Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Reflections on Service Design Thinks 1

Last Thursday, 3 September 2009, around 50 people gathered at the Sense Loft in London to attend the very first Service Design Thinks (SDT) event. Thinks grew out of the design network that were attending Service Design Drinks, an informal gathering of people interested in service design to meet and share a few drinks every two months or so.

A fuzzy photo from my mobile of Service Design Drinks 3 in April 2009 at the Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell

Service Design Thinks 1 was, "The first in a series of practically focussed talks and debates featuring an inspiring range of practitioners from across the service design and innovation spectrum."

The night had a great turn out, and lots of fun (see some photos I uploaded on Flickr this week). Nick Marsh opened SDT 1 profiling four broad areas for presentation and discussion. These were:
  • Evaluation
  • Research
  • Design and
  • Management

Nick opens the first Service Design Thinks event

SDT1 audience with Noar and Jaimes filming and recording the event

The following notes are my reflections on the four presentations, mostly drawn in relation to my current research.

The first presentation was on evaluation by Alice Casey, who recently began working at NESTA as a project manager. Alice was scheduled later in the evening, but had to catch a train to Scotland that night so we made a last minute change in the programme and began with evaluation. The move seemed in line with one of Alice's key messages that was- when it comes to design projects we need to be thinking about evaluation earlier in the piece.

Alice spoke about how service design project could better address evaluation. She shared four key learnings with us from her side. These learnings were:
  • It's never too soon to think about evaluation;
  • Involve people in the evalution process;
  • Appreicate the policy context; and
  • Tell a compelling story, as "not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted" (as she quoted from Einstein).
Next up was Jo Harrington of Engine who talked about research in service design projects. Engine have always been very open with their design research tools (see their some of their key methods here) and Jo shared with us some tools he used on a recent Engine project. I thought the most interesting part of Jo's presentation was how he went beyond the research tools and spoke about the importance of personal devices when one is doing research. For example Jo talked about the "ethnographer's jumper" and "the cup of tea" as devices which further help break down barriers between researcher and participant. Jo and Re (in the audience during Q&A) both spoke about how tools mediate the relationship and interactions between researcher and participant, and it's really up to the researcher to make everything else happen.

Joel Bailey, from The Team, who kindly sponsored drinks for the night, gave us insight into work he had done in the Government and how he used design on various levels- from cosmetically changing the look of websites to creating better usability, which was linked to hard evidence that design does make a difference in the public sector. One interesting thing I noted from Joel's presentation, and also Karl's (who was to follow) was their comments on not necessarily calling what they do service design and that labels usually happened in accordance to what the client calls it. In the case of Joel, Government-speak was more "service transformation" than service design, a reference to the 2006 Varney report on Service transformation: A better service for citizens abd businesses, a better deal for the taxpayer.

Karl Humphreys from MoMat was the final presenter and spoke about how we could better bring stakeholders together in a project through propositions and prototyping. He profiled propositions as being clear on the 'why' and 'what' of the project. In his experience, Karl found that propositions were a great point of reference for the team at any time throughout the project. In prototyping, Karl spoke about how one must build to show an idea and also build to discuss the idea. He mentioned that where things weren't prototyped, the project idea often suffered in the long run. He added that prototyping, was live and also interesting for the client and organisation, Karl called it, "great PR!"

SDT finished at 9pm and some of us grabbed another drinks at the local pub. For those who weren't able to attend SDT, all the presentations were filmed and will be uploaded on the website servicedesigning.

SDT 1 was a great success and only the beginning of what we hope will continue and move forward to contribute to the work, practice and projects of designing for services in the private, public and social sectors.

No comments: