“Service design is growing up”

Dominic Quigley

The Service Design Network, a leading institution for expertise in service design, held their annual global conference last month in Cardiff, sponsored by Fjord.

I had the privilege of attending the first day of the conference alongside fellow Fjordians Daniel Harris and Kostja Paschalidis, and it was a truly inspiring event with great speakers and plenty of food for thought. Here I share my personal highlights and insights.

Making an impact

Nick Leon, head of service design, at The Royal College of Art, opened his session with the statement “We only have around 10,000 working days in our life to make a difference. This bold statement made the point that it is time that designers start to look at how they use their time, and ensure that it is used to make a difference in peoples lives, for the better. He emphasized that this sometimes means having the courage to walk away from projects, or even clients.

Nick Leon also spoke about “The Perfect Storm,” illustrating the connection between service design and breakthroughs in technology, such as The Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and mobile Internet. Leon spoke about the cultural and environmental issues happening right now, such as global warming, globalization and an ageing population. All of these factors give designers the opportunity to create a change for the better through the power of service design.

Little Data and Big Data

 Kerry Bodine, from Forrester Research, spoke of the difference in Big and little Data, the former creates high volume, requires a lot of technology and systems to collect and analyze it, whilst the latter is data created by the user e.g. Quantified Self.

Bodine emphasized that the danger of Big Data to organizations lies in the complexity and the difficulties of managing it. With too much data we can miss out on what’s actually happening, especially when humans are added to the equation. If we rely solely on the data, it will be harder to get to the emotion of the service users, and easier to arrive at the wrong conclusions. As designers, we need to become more data literate if we are to design relevant services for consumers in the future.

“Build digital services, not websites”

 Ben Terrett, head of design, at Government Digital Services, talked about his thoughts around the redesign of the gov.uk site. With simplification and the importance of clear, easy to understand service as key priorities, he spoke of how the need to sometimes revolutionize, and not just evolve, is needed to truly transform a service. He shared the ten design principles he lives by:

  1. Start with needs.
  2. Do less.
  3. Design with data.
  4. Do the hard work to make it simple.
  5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
  6. Build for inclusion.
  7. Understand context.
  8. Build digital services, not websites.
  9. Be consistent, not uniform.
  10.  Make things open: It makes things better.


“Design at the center”

Barclays’ group design director, Lee Sankey, spoke of how the lines are blurring between roles and responsibilities for designers and how customers’ expectations are growing, as they have become more tech savvy. He asked the audience,  ”is service design more in love with process than the outcomes?” As service designers we must be careful not to let the process constrain us.

Three opportunities for service design:

  1. The devil is no longer in the detail; it’s about creating disruptive services.
  2. It’s what you add rather than what you take away, in a non-visual sense.
  3. Transcend how the service works, into what it means.

Clive Grinyer, director of design and customer experience at Cisco Consultancy Services, summarized the day with this simple but powerful thought: “Service design is growing up.”

On the second day of the conference, Melanie Wendland, group senior interaction designer and design lead at Fjord Service Design Academy, gave a presentation on how digital technology can enable supermarkets to deliver transforming service experiences to their customers. Sadly, I was unable to be there to see it first hand. You can view Melanie’s presentation here.

sdn cardiff

Dominic Quigley

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