A Week of Service Design in Wales

In December 2019, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in Newport hosted an amazing week of service design-related events.

The week started with the 9th cross government service design meetup: Designing against climate change. Colleagues from Government Digital Service (GDS) and Department for Environment, Food & and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) co-hosted the half day event, with a lot of thought provoking discussion around designing services and the effect they have on our climate.

Day 2, Martin Jordan, Head of Service Design at GDS, and Clara Greo, training and service designer at GDS, facilitated the Introduction to service design training. The training continued on days 3 and 4 with service design in practice training.

This was the first time these training events have taken place in Wales. A very special thank you to Emma Thomas, Senior Content Designer at the IPO for organising and hosting the event!

Picture of Martin Jordan, Clara Greo and Emma Thomas in front of Service design training slide

( Left to right, Martin Jordan, Clara Greo, Emma Thomas. Picture credit: @tyniem)

A Wales and South West only attendee list

Central and local government departments from across South Wales and Bristol attended the events. It was a really great week with lots of good chats, new bridges were built and great takeaways to deliver back to our departments. 

Understanding Service Design

“A service is something that helps someone to do something.” – Lou Downe, Ex-Design Director of the UK Government.

There is so much out there about service design and countless number of definitions. Designing good government services: an introduction provides a good overview of some of the elements of service design. 

Service design:

  • asks questions and challenges assumptions
  • focuses on people
  • helps define the scope of the problem
  • looks at services through a wider lens 
  • figures out how the services fit into the context of the wider organisation and into the lives of the people who use them.

Our thoughts on the week 

There are a lot of people already contributing to service design. These include people from Graphic Design, Digital Design, User research, Content Design and Interaction Design. People from these disciplines attended the service design training. Here are some of their experiences: 

“I’ve been working within a service design environment since transitioning the IPO website to GOV.UK in 2014. I was fortunate to have attended the introduction to service design training in March 2018 and was part of the service design in practice pilot in 2019. Being able to organise and host the three-day service design training in Wales was a huge achievement. The attendees list was overpopulated, and we were able to provide training to more people than originally planned which was fantastic! Service design looks at the end to end, front to back and across all channels of a user’s interaction with that service, be it digital, paper, face to face or a telephone call. As a Senior Content Designer working primarily on digital focussed aspects of services, being able to offer these courses to colleagues has helped champion the importance of service design and joining up the entire user journey”. (Emma Thomas, Senior Content Designer, IPO)

tools used in service design soft focus on cards in background

(Picture credit: @graceellins)

“Having attended the Introduction to Service Design training in London a few months before, I was excited to see the follow-on session Service Design in Practice was coming to Newport. The first introductory session was a good eye-opener that made me think more about how to approach problems we are presented with. One of the biggest lessons was to reframe the problem in the first instance, helping avoid issues further down the line. The follow-on training really helped me to put the teachings into practice, with the excellent tutors, Clara and Martin, having equipped us with various methods and tools, giving us (close to) real-world problems to approach. I really value the training GDS puts on, so to have it on our doorstep instead of schlepping to London was much appreciated!” (Rachel – Digital Designer, ONS)

“It was great to have this course and the fab trainers on our doorstep, and I took a lot away from it that I was able to apply as soon as I got back to work. As a content designer, I design the end-to-end journeys for people taking part in ONS surveys, so quite often a lot of what I do falls into service design. I’m currently working on the 2021 Census, and being such a broad project, I find things like a prioritisation matrix helps us to focus on the right things. I enjoyed finding out more about other service design techniques, and the market stall activity was a great way of learning from each other. It also helped then being able to apply these tools to real-life scenarios. Some of my favourites were storyboards and different types of prototyping. Thanks to Martin and Clara for such an interesting and interactive couple of days. I highly recommend!” (Lauren Bradford – Senior Content Designer, ONS)

Post its on Top of Service 'tube journey at night' with person looking at them

(Picture credit: @Martin_Jordan)

The ‘start small’ things

The training highlighted a number of things we can implement now. We can start:

  • asking the right questions: sometimes we’re guilty of not challenging assumptions about the way things are
  • framing the problem: making sure that everybody shares the same understanding and has the same goals in mind before making decisions
  • bringing the right people into the room – making sure stakeholders are involved at the right stages and that they understand the value service design thinking can bring
  • using the methodologies more in our own work, such as storyboarding, creating prototypes, user journey mapping and so on
  • putting up the new design principle posters

The ‘think big’ things

The training highlighted bigger challenges which will help advance our organisational maturity in service design thinking and doing. Things like:

  • how do we advance through the stages of the service design maturity model? How we use ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’ to initiate service design in the organisation? 
  • how do we define our services? Where are the edges – where is the end to end?
  • service design is all about collaboration. We need to start discussions on how we can work more collaboratively across departments: shared goals, outcomes, and accountability for our work 
  • we do not need to use the ‘service design’ term all the time, as long as the projects serve the principles of making things easier for users and the organisation.  However, there are issues with the term ‘service design’ as it means different things to different people depending on where you work in the organisation. We need an agreed definition of what we mean by ‘service design’ across the organisation in order to align our thinking across departments. 

Further reading

If you’re interested in finding out more about service design, why not: