Inside the head of a designer

Coten Project

Snook are talking about service design and education as special guests this week on the Coten Project.  Andy Polaine asked myself and Lauren as both service design practitioners and myself still being a student to give our perspective on service design education.

The Coten project is a collborative online research activity exploring service design in higher education for 2010 and will see a whole range of different special guests writing essays/creating podcasts/being interviewed and discussing this topic.  The guests are then to answer a week’s worth of questions and engage in discussion with the 100 participants.

Looking forward to the questions and hopefully you enjoy the video, let us know what you think.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Embedding design (why don’t you have a go?)



There’s an event taking place as I write this, from my ‘borrowed’ desk at Skills Development Scotland, that I rather wish I’d been able to attend.  Snook received an email last month inviting us to an expert seminar being held by RSA Design & Society, unfortunately we can’t make it because of work commitments.

They are bringing together experts and people who have experience in design management, service design, and people working from the inside.  Speakers include Ben Reason from Live Work, Lucy Kimbell who writes the excellent blog, Design leads us where exactly?  and Simon Roberts of Intel and the Ideas Bazaar on embedded anthropology and social science.  Not to mention my boss here at SDS, Tony Coultas, commenting on our experiences so far.

Emily Campbell, who heads up the design and society team wrote a blog post on ‘In-house or out: embedding design’, summing up many of my thoughts.

It is time we see designers switching from outside consultancy to in-house design team, and I don’t just mean a team that designs the company’s ‘look’.  It’s time we saw design teams operating at the heart of organisations.

I’ve been working with Skills Development Scotland since September and am about to embark on a larger piece of work for them, designing a toolkit for frontline staff.  But it’s the structure of the organisation that needs to be designed in tangent.  If you supply people with a design toolkit to ‘see’ things differently and start generating ideas for frontline service delivery and internal operations, you need to support this.

Since being here, I’ve noticed a need for everything to be designed, even down to the last word on a project initiation document.  For example, I recall reading a document that used terms like, ‘how can we mitigate this circumstance’ and ‘how can we terminate this operation without lasting damage’?   

Through some research I did at the beginning of September last year, I found a majority of service designers turning out to be ENFJs.

ENFJ (Extraversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judgment) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of sixteen personality types.[1] The MBTI assessment was developed from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book Psychological Types. Jung proposed a psychological typology based on the theories of cognitive functions that he developed through his clinical observations.”

This is research at some stage I’d like to push further into, I’ve always been fascinated a bit by the way we are, our personalities and the choices we make, and a book I dabbled in recently, ‘The challenge of change in organisations’, has spurred this interest even further.


In short, designers are ‘positive optimists’, I found myself (an ENFJ incase you’re wondering) asking, could we change, ‘how can we mitigate this circumstance’ to ‘can we find a way to solve this wicked problem?’.  Witnessing a lecture last year by John Wood from Goldsmiths, I was fascinated by his description of designers being able to make the ‘unimaginable possible’ and working towards ‘attainable utopias’.  I will save all this for another blog post, but google meta design and go exploring, I’m still trying to get my head round it all.

In an organisation of over 1300 people, change in an organisation is going to be a massive challenge, and you need a positive mindset to want to tackle it.  I’m looking forward to my next batch of work kicking off and dealing with the small and larger picture of SDS.  How can you embed design thinking into an organisation so large?  How can you envisage and implement new processes and ways of doing things?

As Emily points out, this new type of embedded design teams have been described as Service Designers.  Why?  My take is that service designers have the skills and tools necessary to bring the intangible to life.

Like myself, Emily asks some key questions, the language barrier I feel to be the most critical,

“In practical terms, what is the job description for an in-house designer with a holistic brief? How does an organisation intent on embedding design go about recruiting designers? How is the effectiveness of staff designers paid for their holistic view to be measured? How does the design of services, structures and strategy respond to cost-benefit analysis? How is the language barrier between designers and other specialists to be overcome? How are creativity and innovation to be managed within large and often cautious or risk-averse organisations?”

In practical terms for Skills Development Scotland, it’s a ‘service designer’ and I dare you to take up the challenge.

They are advertising for a 10 month position to join the service innovation team, go on, try something new and get in touch.

In the Guardian
May 2, 2010, 12:18 pm
Filed under: interesting, work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
guardian media

guardian media paper sarah drummond

Funny old thing, media.  The last year has seen me and various projects/partner in crime feature in articles amongst some pretty big names like the BBC, Herald, Guardian.  On Wednesday this week, nothing could quite prepare me for the shock I got when I opened the Society pages of the Guardian and saw my face (a very large face) looking back at me.

Thanks to Gordon Cairns who wrote it, I was pleased with it and picked up on all the right things I wanted to get across about Mypolice.  However, I have learned to not let your friends govern your ‘interests’ but for the record I am actually fascinated by zombies and romero classics, and through being featured here have made friends with zombie escape plan on twitter.

You can read the article online here.

“A career in product design may not seem an obvious choice for someone who wants to do something for the benefit of others – “to make a dent in the world, to make things a little better”. She admits that it wasn’t even clear to herself why she should have chosen design rather than, say, education, law or politics, until a recent conversation with a student. “She said that to do a degree in politics and economics was just regurgitating theory, but by going into the creative industries you are allowed to be creative about your solutions to these problems,” Drummond recalls.”

I’d like to thank Lori Smyth for the above as we shared this thought over coffee in Dundee last month when I was there giving a studio unbound talk.

If you can get hold of Wednesday’s paper, do, it will make you chuckle.  I am sultry, I am pensive and I am, in the words of Mike Press, somewhat alike to the Nescafe Gold woman.

Sports relief research internship
May 1, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: studiounbound | Tags: , , , , , ,

Unltd sport relief

This just popped into my inbox yesterday from the brilliant people at firstport/scotland unltd.  They are a funding body and we were lucky enough this year over at Mypolice HQ to get the social entrepreneurs funding from them.  They’ve got the fingers in lots of great tasting pies, and unltd sport relief is one of them.  Now they have a fantastic opportunity to get involved, and really think designers with their great research skills would be very good at this.  If you want a form, download it from here.

The UnLtd Sport Relief Research Internship UnLtd Research is conducting a youth-led research project with UnLtd Sport Relief (Make It Happen), a UK wide funding programme for 11-21 year olds who bring communities together, help promote understanding and solve problems through sport, arts and recreational activities.

This research will involve visiting a small number of projects funded by the Make It Happen Programme to find out about what problems they are addressing, how their activities are helping tackle these problems and the impact they are having. We are looking for 6 research interns (aged 18-25) from each of our UnLtd office regions; Bradford, Birmingham, London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh who can commit to 30 days work (2-4 days per week) from June 21st to September 21st 2010. These positions will be paid at £85 per day (plus any additional travel and accommodation expenses incurred) and will include attending an induction, regular training meetings and undertaking project visits to conduct research. This is an exciting opportunity to gain extensive research training and practical experience planning, designing and carrying out a research project.

No formal research skills or experience are necessary for this position. However, we do ask that you bring a number of qualities to this role, including an ability to work independently and within a small team, openness to learning new approaches and excellent inter-personal skills.  For more details/application form email