I graduated last week. It’s become one of those little things I forgot I had to do, and in typical Drummond style, left it all a bit last minute to clear my library fines (I had kept that amazing co-design book by Stanley King for a wee bit too long) so in a last minute dash I made it to the ceremony.

It was a strange feeling, sitting in the rather beautiful Bute Hall at Glasgow University nine months after I finished the Masters in Design Innovation at the Glasgow School of Art, to be honest it felt a little disconnected from when I had actually finished the course.

It feels like the last two years have been a real up hill struggle. Lauren and I have hurtled through a course of surreal events – setting up MyPolice and Snook three months into my masters. I had to complete project work for the course and I worked alongside Skills Development Scotland who kindly provided me with the opportunity in the first place.  For those who stuck by me in those really tough, not getting a lot of sleep times, thank you very much.  I am available for parties and tipples in the pub now.

What I learned that year was invaluable, working on the inside of the public sector and understanding how Scottish government develop policy and have them interpreted by various public bodes in Scotland into the services and products we use everyday.  It was a smack in the face that design won’t save the world.  Not that I ever thought it would but it was a real two feet on the ground moment.

In this year I figured out what design was good at, and what design isn’t so good at.  I came to the conclusion (this is my simple explanation) that design is good for three things.  Visualising, prototyping and facilitating co-creation. At  the end of the day, in Neumier’s words, designers are the link between thinking and doing, we’re makers, craft makers if you will.

Without making, I don’t believe you’re designing.  Without doing, you can’t have design thinking.  There I said it, but it feels good to get off my chest.

There’s a lot of standing in cool shoes, american apparel polo shirts, thick rimmed glasses and staring at post its in our industry, and to be honest anyone can do that, and they do.  The post it is an amazing tool (for the less linear/business shop way of solving problems) But what I learned is the true power of design is bringing ideas to life, prototyping is king and we only do this through making.

I’m glad my first couple of years in design education were spent designing coat hangers, bicycle stands and lampshades.  Here is where I really learned to design.  I learned you had to watch people, observe how they used coat hangers, draw new ideas out a hundred times over, make cardboard cut outs, then transform this into blue foam (the model making king material) and keep iterating until you reached a final product.  When our class was approached by Skills Development Scotland half way during my under graduate we were asked to make their service better.  I think we all went, ‘eh?’ as we had never looked at how design could be applied to services but with a wonderful support from Joe Heapy and Julia Schapher of Engine we managed to construct a way of applying our design skills to the project.  The results were well received by the company (and Scottish government) Why? Because we used visualisation and prototyping and had developed service and interactive concepts for people.

Fast forward to graduating from my undergraduate in 2009 and having thoroughly thrown myself into Service Design with a range of projects from redesigning the rural post office to crowd sourced cycle lane concepts for a new bike network in Glasgow, Skills Development Scotland approached me to undertake the new Masters of Design Innovation course at Glasgow School of Art.

They discussed their journey to use service design and embed it inside the organisation to improve the services and products they deliver.  How could design turn policy into good, people-centered outcomes?  They believed design was the way.

I jumped at the chance, and slightly naive at first thought this was an easy problem design could fix.

How wrong was I?

I found the biggest difficulty was that whilst the Service Design and Innovation team were trying to explain design in the company, no one could see or understand the process (a hat tip from Mr Peter Gorb).  I came up with a circular visualisation of the design process which contained the company’s development process and focused on process as opposed to tools which is often the main downfall of any organisation trying to adopt a new process.  Instead of the double diamond approach I felt a circle summed it up better and hinted at Kimbell’s notion of ‘Perpetual Beta’, perhaps an Ohno Continuous Improvement concept if you will.

I was incredibly proud for the work to be taken up to the board and spread out across the Service Design and Innovation Directorate, I hope it helps them on their journey to using design as a way to drive their company forward.

The next stage which I unfortunately didn’t get to conclude because of time constraints was how this wheel could be used to articulate design as the DNA of the company.  I built concepts for a CPD programme which taught design doing and thinking to staff whilst they were undertaking projects in the organisation.  I looked at how silos could be torn up and projects initiated with teams.  I was very lucky to see how all this could work in a real life scenario and I’ll always be thankful to the company for giving me that opportunity.  It gave me the chance to consider how this could work in public services in Scotland on a grander scale, and the types of activities we could be doing to become a much more innovative nation.

As a takeaway, I got access to people inside the public sector and a real insight into how public bodies operate, and how difficult it can be to achieve change in big organisations.

On top of this work (which I will be realising as part of a new Snook initiative called ‘Embedding design’) I had the opportunity to flex my design muscles on Getgo Glasgow which won the Audi Sustain our Nation Prize and £20000 for Wyndford, an interaction design project on embedding yammer inside an organisation, created a toolkit to help libraries think about changing their service and tearing up the rule book and a dissertation which allowed me to meet and interview people I had admired for a long time.


Sitting down in my graduation, I felt proud to be heading back to our new Snook studio.  In what has been a great (and tiring) journey in two years from being a young undergraduate with no clue of what I’d be doing next, to being invited into Scottish Government to help them think about creativity last week, it hit me only as I walked out of Bute Hall and saw my nearest and dearest rushing with their cameras, probably missing the moment that the girl from Leith hadn’t done that bad.

I guess this is only just the beginning.

And in case you wondered, Lauren has officially banned me from doing a PhD.