Inside the head of a designer

Social Innovation Camp 2011
May 2, 2011, 3:51 pm
Filed under: event, interesting, social innovation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,
Social Innovation Camp

Social Innovation Camp

Guess what?

Social Innovation Camp is coming to Scotland in June, and it’s your chance to submit ideas and take part in a fantastic weekend of people building, designing, thinking up new ideas that use the web to do something good, this year around the theme of Social Isolation. Here’s what they say;

“From 17th-19th June 2011 at Informatics Ventures in Edinburgh, we’re bringing together some of the best of the UK’s software developers and designers with those at the sharp end of social problems.

They’ll have just 48 hours to build some web-based solutions to a set of social problems – from back-of-the-envelope idea to working prototype, complete with software. But first off, we start with a call for ideas: we want to find the most exciting ideas for how the web could change stuff that really matters.”

You can find out more on the official website, and how to submit an idea.  It was two years ago when I was about to graduate I put one of those back of the napkin ideas in for entry.

MyPolice at Social Innovation Camp

MyPolice at Social Innovation Camp

It ended up winning the weekend and receiving a level 1 award from FirstPort which gave it legs and funding to introduce the concept to the policing world.  The idea was MyPolice, an online feedback tool for the public to talk to the police.  Simple but now we’ve finished our first pilot and we’re moving onto phase 2 of the build.

So if you’re thinking, ‘nah, I’ll take part next time’,  don’t! Submit an idea, even if it is a one liner, and get yourself along to the Informatics Forum to take part.  It is a fantastic event and a great, no strings attached space to be creative and build some potentially life changing software/service/product.

Snook in Finland
January 30, 2011, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


A couple of weeks ago, Snook spent time in Kuopio, Finland, courtesy of Satu Miettinen after Lauren had been a couple of years ago on her ‘Finland Frolicks’. We were invited to teach at the Savonia University of Applied Sciences.We had heard good things from Lauren’s Finland Frolics in 2010. We were working with the fantastic Work Play Experience who use theatrical tools in Service Design, a very refreshing take on the discipline.

The visit was to run the Winter Service Design School at the university.  Working over two days we were taking the students and staff from initial research and film ethnography to concepts which will be prototyped for real.  The topic was designing for the elderly.  We looked at three strands:

  • Elderly service users in hospital
  • Elderly people living at home
  • Elderly people living in care homes


Work play x

Work play x


We began with the fantastic warm up from Adam and Markus of Work Play Experience.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of being part of a WPX workshop before will know what it is like to warmed up in the company of rubber chickens.  The duo wake up the left and right hand side of the brain using some bizarre exercises, but it works, and participants are left wide eyed, determined and ready for some hard work.

We were working from personas that had been created by the students and interviewees in the format of films.  We wanted the group to empathise with the personas they were working with so we sat everyone down in groups of three and let participants take on the role of their persona.  By simply having a conversation with one another as the people they were designing for, the group were able to dig deeper and understand what it is like to be a user.

Grouping back together and pulling out insights was a tough leap for the workshop participants. At first, they kept referring to what they knew about their personas.  But after some probing we began to pull out interesting themes about the change in situation for elderly people when health changes, how people move from independent to dependent.  An interesting observation was about the points in people’s lives where people drift from families to becoming wholly dependent on them again, and looking at these points to delve deeper into.


Idea generation

Idea generation


Working with the three themes we then brainstormed ideas, in a quick, speed dating scenario.  Groups then settled on ideas and we set to work on the more difficult part; thinking of them in terms of services, rather than just concepts.

Using story boarding and rapid prototyping we attempted to expand the group’s thinking from single idea to service.  It was difficult and this is always the biggest leap in imagination.  It was tough and we didn’t quite get there on the first day, but the second day really pushed the groups to expand their concepts to ‘fit’ into real scenarios and complex systems.

Starting with Work Play Experience, the participants were put through their paces to improvise and act their ideas out  Supported by Adam and Markus the team who had developed the Skype service for elderly people living in homes had to really start thinking about how this would operate as a service.  By re-enacting the service as a nurse and an elderly woman in a wheelchair problems began to arise that the group would need to design around.  A great way to make participants consider how to design, not just generate ideas!!


Students blueprinting

Students blueprinting


Snook then led the group through a blueprinting exercise, to consider how people might become aware of their new service concepts, join, use and then ‘leave’ them.  We focused on starting in the middle, the ‘use’ part of a blueprint to outline the value proposition.  Breaking down the blueprint to front stage, back stage, and actions of both customer and staff.  We asked workshop to participants to think about what happens before and after the use part of a service experience.


Twitter feedback

Twitter feedback


We ended the fast paced second day with three presentations. We sent the ideas out into the world for feedback via twitter only 30 minutes before.  We received some great feedback so thank you to those who commented.  We had;

“Care in a Queue – adapted #iPad for patients in #healthcare: contact, care, entertainment 4 elderly outpatients in hospital. #servicedesign”

“Feel free, connect in ur social life: flexible transport options. Welcome to the Senior Cheer-up Bus! #healthcare #servicedesign”

“Closer from a distance: connect with beloved relatives via “Skype for the elderly”. Easy for people in #healthcare centres. #servicedesign”

All the presentations were great! Ideally, the next step for groups would be to move into some live prototyping but really focus on fitting them into the context of existing systems around them.

We would also really like to go back to Finland again, it’s a very beautiful country with some fantastic food.

If you’d like to know more about this kind of work, contact and we’ll see if we can help.

Servdes, Snook and snowballs
Snook in Sweden

Snook in Sweden


Another Snook adventure under our belt ; this time in Linkoping, Sweden.  The occasion? Servdes.  Traveling through some thick snow I made it to the conference, this time under the theme of Exchanging Knowledge.

“The Nordic Conference on Service Design and Service Innovation, ServDes, is the premier research conference for exchanging knowledge within service design and service innovation…Service design as a field has established itself as a strong discipline, through efforts in practice and academia. However, publications have mainly focused on establishing service design. There is a growing need for original research on service design. The ServDes conference is an answer to this call…”

In short, it was in-depth and fun. Making it the best event I have taken part in this year.  However, I struggled with the delicate balance between practitioners and researchers.  This was a recurring theme in some of the discussions I had about academia and practice can can link up and communicate better.  As an active practitioner, I’ve just left academia ; finishing a Masters on Embedding design in the public sector which was more action research and reflection than it was academic.  For me, this works, because at the end of the day, I want to make change happen.  Personally, I’d rather work with academics to document and theorise the work I do on the ground.  I’m wondering if Servdes will become the catalyst for making this connection smoother?

Snook were invited to present the case Service Design: social innovation is our motivation’.  The presentation reflected on a project, Getgo Glasgow, undertaken last year at the Glasgow School of Art. It depicts some of the issues the design community is facing when undertaking social design/innovation projects within design education. My presentation considered some of the shortfalls in the project ; time frames, delivery and ethics. How do designers leave a project like this ethically? Have we considered the consequences of sending young designers out to engage with communities/users.  A film is on the way but for now, you can view the presentation.

The presentation aligned with Don Norman’s views published on Core 77: ‘Why Design Education Must Change‘.

“Many problems involve complex social and political issues. As a result, designers have become applied behavioral scientists, but they are woefully undereducated for the task”

This brilliant yet critical article picks on design education for producing undereducated designers who are ‘woefully ignorant of the deep complexity of social and organizational problems.’ In the case of GetGo, the community now have money in the bank and the project is really happening. Wyndford, where the project took place, is small area that are now mobilised as a community. We designed a process not necessarily a designed solution. The result ; Green Gorillaz wasn’t really designed, it was a half baked idea which was the bi-product of design methods and skills being used to work co-creatively with a community.

My presentation actually sparked some interesting conversations about interdisciplinary work, collaboration and the reality that designers are not experts in everything. It pays to know when and how to ask for help. The question and answer session revealed that students struggle with some elements of this type of project. For example, being equipped with the skills and know how to create intangible outcomes that are implementable. This is something we are aiming to get to grips with through our venture: Making Service Sense.

Highlights for me included Daniela Sangiorgi’s talk(s) on Transformative Services and Transformation Designbuilding‘.  It looked at building capabilities inside organisations to use and understand design to produce better services.  This was an area I felt was overlooked in Berlin at the SDN10 conference and was only just touched upon by Philips.  It mimics efforts made by Engine in their Hoop model and echoes sentiments from Martin Neumier’s Designful company which I reflected on for the last 12 months with a public body in Scotland on how to really use design thinking to create better services for the people of Scotland and more informed, people centered policy.

What Daniela put forward echoed closely with some discussions from the workshop run by Anna Serevalli and Anders Emilson.  They held a workshop on Social Innovation which looked at the criticisms and plaudits by Geoff Mulgan of design in social innovation.  Some of the points our group discussed were;

  • Design(ers) should be a-political
  • We need to create designful organisations and transform thinking
  • We should look to open source community for inspiration
  • We should be pushing for delivery and implementation
  • Designers are facilitators not experts

Eva-Maria Hempe followed some of the capabilities discussion with, Health and social care services for people with complex needs: The role of contextual knowledge for the design process’ and showcased a really interesting project.  More interestingly for me, was the pyramid at the end of her slides on Design capacity versus Design obstacles which I’d like to look more into and see designers considering this.

There were other really good presentations, far too many to mention, in short, a couple more were Marc Stickdorn’s presentation on students and tourism, showcasing how quick and effective service design can be. Also, Simon Clatworthy’s talk on Touchpoint cards was to the point and got some cogs turning about how we could use the template as a basic model to create our own more personalised cards for say tourism, or methods in Service design.

Finally, to end the conference, Global Service Jam was launched by Markus Edgar and Adam St john.  It will bring together different countries from all over the world next year to develop new services in under 48 hours and then share them online.  They’ve had a fantastic response already and if you want your country to be part of it, then I suggest you get in touch with them.

And not forgetting the unconference day, organised by Design thinkers ; an impromptu, insightful and busy day of talking, doing, and drinking coffee.

I ran a workshop called #swesno, which looked at using design thinking and methods to tackle social issues caused by Snow in Sweden.  Wearing santa hats, to get us all in the mood, one group tackled loneliness and isolation with the opportuniy of untapped engergy of kids playing outside in the snow, whilst the other group looked at the issue of ambulances getting stuck in the snow.  There will be a another blog post to follow on the outcomes of the workshop. The storyboarding method and pushing people as a vehicle through a new service design worked incredibly well, and took a group of participants 3 hours. They started from scratch, developing and blueprinting new service concepts which the Swedish authorities could implement.

The day capped off with the launch of This is Service Design Thinking.  If you haven’t purchased it, do it.  It is a very comprehensive textbook which has been co-created by the design community.  I am very happy for the authors and am sure both Jakob Schneider and Marc Stickdorn are relieved to see their hard work come to fruition.

To wrap up, these conferences aren’t always just about the learning but are also about the friends you make.  It was lovely to make some new European and continental friends and catch up with old ones. It never ceases to amaze me how friendly, open and collaborative the Service Design community can be. Snook are humbled to be part of it.

Huge thanks to Fabian and the rest of the Serv Des team for making this event possible.

Here’s to next year and bigger and better snowball fights...

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June 14, 2010, 3:19 pm
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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.

PK at the Glasgow School of Art
April 12, 2010, 9:55 pm
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Want to see the guy talk at speed who made the above video?   Well now is your chance!

All GSA staff and students are invited to:

GSA Pecha Kucha Thursday 22nd April, 5:30 PM Staff Lounge, Newbery Building (for tickets see below) pecha kucha loosely translates as the sound of chit-chat…. a 20×20 format, where speakers have 20 seconds to speak about each of their twenty slides, ensuring a rapid-fire exchange of ideas, opinions and insights…

Come along for an eclectic evening of cross-school presentations from GSA staff, students, alumni plus guests…


James Houston|Nicholas Oddy|Sharon Thomas|GSA Mutual|Evolve|Jamie Nicholson|Gordon Hush|David Coyle|Moira Dancer|Sarah Drummond|plus more to be confirmed

Hosted by: Glasgow School of Art Hub:

Free but ticketed.

Admission by tickets only:

Tickets via:

Limited, so book quickly…

More info:

from the GSA Hub

Channel Four need you!
March 25, 2010, 12:51 am
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I meant to blog this at the start of the month as the entry submission for this is Friday 26th March.  Channel 4 need you to design that ‘big thinger’ in front of their entrance that they call the big four. Stephanie Imbeau’s Shelter is spectacular and now this is your chance to create a landmark piece of art.

In short, it’s open to current art/design students and recent graduates.  They need 6 images of your work you’ve created in college/uni and 4 images of the project proposal including a one liner and a short written statement.  You might ask why post this so soon before the entry date (you really have about 48 hours).  I’ll let you into a secret, I submitted mypolice about 8 minutes before the deadline and it was a simple sketch and synopsis.  So just do it!  For all the details go to their website.

How to become the next Big 4 artist

Channel 4’s Big 4 has become something of a London landmark since it was erected in 2007, so it’s great news that planning permission has been secured for another five years. As with the last iteration by Stephanie Imbeau, the fifth skinning of the Big 4 is being awarded to an artist through a competition.


Channel 4 is looking for a fun, playful design to inspire and entertain passers-by, visitors and C4 staff.

Your design must work with the pre-existing 50-foot high metal structure in front of the Channel 4 building on Horseferry Road, be weatherproof and hardwearing, and be able to be lit (from the outside or the inside) to make a statement after dark. The winning design will be conceived as a 3D experience rather than a 2D design.

Building an engine
March 9, 2010, 8:43 am
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Are you a designer? Are you a ‘geek with heart’? Have you got a business brain? Know a bit about or live with a long term condition?

This Thursday and Friday, Snook and Futuregov are running a two day ‘intense’ camp to build an engine which provides better information and support for people living with LTCs.  It runs from 9-5pm on Thursday and 9-4pm on Friday.  By bringing together a range of talents, we hope to build an engine which uses the internet to improve information online and offline and new ideas for services.  Lauren says,

“We are working with the Scottish Government to create a service that helps people with long term conditions find local support and services. This project is called ALISS ( Access to Local Information to Support Self Management ) and you can catch up on the rest of the team’s activities here. We are documenting our phase of the project at Supporting Pipes.

This project echoes our belief that, by empowering people to make informed decisions about how to manage their life with the necessary support, it can have very real and positive outcomes for all involved”

We’ve been working on the ALISS project for a wee while now, doing an initial phase of research and then three consecutive workshops in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth respectively.  We’ve been blown away by the ideas generated in our workshops, and now hope to fully develop them into small prototypes and give them a glossy shine.  With your help!

Participants present their ideas in Glasgow

To read more about some of our workshops, visit Snook or see our photos of all the workshops.

If you are a designer I think this is an experience not to be missed.  If you are thinking of doing a project or work later in health related topics or within the NHS, you must come.  To be honest, when I was doing my undergrad, I wish I’d had the opportunity to come to an event like this.  It is a co-design workshop and you will get invaluable experience as a facilitator. This is something not to be missed!

To sign up for the event, go to our eventbrite page.

Wyndford gets £20000
February 22, 2010, 12:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

(L to R) Sara Patekari, Amy Marsh, Laura Franzini, Ian Grout, Sarah Drummond

What a week last one was.

Apart from much smiles in the mypolice camp as things start looking up, as part of my masters in Design Innovation, three of the getgoglasgow team went down to present Green Gorillaz in the UK final.

A real stretch, we were given only 15 minutes to present our research (very people led heavy and the most interesting part of our work), proposal and development since the regional final.

And, well, we won.  After some tough question and answers, and a grilling about our financial projections, we were soon drinking bubbles in the RSA.  I did think it was a real shame we didn’t get to see the other teams’ proposals, it would of been good to see what other colleges are up to and the approach they took, although, I guess more faces in the room would have added to everyone’s nerves.

And nervewracking it was, the judging panel consisted of;

§  Jeremy Myerson – Royal College of Art – Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre, Royal College of Art

§  Sir John Sorrell of the Sorrell Foundation

§  Lynda Relph-Knight – Editor of Design Week

§  Jeremy Hicks – Chief Executive of Audi UK

§  Prof Isobel Pollock – Audi Design Foundation Trustee & Royal Academy of Engineering visiting Professor, University of Leeds

§  Ted Matthews – Project Manager, Urban ideas Bakery for British Council

§  Claire Watt-Smith – Future 100 Young Entrepreneurs for 2008 and founder of

The telling of this project will be how the residents use it.  Already we can start to see some ideas being generated by the community, my favourite being dog poo alert, and to see residents getting excited about starting active groups in Wyndford is amazing.  You can access their portal here and as it hasn’t launched yet, we’re not huge on members yet but confident once marketed we’ll have a good pull.  So where does the £20000 go?  Well we’re going to make sure £10000 of it can be ‘won’ by residents to start activity groups or hold events.  Every month, a new gorillaz group can pitch for £100, which ensures the money will last over 4 years, and in turn, the real value of increased community interaction will be achieved.

I’m hoping to get an annotated presentation up so you can read more about how we undertook this project and what it is actually about.  I think the biggest interest from the judges was how we undertook the project, our engagement tools and ways in which we rounded up the community to generate ideas with us.  They are keen to see how we can ‘package’ this up.  I want to work further on this, but I am really tight for time what with a new term and new projects on the masters course.  I don;t think the tools can just be replicated, I think it is more about the mindset used to undertake them, I’d be interested in studying this more.

Anyway, for now, Wyndford is £20000 better off, a football pitch is nearly finished and they’re about to pitch for the first set of dragons den money for football strips, the team will aptly be named, the Wyndford Gorillaz. Great!

oh, and we made design week too!

Mac and Alzheimers
December 18, 2009, 7:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I saw this a couple of years ago actually and remember thinking what a telling portrait it was of Alzheimer’s and how touched I was by it. A few months ago I wrote a post about my gran and this reminded me of her, some of the signs like wanting to go out all the time and the way she holds her hands was exactly like this. So I thought I’d share it with you.

The video is by Mike Chalmers who had some other fantastic shorts, not to mention some amazing photography, and it’s rather cool to see someone produce such great work that you went to school with.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Mac and Alzheimers“, posted with vodpod