adding value to all stakeholders? Customers, suppliers, workers, society, and shareholders are all stakeholders.

That is the essence of the Service Design methodology. In a nutshell, Service Design is concerned with everything and everyone involved in the delivery of a service. Birgit Mager, president of Service Design Network, explains it as follows:

Service Design examines the end-to-end process of offering a service in a sequential manner. It is not only about human experiences; it is also about aligning processes and systems that must be in place in order to deliver flawlessly.

This implies that Service Design is concerned with how digital interfaces (UX and UI), customer interactions (CX), and staff experience (EX) combine to produce value.

The fact that Service Design is collaborative is a fundamental feature.

There is a distinction to be made between cooperation and co-creation. Collaboration might imply including consumers and other stakeholders in interviews, workshops, and then creating user personas, customer journeys, and so on. Still, design is often reserved for Designers.

Co-creation, on the other hand, implies that the creative activity is not limited to Designers. Throughout the process, all users (customers, suppliers, staff, etc.) collaborate to generate solutions.


So, what exactly is a Service Designer? Industrial Designers were the first to address the field in the early 2000s. However, the field's multidisciplinary nature has resulted in a large umbrella of people from various backgrounds, such as designers, marketers, psychologists, human factors specialists, sociologists, engineers, and so on, who have developed a collaborative and human-centered mindset, have been trained in design thinking methods, and have worked in the development of connected ecosystems in the physical and digital worlds.

Design Thinking

Finally, where does Design Thinking fit into this picture? Professionals in the aforementioned professions employ comparable technologies such as User Research, Interviews, Affinity Mappings, Analysis, Prototyping, Testing, and so on. This is when it's simple to become perplexed. The fact that you used these tools as a UX Designer does not imply that you are also a CX, EX, or Service Designer. Why? Because those technologies have been used in a variety of circumstances, for a variety of users, and with a variety of goals.

The customer is the user of a CX, the employee is the user of an EX, anyone who interacts with a digital product is the user of a UX, and the users of a service are customers, employees, and/or suppliers.

So, why do we employ comparable tools? Because we all want to understand human behavior, we aim to delve into people's fundamental motivations and then create to appeal to those drives. We make every effort to sympathize with our user (whoever that is). Whether you are a UX, CX, EX, or Service Designer, you put YOUR USER first. That is a Design Thinking frame of thinking. Empathy and human centricity are key to Design Thinking. Its and its tools' goal is to innovate, whether it's a physical product, an app, a service, a method of working, social initiatives, or any process involving human interactions.

Is Design Thinking synonymous with CX, UX, EX, and Service Design? No. Design Thinking is the mentality and collection of skills that we employ to better understand OUR specific users.


The goal of all domains of design is to produce better experiences. The distinction lies in the type of experience and the person whose experience we are attempting to better. Hopefully, this quick explanation of these frequently misunderstood terminology will assist you in your present or future journey in the great world of design.