Why I am not a Service Designer

dementia Diary workshop 1

At the best of times it can be a challenge explaining to people what you do. But when they already have a perception of what you do..?!

I’ve been a designer for a long time. A Graphic Designer. To many I will probably be a Graphic Designer until the day… well, you get the idea.

I’m a Designer still. But of a kind that many haven’t heard of. For you lucky people that’s about to change.
I work in Service Design.

PostIts workshop 1

Perhaps (mildly) controversially I’m going to say that I’m NOT a ‘Service Designer‘. That’s because I’m not sure that there is any such thing. Service Design (to me) is a collaboration between the designer (equipped with the tools and methods of design thinking), and the professional (armed with expert knowledge of their field, service or system – e.g. Social Services, Education, Health Care).

Within the collaboration my role is that of facilitator. I bring tools and methods that will facilitate the drawing out (pun intended) of ideas and visualisations to innovate, improve or completely change existing methods of working.

Maybe within that process we’re ALL service designers – what a utopia that would be!
On the outside, however, I’m just a designer, doing what I’ve always done – but with a new bag of fancy pencils.

Although the principles that hold Service Design together have been around for a while, the idea of designers doing something this useful still appears to shock. But if ever we needed proof that SD was edging into the mainstream, we find that even the BBC are in on it. Radio Four‘s ‘In Business had a programme dedicated to Design Thinking and how it is being applied to designing public services. It’s a very good overview and well worth a listen.

BBC 4 In Business

Conveniently there is also a new web platform around the idea of helping the general public understand what Service Design is and how businesses and public services can benefit from implementing its methods. Tereza Procházková recently graduated from Dundee University‘s Masters of Design for Services course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design – Translating Service Design is her Masters project where she has taken the novel idea of creating short videos to introduce some of the concepts and methods of, you guessed it, Service Design.

So, expect to see Service Design installed into your place of work anytime soon! Well, maybe the next couple of years anyway.
Do you see Service Design solving issues for your workplace? Do you have ‘Service Designer‘ written on your business card and want your money back?
Tell me what you think…

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During the last two years Jon Gill has worked as a designer with public service organisations such as Dundee City Council, The Young Foundation, People Can and the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) – not on posters and leaflets or physical products, but on services. Services such as delivery of services to homeless people in Westminster and Hackney, Public Consultation on Council Housing in Dundee and piloting new Social Service ideas for SSSC across Scotland (Borders Council, Moray Council, Alzheimer Scotland).

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Who’s the One?

I’ve blogged previously about some work experience that I and three other MDes graduates took part in with TaylorHaig on their Dundee Total Place project. In that post you’ll find the video that I edited together focusing on part of our process as designers, on the streets of Dundee interviewing, capturing information from the source.

Here’s another cut, similar to the previous one but focusing now on some of the responses to the question we asked, “Who’s the One?”

The videos are a taste of how we can illustrate to stakeholders (who can’t always be with us while we’re out) the sense of reality that we feel when we engage with these young people. For obvious reasons we can’t (don’t want) to reveal specific names, faces or even voices. The video, audio and photography captured is always on that understanding and that encourages the openness that we need and have received.

For illustration purposes I’m always looking for ways of documenting this process in a way that captures the immediacy of the environment and the people we are speaking to without resorting to ‘scarey’ ‘TV News’ silhouettes and voice overs.

The subjects in the video were approached cold on the street, involvement is on their terms and responses are not forced or prepared. If they agree we then produce the camera and take notes. It’s important to us that they write the name of ‘the One’ themselves and capturing that moment, through video or photography, can produce personal and powerful moments. Infinitely more powerful than the scrawl of a designer.

So these videos are an attempt at finding a style that illustrates all of those things: reality, immediacy and security. I welcome your comments.

Taylor Haig

Late last year, along with three other DJCAD Masters of Design graduates, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the initial stages of a project being managed by Taylor Haig. Taylor Haig specialise in Service Design and have led several key service redesign projects for local authorities across the UK. Lucy Kimbell (now of The Young Foundation) was their lead ‘design thinker’ and the DJCAD team worked closely with her in person and via Skype over several weeks.

The ongoing project is aimed at ‘children’s’ services within Dundee City. From the Taylor Haig blog:

Taylor Haig is advising the Dundee Partnership (Dundee City Council and its partners) who are using a Total Place approach to redesigning services. The aims include understanding more about local citizens’ lived experiences and looking to co-design services.

Gaining access to young people in the system to get a handle on the issues that face services and their clients daily can present challenges but the service workers and young people that we spoke to were incredibly generous with their time, willing to talk openly and frankly about their circumstances, their experiences and how the ‘system’ was supporting or failing them.  Part of my role in all of this was as documentarian, in video and stills, of the processes and outcomes of collecting and sorting of data and facilitation of workshops. Below is an initial rough-cut of early research carried out on Lochee High street. For obvious reasons I can’t/don’t want to show the faces of our interviewees but I did want to capture something of the people and their environment, their story. Primarily I achieved this through footage of hands and feet as well as the audio of the interviews. The audio, for now, has been removed, but hopefully you’ll get a sense of how, visually, the theme could be developed.

Additionally I was able to put my graphics background to good use by putting together an identity for the project – entitled, ‘Be The One’ – which would be included our clipboard sheets, posters, badges and icons for Twitter and Facebook.

The object of the badges was to have two designs; one stating ‘Be The One’, (a call, a challenge, to make a significant difference in someone’s life); the second design proclaims ‘I’m the One’. This badge was to be hand delivered by our young people to those who HAD made a significant impact on their life… who were those people?

As part of our on street research we asked that very question, ‘Who’s the one?’ in your life… the answers varied: “Mum”, “Steve at…” , “No one!”

But as if to illustrate to us the potential and the urgency in getting these services ‘exactly right’, we witnessed, first hand, a genuine success. At our first workshop with representatives from services involved with youth work in Dundee, one of the participants present was in fact one of the ‘names’ written down by an on street interviewee. It was a powerful and genuinely moving moment as we handed out our first ‘I’m the One’ badge to “Lorna from Careers Scotland, Dundee”. (Below is the photo taken of our interviewee and her hand written answer to “Who’s The One?’ several weeks earlier)

It was a great opportunity to be invited to witness experienced Service Designers work. It was especially encouraging to see that the tools and methods we had developed during our Masters projects were so compatible to Taylor Haig’s ‘tried and tested’ methods and that our team was a truly collaborative partner in the process. So thank you to Lucy, Lynne and Richard of Taylor Haig.

Work on the project will continue during 2012 so keep an eye out for updates.