Service design is the process of organizing the people, processes, places, and touch-points involved in a service. In Reimagining Tax Time Services, for example, people included the tax preparers and filers; processes included volunteers preparing and filing tax returns; places included the VITA centers; and touch-points included tax forms and online tools.


Service design is a collaborative and participatory methodology that can be used by government employees to collaborate with citizens, experts, and community-based organizations on creating and delivering better public services. Deliberately designing services in this way ensures that the experience and value of the service meet the needs of citizens, government, and community partners.


Service design projects are often structured in three iterative and overlapping phases:

DISCOVERY: The discovery phase is an inquiry-based learning process to acquire first-hand experience about the challenges, opportunities and capabilities experienced by the various stakeholders involved in the service delivery process.

CO-DESIGN: The co-design phase brings together representative stakeholders to explore opportunities for new or improved services.

PROTOTYPING: The prototyping phase includes iterative development, testing and refinement of the new service.


In Reimagining Tax Time Services, the team of designers and civil servants visited VITA sites throughout the city to observe and interview tax filers, preparers, front-line staff, and other partners as part of the initial Discovery Phase. In the Co-Design Phase the team hosted workshops that brought together all stakeholders to learn about the challenges and opportunities, imagine new services, and then envision how these services might work. During the Prototyping Phase, the team selected the best ideas to put to develop and experiment with in an actual VITA site, and gathered feedback on the service experience from all stakeholders. To learn more about the different phases, methods and results, visit the Process page.