Last month I took to the stage at Craftscotland’s first conference, Craft Connected to talk to over 70 makers about why I believe Service Design matters to them. Here’s my story…

To put it simply, Service Designers make stuff – we make ideas real. But we do this in a way that is extremely focused on experience – this is the main reason I think Service Design and Craft have a lot to learn from one another.


We make stuff with people rather then for them. And because users / buyers / customers are at the very heart of everything we do, 90% of the time we are making other peoples ideas real rather than our own. We’re really good at putting ourselves in other peoples shoes – we making a living out of empathy! When you combine that with the design process and the making behind our craft you can help big, messy complex services like the NHS improve the service they deliver.

Service Designers don’t design whole services – that would be impossible – our role is to facilitate, inspire, make things real and inspire creativity in other people. That’s why I truly believe the role of a designer is completely changing and moving away from being in the studio to being out there in the world – in your communities helping people imagine solutions.

When YOU as makers look in the mirror do you see someone that offers a service? A service that has been beautifully and brilliantly designed? A service that considers all the touchpoints? The experience of buying the output of your craft?

I don’t think many people in the craft industry do. We don’t usually think about craft as a service. I 100% believe there is a hidden service in every craft. I want us to think about how we can make that work – how we can identify that and bring it to the surface.

Basically, I believe if you are maker you are providing a service.

And it would seem I’m not the only one, Emma from the Collins Gallery reminded us that many of the craft she sells is handed over to a paying customer with no boxes and no label.  Just like Mary Portas says in her letter to the UK Handmade Industry – you need to think about the customer experience. You need to think about how you sell what you do, your website, your business card, your business model and YOU because you are the maker and it is ultimately YOU that you are selling. These are tough times and as Mary rightly says you are competing against the luxury goods industry. This is about YOU and the service you offer as a maker!

Always remember, only you have a personal connection to your craft and thats really powerful! Where did you learn your skills? Where did you study? How did you develop your own style? Tell these stories!

You have a distinct technique, skills, a way of thinking and seeing the world that is completely unique to you. This means only you can change the way the rest of the world perceives craft.

I have ideas around how to unlock the hidden service that is inside your craft…the tools that service designers use can help you design a first class service around your craft.  For example, use journey mapping to visualise how people buy your product, use personas to understand how different people will perceive your work. But before you do anything else – buy this book.

Snook designed these little post cards for the audience and we have had some interesting results:

And last but not least, be proud to be a maker! Be proud to be a maker in Scotland – make your own future and find the secret service in your craft.

I had a brilliant day at the conference and designing my presentation really made me think. It reminded me that I am a maker and I should never forget that I was trained for four years in making models, sketching and building prototypes of everything from coat hangers and lamp shades. Thank you to everyone who tweeted and asked questions, and special thanks to those of you who sent me personal feedback – you really made me smile…

“I found your presentation so very interesting and it has given me so much to think about. I’m in the midst of re-working my website, new logo, new packaging, looking at new markets etc , but what you said has also made me look at myself more as an ambassador and a persona for the business – thank-you.”

“I would like to thank you for delivering such a thought provoking talk – and just as importantly making us laugh – at last weekend’s Craft Connected Conference.  You have now converted me to reading your blog.  I was so impressed with your enthusiasm and practicality – combined in such a unique way.  We also use lots of Lego at work;  in fact that is what we brought back as the staff present instead of the usual sweets and biscuits from a recent trip to Denmark.Keep wearing the tartan tights – great idea!” Mary, Co-chair of Craft Scotland

You can read more about the day from the folks at Craft Scotland here:

“Emma Walker, craftscotland CEO, kicked off proceedings with a clear message that well worn craft debates were off the table for the day.

Professor Mike Press ably took the helm as Chair, steering delegates into exploring how craft is connected: connected internationally, connected culturally, connected with industry and new audience, with public services, community initiatives and the wider society.

Garth Johnson travelled from California to speak to the assembled. His blog Extreme Craft is ‘a compendium of craft masquerading as art, art masquerading as craft’. It was along these themes that Garth broadened the audience’s minds to the full spectrum of craft. Garth passionately called everyone to action ‘I want everyone to become a craft activist’ – are you ready to join him?

Tom Hopkins Gibson spoke about his professional journey as a maker. He highlighted the importance of connecting and reinvesting in the local community, as well as the difficulties of balancing success, citing the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’.

Practical presentations followed from Rebecca Davis, Audience Development Officer at craftscotland and Laura Hamilton, Curator at the Collins Gallery and the conference partner. Rebecca spoke about how to connect with craftscotland. Laura Hamilton gave some sage advice on how to connect with curators, highlighting issues such installation and packaging. Her key points were to ensure effective communication and clarity from the outset.

The afternoon’s provocations explored craft’s role in community engagement. Josiah Lockhart, General Manager of the Grassmarket Community Project engaged all with how his project utilises craft to empower individuals. Muriel Murray, from Castletown Heritage Society, spoke about how they use craft to engage the community in preserving their heritage and the transference of skills.

After the selection of inspiring presentations and a rousing call to action from Mike on the impetus behind the Craft Manifesto and The Change Makers, the room locked into discussion and debate on the areas that should be included within the Manifesto. If you would like to contribute ideas or vote on proposal’s for the Craft Manifesto please visit the Making Manifesto site or request to join the Change Makers facebook group.

You can read Mike’s reflection’s from Craft Connected on his blog and see a selection of Snook and craftscotland’s photos from the day on Flickr.