Skills Development Scotland are a non-departmental public body of 1400 staff, that brings together the careers, skills, training and funding services of Careers Scotland, Scottish University for Industry (learndirect scotland) and the skills functions of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.  SDS play a central role in raising employment levels and productivity, they are fundamental to ensuring Scotland’s businesses have the capability to compete successfully both now and in the future.

I spent 12 months working with the company to look at how design could be embedded inside their organisation to drive forward innovation, develop new service propositions and re-evaluate existing propositions.  This project was undertaken in collaboration with the Glasgow School of Art’s new Masters in Design Innovation course, and the outcome of the project is a thesis entitled ‘Embedding design in the public sector: Changing our thinking.’ This publication is will be available later this year.



I worked closely with the Service Design and Innovation directorate and front line service providers. The aim was to understand the organisation and focus on where design could be applied. The new Service Design and Innovation team must prosper inside the organisation as an in house design capability and work against a mentality where work falls on the business mental model of task based activity, departments in silos, and ideas are often developed from quantitative reports.

Academically the work challenged the development of a ‘service design toolkit’ and looked at a larger, embedding and CPD programme that would build the understanding and capabilities of staff to use design thinking. I worked on the case of how design thinking and processes can be used to drive forward innovation in a safe and simple way, demystifying design and breaking it down into bite size chunks.


I looked at how design would become the DNA of the company and permeate every activity and department.  The project was less about design as an activity or process but more about creating a designful company; an organisation that was capable of developing great service experiences rather than just jumping straight into delivery mode.

The work pulled together ‘design tools’ and other methodologies from various disciplines to map these around a process so that people associated activities with different stages of service development.  The paper challenges organisations to work much more in diagonal slices rather than in silos, to create collaborative and knowledgeable action teams who work on projects together, rather than separately.



The main focus of this work was to create a development process for the staff and departments to use as their core process.  One of the major issues inside the company was that people couldn’t see design or it’s process.  Taking the existing development process for SDS, I created a development wheel that takes new policy/ideas/projects from discovery to delivery using design led activity and thinking.

The development wheel has been approved by Skills Development Scotland’s board and is now being used by the company to document existing work and develop new service experiences.



Further to the development wheel, I initiated a pilot project to look at how the company operate and deliver services to their customers.  The pilot is still ongoing and is focused on unlocking the expert knowledge of careers advisors and enabling them to use discovery and ethnographic techniques to understand the needs of their users from a service perspective, considering the entire experience, not just the moment of transaction.  The pilot will culminate in the staff running their own co-design workshop to build ideas about how their space can be re-designed from a service thinking perspective.  We will then lead staff through a prototyping phase to test the ideas they generated during the workshop, and build a visual report that outlines bigger systemic issues that need to be tackled by the organisation.