There are not many "academic references" on service design, because this is a relatively young discipline. However new reports and interesting texts are being published more and more frequently. This page reports the most relevant. Most of them are available online and refer to very recent research or practice on service design.
A short abstract from the introduction of each publication is also reported.

The role of design in public services - Design Council

Investment in public services has increased dramatically over the last decade, but today’s services must respond to new challenges including a low carbon economy, an ageing population and the rising demands of service users. These pressures make innovation essential – public services must be designed to meet the complex needs of users while delivering cost efficiencies. Recent evidence shows that design methodologies can drive innovation in public services. Rapid prototyping creates efficiencies by designing out problems early, and the collaborative nature of many design projects can engage public sector workers, frontline staff and users in the development and delivery of new services. However, research also shows many public service providers lack the knowledge and skills to use design as a strategic approach to innovation. Developing this capacity would help public sector organisations manage their creative processes and find innovative solutions for service delivery.

Designing for Services - Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Proceedings from the Exploratory Project on Designing for Services in Science and Technology-based Enterprises - Kimbell, L. and V. P. Seidel (2008).

This collection of perspective essays is a product of the exploratory research project on Designing for Services in Science and Technology-based Enterprises (D4S) – a multidisciplinary effort that ran from December 2006 through October 2007 at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. As an exploratory project on a form of designing, it was a uniquely-designed research project, featuring two main areas of focus.
· Bringing together design and enterprise
· Engaging a multidisciplinary community

The Journey to the Interface - How public service design can connect users to reform- Parker, S. and J. Heapy (2006).

From cleaning the streets to checkouts, from looking after our elderly parents to selling us holidays, more than 20 million people in the UK work in service. The ‘service economy’ now accounts for 72 per cent of our gross domestic product. Most of us work in service; all of us depend on it. But expansion of the service sector has not heralded a service revolution. Too often people’s experiences of service are alienating and frustrating. Drawing on the principles and practices of the emerging discipline of ‘service design’, this pamphlet argues that the common challenge that all service organisations face is how to create more intimate and responsive relationships with their users and customers. Drawing on over 50 interviews with service innovators from the public, private and voluntary sectors, Journey to the Interface makes the case for a fresh approach to public service reform – an approach that is less about competition and contestability and more about closing the gap between what people want and need, and what service organisations do. This pamphlet argues that service design can offer policy-makers and practitioners a vision for the transformation of public services, as well as a route to get there. It outlines an agenda for action that spells out how service design

Would it be Great if... - Tackara, J. (2007).

Dott 07 (Designs of the time 2007), a year of community projects, events and exhibitions based in North East England, explored what life in a sustainable region could be like – and how design can help us get there. A national initiative of the Design Council with the regional development agency One NorthEast, Dott 07 is the first in a 10-year programme of biennial events developed by the Design Council that will take place across the UK. The projects were small but important real-life examples of sustainable living, which will evolve and multiply in the years ahead. Several projects were delivered in partnership with Culture10, based at NewcastleGateshead Initiative. Culture10 manages North East England’s world-class festival and events programme. The projects aim to improve five aspects of daily life: movement, energy, school, health and food. The focus of the initiative was on grassroots community projects, but there were also projects involving more than 70 schools, plus exhibitions and events in museums, galleries and rural sites. All events explored how design can improve our lives in meaningful ways. Throughout the Dott year, enthusiastic citizens met with designers, policy makers and subject experts at monthly Explorers’ Clubs. The year culminated in a free 12-day Dott 07 Festival in Baltic Square on the banks of the River Tyne. It brought together the results of the projects and enabled all those involved to share their experiences and plan what to do next. Outstanding achievements were celebrated with Creative Community Awards. Above all, the festival was an opportunity for many more people to find out how to participate in similar projects – and thereby accelerate the region’s transition to one planet living. The Dott 07 Festival was divided into the following zones, which are reflected in this manual:•MOVEMENT•ENERGY•SCHOOLS•HEALTH•FOOD

Innovation by design in public services - Thomas, E. and C. Grace (2008).

Design is key to the challenges of public service transformation. And those challenges are daunting. The government published the Innovation Nation white paper earlier this year, and set the scale of what lies ahead.
New and revised approaches are needed which build on the exciting work underway but which connect the public into the centre of both policy and action.

Service design and social innovation

Social Innovation and new Industrial Context. Can Design "Industrialise Socially Responsible Solutions?" - Nicola Morelli (2007)

Almost thirty-five years ago, Victor Papanek pointed out the designers’ responsibilities with respect to major social and environmental needs. Papanek’s call perhaps was the earliest alarm bell ringing for a change in the design profession.
After some decades the risks suggested by the most pessimistic interpretation of Papanek’s warning are being realized, and it is now time for the design profession, together with other professions, to address these problems. While scientists and technologists focus on the physical aspects of social metabolisms, with the aim of driving future developments away from environmental catastrophes, other social actors, including designers, are urged to work on the major social, cultural, political, and economical instances brought about by globalization.
This paper will explore this area and explain the entity of the ongoing shift towards new models, suggest new focuses and new methodologies for designers’ activities, and finally reframe this contribution within the debate started by Papanek and recently revived by others.