Fernando Secomandi is redefining the field of service design. In order to get to the heart of this emerging discipline, the design researcher adopts a philosophical perspective, reflecting on how the human experience of the world is mediated by technologies. With a primary focus on strategic design issues in product-service systems, Secomandi explores the impact of technology in daily life by applying ideas from the philosophy of design arena in the study of service design.
Following the completion of his undergraduate degree in Industrial Design at the Escola Superior de Desenho Industrial, UERJ, Secomandi pursued his Master’s Degree in Strategic Product Design at Delft University of Technology. He then went on to become the first Doctor in Design at the university to complete his dissertation on service design, conducting part of his research on the Philips DirectLife product-service system. In 2013, Secomandi returned to Brazil to serve as an Adjunct Professor at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora before taking on a similar role at his undergraduate alma mater.
The object of design
“Services is a new topic within design discourse,” Secomandi says. “There was a lot of uncertainty about what designers do in the service sector or even when designing services for manufacturing companies.” As a result, the researcher embraced the challenge of defining the “object” of service design –in this case, the service interface– through a postphenomenological lens.
With his distinctive approach to design research, Secomandi was invited to continue his work in the Netherlands as a Design United Research Fellow. The aim was to bring the study of product-service systems from a philosophical perspective to the area of design education. Through a series of workshops and lectures at Delft and Eindhoven University of Technology, Secomandi and his colleagues were able to share their service design knowledge with students who could then apply these concepts in the design of new product-service systems.
Driven by a genuine curiosity for new design areas, Secomandi continuously ventures on the path less traveled, incorporating philosophical tradition into his work. “Philosophy came as a side interest that I had,” he explains. “I started learning about this line of research and I felt that it helped me to explore the things that I wanted to explore.” In addition to doing good research, Secomandi continuously strives to embed his work in a specific context such as in his native land of Brazil. “Everything is globally connected right now, so I am trying to look at what is specific to Rio de Janeiro, but also what is relevant in a more global context.”
That being said, Secomandi believes that designers should repeatedly stray from their comfort zones, designing more products and services that foster interpersonal relationships instead of focusing purely on digital or material technologies. “How to think about design in this context is quite challenging,” Secomandi says. “I think the most interesting insights from design will probably come from this kind of investigation and not from looking into things that are closer to what we know and what we have already been designing.”