Win the space to design services

I’ve watched a lot of service designers working in programmes and projects where they’re fighting against the tide.

If you’re doing that every single day, it’s terrible.

I’ve been very lucky to enjoy the space to do design. And though it’s tempting to think I’m super awesome, something that’s important is winning the space to design.

Different things can win you the space to do design. From senior buy-in, making the impossible seem possible, to getting stuff made.

Leaving aside the reality of senior buy-in, I find that making immediate and visible impact on the frontend of a service is a key building block.

By that I mean:

  • Redesigning a form. Paper or otherwise
  • Creating prototypes that become working code
  • Solutions/tweaks to problems identified in live
  • Helping explain issues the business or user encounters in live

A service designer doesn’t have to be the one to do this work. Though it helps to build trust in a designer. It’s okay to benefit from other people doing this.

But there’s nothing that sells the value of designers in a room than things like making a transaction less rubbish. Giving a better shape to a product than when no designer was involved.

Something I’m a big fan of is the “Danish Design Centre’s design ladder”. It’s a model for explaining how companies use design.

From not doing it, to it being a form giving act to it shaping strategy.

The key thing is to remember that where an organisation, programme or project is, isn’t fixed. And every success can be exploited to get design involved earlier. And more thoughtfully and completely.

So if you find yourself swimming against the tide. Try a smaller scope. A more focused place to make changes. Not every team will be sold on doing things differently. And sometimes that means taking a longer path by starting with the forms. Even if you want to start with strategy.

But you know, your users will thank you. It’s a great place to start. And it’ll help you guide the project to doing other things too.

If you’re a product/interaction designer. Don’t be afraid to keep pushing to be involved in more. Going beyond just form giving. If you’re a service designer. Don’t be afraid to start in the product and take a team on a journey.

I’ve lost count of the projects where I joined to help with a website or form and ended changing how a service was delivered or organisation was structured.

Win the space to design services.

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