9 min read

Service design is often a practice that many may be unaware of, but its value within design challenges, or any challenge for that matter, can be paramount.

As part of my graduate internship with Skills Development Scotland, myself and two other interns – Marie Hnat and Shukri Addow – formed an inter-disciplinary team and undertook a six-week human-centred design project with IDEO, where we wrestled with big design challenges using service design tools and principles.

Whilst I myself specialise in service design, Marie and Shukri come from non-design oriented backgrounds, which formed a unique and cross-collaborative team where different approaches to tasks were suggested, alternative perspectives and insights were revealed, and imaginative ideas were constantly being generated – in short, a truly innovative and diverse team.

The course with IDEO focused on instilling the values and practicing the different methodologies and approaches to human-centred design. We were posed with an overarching design challenge for the project, which questioned how we might reduce stigma towards and increase employment opportunities for disabled people, an area which remains to be largely complex, but an area Skills Development Scotland is actively working on.

As a blended course we hosted weekly team workshops, then went away to deliver own our individual contributions. We were provided with a variety of research methodologies and tools by IDEO to kickstart our project, starting by focusing on people, speaking to those with first-hand experience of the issue in question. One of our research participants was Ross, a university student with Asperger's. Speaking with Ross, he revealed crucial insights into how his disability impacts him:

Our research phase saw us learning from people, immersing ourselves in context and seeking analogous inspiration. Following this, we gathered to synthesise our findings, which turned our insights into ‘How might we...?’ statements:

  • “How might we create a sense of trust, both for disabled people in those around them, and those around them in disabled people?”
  • “How might we support employers to feel more confident in working with disabled people?”
  • “How might we empower disabled individuals to feel more comfortable disclosing their disability to employers?”

Our chosen insight is a testament to our ethnographic research, with a key discovery being the lack of a ‘one-stop-shop' for all information for employers and disabled people around employment opportunities. Whilst there’s a lot of information out there, it can often be conflicting information, where little support is offered. In addition, much of it sign-posts to other services and websites, which doesn’t offer a streamlined experience. Employers, particularly SMEs, can be put off as it as it can be information overload, and individuals are likely to trawl through websites thinking which is best. With this in mind, we led the project with the following ‘How might we...?’

To begin unpicking this, we identified unique user personas, questioning who would require a one-stop-shop, and what information they would require.

We then mapped what platform, format and medium would be the most accessible to the widest possible audience. Following this, we developed user journeys for each persona, exploring how they would interact with the service, their actions and the backstage requirements. By exploring these user journeys, we were able to establish greater detail into our service offer.

Thinking about these different user journeys helped inform us of what information and resources each of the personas would need and how best to arrange them.

So, what are we proposing? What is our service, and what is its value? Working as a team, we summarised what we’re aiming to design in a sentence:

We are now at the stage of user testing and identifying which approach is the most feasible and how to start prototyping our idea.

What we currently have is a straw man of a new service, but what we have learned over this intense course is a way of thinking, and what surprised me the most was the ability for people with non-design oriented backgrounds to think and work like designers.

Whilst our primary focus has been on disabled people and the challenges they face in a workplace, we quickly realized that service design practice could be used in any part of the business. We each   experienced how design-driven processes can be embedded in everyday tasks and how it can be used to truly engage with our customers. We understand that design & innovation is more than a department within the business, more than a phase - it is a way of approaching design challenges. Moreover, we’ve learned that human-centred design needs to be at the heart of everything we do, after all, who else are we designing for?

Would you be interested in applying service design thinking, tools or methodologies in the workplace? Or interested in sharing your ideas and thoughts? Let us know in the comments.