Photo: Marko Junttila

Doctoral Dissertation: Emotional skills for service designers in co-creation practices


Service designers often act as facilitators in co-creation workshops, and they need specific skills to ensure a positive participant experience. The facilitator needs to be capable of creating a sense of togetherness and optimizing interaction in order to allow the flow of collective creation. The study by Mariluz Soto, MA, aims to broaden our understanding of emotions in service design processes and presents three essential skills that help facilitators in their work.

Human interaction and human-centeredness are the starting points for service design processes. These processes combine various cultural and social aspects and aim to change, transform, and enhance learning. Emotions are present in design, but they have not been widely studied in terms of their relation to service designers.

Co-creation is an encounter involving two aspects: a positive experience that may arise during the participants’ interaction and a sense of togetherness that may shape the community. In both cases, emotions are a golden thread. Usually, the users’ emotions are the most important consideration during a service design project, while the facilitator remains completely invisible.

Three essential skills that increase a service designer’s confidence

Soto broadens our understanding of service designers’ emotions through co-creative practice, an approach to the phenomenon rather than to theory. Hence, she identifies three skills – embodied knowledge, emotional awareness, and collective spirit – that contribute to strengthening the practices of service designers through the notion of community applied in a co-creation context.

– The three proposed skills allow service designers to connect with the participants in co-creation workshops. If we want to improve the user experience, it requires service designers who are capable of designing better services. Emotional skills provide a way to support the service designer in this challenge, Soto explains.

Considering service designers as facilitators of the design process, these skills increase their level of confidence in co-creative instances, help them to connect with the participants, and provide them with emphatic tools to organise priorities according the situation and the participants’ responses.

Co-creation as a community environment

As all skills are interconnected through emotions, it is possible to understand the emotional dimension as comprising more than mere feelings and consequently to apply the skills in a complex context involving a great deal of interaction.

– The co-creation workshops enabled the participation of the users in service design, meaning that they collaborated in the definition of the service. In a creative environment people exchange ideas and thereby a sense of community emerges where the participants and facilitators are part of the same community. This co-creation is also an essential part of the creation and enhancement a service, not just the end result, explains Soto.

Hence, the skills needed by service designers in setting up a workshop are crucial to defining how a co-creation environment is experienced. The three skills presented in Soto’s research increase our knowledge of the facilitator’s emotions involved in co-creation and strengthen the practice of the service designer through the notion of community applied in a co-creation context.

Information on the defence

The dissertation “Emotional skills for service designer in co-creation practices” by Mariluz Soto Hormazábal, MA, will be publicly examined with the permission of the Faculty of Art and Design of the University of Lapland on Friday 8 January 2021 at 12:00 in Hall 3. The opponent is Dr. Haian Xue, a design researcher from the Technical University of Delf and the custos is Professor (Emerita) Kaarina Määttä from the University of Lapland.

The public defence will be carried out in English.

The event can be followed online at

About the doctoral candidate

Mariluz Soto has an academic and practice background in design and communication. Born in Chile, she has studied visual communication design at Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana, Chile. Soto was awarded a master’s degree in strategic design by Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile.

At the University of Lapland, she has worked as a researcher in the Co-Stars Service Design Research Group and is the principal investigator of the project “Value and contribution of the Service Design Prototyping to strengthen the industry. From the Finnish experience to the Chilean context” that pertains to the field of modality research in design and is funded by the Ministry of Cultures, Arts and Heritage of Chile through the National Fund for Cultural Development and the Arts (Fondart).

Further information

Mariluz Soto
+358 40 371 0702

About the publication

Mariluz Soto: “Emotional skills for service designer in co-creation practices”. Acta Electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 300, ISBN 978-952-337-242-9. University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 2020.

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