Teaching industrial designers to see beyond the product

A service design crash course challenging students to design a service which helps job seekers gain work experience

Every year, we eagerly await the visit of second-year industrial design students from Auburn, Alabama, looking to learn more about how products fit into the larger web of services. Our service mavericks, Keira and Harriet, guided the students through a two-day service design crash course. Their brief? To design a service helping Glaswegian job seekers gain work experience.

Users at the heart of any service

Armed with the project brief, a map of Glasgow City Centre, and a head full of questions, the students made their way through Glasgow’s streets. They spoke to locals as well as many organisations already making a difference to job seekers in the community.

Service design is all about putting the users’ needs at the helm. Gathering the many stories and experiences from people involved in the issues at hand helps to guide ideas and shape a service.

Teams, themes and lemon juicing machines

After their outdoor adventure, we engaged the students in a series of fun and fast-paced activities to spur on idea generation and theme gathering.

One of our most tried and tested methods for setting designer brains to ‘innovate’ is to, as quickly as possible, think of 100 ways to squeeze a lemon. There’s always that one person who draws a bum…

Our lives are more than just a collection of artefacts

Day two took our students deeper into the many points of contact and interactions that would occur within their own services in order to satisfy the needs of their users.

Our students guided their designs with the help of personas identified the day before. By acting out their services within their groups, they were able to identify how their users would come in contact with the service, where they might experience challenges, and how the service could help the users to grow.

The service design showdown

Two days in, and hundreds of post-its later, the Auburn students were ready to present their ideas. An important philosophy within Snook is showing, not telling, and the students took this in their stride, using masking tape to line the floor, chairs to replicate a seat at the barbers, and using a clothes rail and table as a check-in desk.

The ideas presented proved that the students had taken considerable care and sensitivity when designing for their users’ needs throughout their services, something we hope that they will be able to introduce within their own practices in the future.

We can’t wait to have the new class of Auburn visit next year and wish all of the brilliant students we met all the best in their bright futures!


A special thank you goes to MAKLab and Social Bite.