Is ID a service or discipline?

The IDSA starts by defining ID as "the professional service of creating and developing concepts… "

Yet the latest IDSA Design Perspectives features an interview with Stephen Wurth from Nestle ID, and he says “the biggest misconception is that we are a service and not a strategic discipline that needs to be involved from the very beginning of projects… We are most definitely not a service. We should be thought of as a strategic partner with all of our clients, because in the end, the products will ultimately reflect that partnership.”

This is a debate at my company as well, as some Product Managers expect us to behave as a service: meaning they tell us what to do, and they can choose to use us or not, or choose to use any other service (such as a 3rd party firm.) Obviously this perception creates challenges as we seek to establish control of quality and to create and enforce standards and best-practices.

Yet Marketing, Quality, and R&D are considered disciplines, not services.

Who else has something to say about the Service vs. Discipline debate?
What do you think? How does it affect you?

I think we must be considered a discipline to fully effect the product development process. If an organization views design as a service, it might not be fully utilizing it’s design team.

I think the best companies view the process must be led by a triumvirate of sorts between design, marketing, and development/engineering. When all three of these disciplines have a truly equal say in the course of the project good things usually happen.

The service model is dying in my opinion. Going forward it should be about equal partnership. Save the drive through window for McDonalds.

I think a good design team, whether part of a corporation, or a consultancy will have a collaborative, if not guiding role in the design process with the client. Whether we call it a “Discipline” or “Service”…I’m not sure that’s the issue. I think you can have a collaborative service. If it’s one sided, it’s just crappy collaboration. As Yo says, the design team probably isn’t getting utilized to the fullest.

I would be unhappy working at a place where I was simply told what to do by a client. Selection of internal teams vs, consultancies is a whole different animal I think, unless the selector feels outside teams are more “service”.

Personally, I would be hesitant to truly argue over the nuances between Service and Discipline. Both, I think, seem like a matter of time and space.

There are lots of ways to see the skills of our profession. What should be important to us (the ID professionals) and them (society/ workmates)- is the value of what/ how we work and its input into the end result.

Does it take only a designer or a marketing person or the ceo to bring the product to life- no, it takes the collaboration of all three, yet each will have/ need their own roles in it.

end of the day, it’s about both making the right choices and keeping the client happy. no project ever suceeded by doing whatever the client said against the better professional judgement of a designer, and likewise no project will work if the design refuses to listen to the client. it’s a give a take. service vs. discipline seems to be a semantic difference i’m not certain is worth arguing, BTW.

personally I try to get involved in all aspects of a client’s project as much as possible (ie. not only design, but branding, marketing, graphics, development, packgaing, etc.) as I feel the end result will be that much stronger and the client will have that much more success. not all clients however do want the full package (or have the $$$) for it and i’m not beyond making compromises (gotta pay the bills, ya know). But in the end i do feel somewhat that i would like to consider my services/discipline as a part of a greater whole and try to chose those clients where i feel i am able to provide the best overall success for the client…

…put it this way- i’d rather have a client where i’m working on everything from brand to identity to design to marketing and have it be a mediocre success at 80% cost than one i do just design and they F-up everything else and bill at 100%. It’s big picture the way i look at it and design is indeed only one leg of the “tripod”.


It does matter in corporate-design, I should have clarified the context.

If you are a corporate-design group, should you be considered a service or a discipline?