Aimée’s Service Design Conference adventure

Last Thursday (30th June), I joined many others from the service design industry at the RIBA’s grand building on Portland Place, for the Service Design Network’s UK Conference. The day was full of excellent and inspiring talks; here I pull out a few of my highlights.

“Good services are verbs, bad services are nouns” – Louise Downe, GDS

The Government and Service Design

Louise Downe, Head of Design at Government Digital Services (GDS) opened proceedings with an excellent overview of the story of GDS so far. The team’s aim was to build Government services as ‘verbs not nouns’; her point being that most people accessing them don’t know the convoluted, acronymous titles given to Government services off the top of their head, but they do have a task in mind that they’re trying to do.

GDS seek to collaborate in the open and reduce service complexity, with designers who have the right balance of idealism and pragmatism. She recognised that Government has been ‘failing slow’ for a long time, and her team are trying to change that. However, with a phone number being the 8th most popular service on she acknowledged that her team still have much work to do.


Mobilising the TFL workforce

One of the other highlights of the day was Stephen Graham from Deloitte Digital and Conor Maguire from TFL presenting their ‘mobilising the TFL workforce’ project for Victoria Coach Station. Their dynamic presentation showcased how they transformed a coach management system that previously involved hoisting a piece of paper on a string through an office window, to a full mobile app solution. The app helped employees communicate more easily but also gave them access to up-to-date arrivals and departures information.

The star of their presentation though, was Stephan, a Customer Services Representative, who came on stage in full TFL uniform to talk about his experiences on the frontline. Bringing the tech solution back to a human level bought home to the audience the real impact that this project had on staff and customers alike.


Design for the provider as well as the recipient

The final presentation of the day continued with the theme of workplace transformation, with Dr. Nick de Leon, Head of Service Design at the RCA, encouraging the audience to turn their attention to the nature of work itself. His inspiring presentation suggested a move beyond user-centricity to ‘anthropocentric design- designing the experience equally for the provider as well as the recipient.’ His exposition of the modern employee and workplace culture questioned why much of the dignity of work has been removed for many, and how ‘personal initiative has been replaced with process compliance’.

“Personal initiative has been replaced with process compliance [in the workplace]” – Dr Nick de Leon, RCA

It was great to round off the day with some real food-for-thought that tapped into the common desire of service designers, simplistically; to help improve life for people, and gave us the challenge of trying to achieve that goal in the place that many will spend a large percentage of their life.

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