I’m just back from Sweden after attending the annual Service Design network Conference, which was bigger than ever with over 600 participants in attendance.

I’ve had a two year hiatus from the conference due to various projects so I was looking forward to finding out how the landscape for the discipline had changed.  In those two years ago since, there have been initial discussions moving from the rudiments of the practice and toolkits into designers entering the hearts of businesses and making change from within.

There are a whole host of internalised learnings I’ve taken from the various presentations and conversations; too many to articulate without it turning into a lengthy thesis on the Service Design landscape. So below I’ve picked my memorable moments, favourite tweets and overall insights which deserve a good sharing.

Experio Labs



Experiencing having a tremor and filling in forms #sdgc14

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Experio Labs are a national center for patient-centered service innovation. They focus on involving staff, patients and families to work together on health care services that create value in peoples’ everyday lives.

Their innovations come top of my list as they created an experience for conference attendees to try out various health conditions from tinitus to visual impairments in a hands-on workshop.

This was then brought together particularly well by a Swedish nurse they had worked with who admitted to changing her practice after being treated as a patient for a day.  Her shock at the impact of using empathy tools to see the patient experience from their perspective was heart warming and fantastic, particularly since she hadn’t been keen to take part in the first instance.  What I took from this was that by understanding other peoples’ experiences, quite literally, even small changes can make a large impact.  The same nurse started spending a few more minutes with people when they arrived on her ward, touching people on the arm, creating a connection. Small changes to her service delivery made a longer term impact on a patient’s stay.

Oliver King | Analysing Organisation capacity for change

Oliver King of Engine ran a talk which I would have liked to have seen more detail on, unfortunately his presentation was shorter than it deserved.  He presented frameworks that Engine use to analyse how ready organisations are for various Service Design interventions at a series of levels, from understanding the customer journey to scaled up business change processes.

By taking a sample of staff perception on the service they offer to customer insight and posting this to their matrix, they can understand how well the organisation understands their customers – if they know what they need to change.  This helps the consultancy to work to support self assessment of the organisation and create well formed statements for change.  This ultimately makes both their work, and the organisation’s relationship with Service Design processes more fruitful from the offset.

Macmillan Cancer Care

Marianne and Christina from Macmillan Cancer care talked about embedding new processes based on Service Design and utilising the double diamond model inside Macmillan Cancer Care. It’s great to see work like this taking shape and becoming far more common in the industry.  They’ve began to set up more visual tools and practice inside the offices, supporting teams in co-design practice and thinking more holistically while initiating new design led projects inside their agency.  I’m looking forward to seeing how their work develops, as I have a particular interest in embedded design teams which support the development of strategy and services in large organisations.


Screenshot 2014-10-16 23.53.50

Service Design Pioneers

We were invited to take part in a special lunch inside Stockholm City Hall, hosting the pioneers who have been working in the industry for over 10 years, with many of our peers and close friends.  This was a real chance to say thank you to the network for inviting us. We’ve dedicated the last five years of Snook to doing the best work we can and sharing our learnings as much as possible along the journey.


Low Chaew Hwei, Philips

‘The burden on professionals is too large to look after individual health care.  We will rely on technology to support ourselves’  – Low Chaew Hwei

Low Chaew Hwei from Philips Healthcare shared many lessons from the company’s work on integrated health and care services.  Low’s focus laid on how healthcare is moving from professional care to a focus on consumer healthcare, which is where we should be designing products, services and systems to reduce the burden on professionals.

‘In order to do good healthcare (#servicedesign) we need to understand emotion versus motivation’


Lavrans Lovlie, Live|Work

@lavranslovlie ‘Sometimes I can be sceptical about design principles but they can be great as we can manage by them’ #SDGC14#servicedesign

Lavrans Lovlie, Service Design pioneer and founder of Live|Work delivered a beautiful presentation on signs and services in Nordic countries.  What struck with me was his description of their use of Design principles over the delivery of Service Blueprints, articulating how a new service design operates.  I have also been an admirer of the power of design principles that can be delivered with an organisation to support the mindset and thinking behind the service delivery over a long period of time.  They act as guiding principles not only for delivery but future developments of an organisation’s delivery.  I now think of them as sustainable deliverables built within an organisation and their customers.

Index Award

What we need is the design of large scale coherent systems says @indexaward#SDGC14

Index Award, Design to improve life delivered a presentation on some of their innovation work in product and service design within the social design landscape.  What hit me was their emphasis on designing systems of things, and a need to focus our energy on designing the integrated platforms that will scale our designs for better quality of life.  I believe this was a message to move beyond simple ‘solutionism’ which I recently wrote about for Project 99 and the Design Management Institute.

Air Bnb

I can’t imagine what it’s like to stand up in front of an audience and have about 30-40% of them raise their hand and say the are using your service.  Mark Levy, head of employee experience at Air BnB shared the history of the company and some fascinating insights into how they support their staff to feel like an integral part of the business.  My favourite insight was on hearing that the meals served up at the HQ are inspired around an Airbnb listing, which brings their service delivery into the hands of their employees.  A great company operating a service that, funnily enough,  I used when staying in Stockholm.

All in all – this was good conference experience and bigger than ever before.  I would have liked some more in-depth insights and practice reflections from the Service Design pioneers but you can’t have everything so they say.

Much thanks and props to Very Day and Doberman for hosting and I have found my new favourite facilitator, Lisa Lindstrom who can make any large conference feel like an intimate living room conversation.

Here’s to next year.