Illustration of a magnifying glass

21 Dec 2016

2016: A year in review

What a year this has been! With a unique mix of incredible highs and terrible lows, 2016 has shaken us all enthusiastically and frustratingly like a rollercoaster. The tradition is to look back and reflect on the highlights of the past year, so here are ours.

We’d like to start with a M A S S I V E thank you to all clients, partners, research and workshop participants, friends, family and everyone we’ve met this year. We are truly grateful for the way you’ve supported and challenged us to design a better world together, one service at a time.

jump to:    January-March     April-June     July-September      October-December


Glasgow City Council’s new website goes live!

We played a role in ensuring that the voices of Glasgow citizens were heard and emphasised the importance of engagement in the development of services. Read more about how citizens helped transform their Council’s website.

Walk Hack Development Day

Walk Hack aims to create and develop ideas to encourage walking and active travel. We came back together with City of Edinburgh Council and Sustrans to deliver Walk Hack Development Day. Original team members were joined by representatives from organisations who would be able to support their ideas to become reality during a fast-paced one-day development workshop.



Global Service Jam

Edinburgh Apps

Supporting the City of Edinburgh Council in producing and facilitating the third Edinburgh Apps which was a two-day hack – responding to challenges set by service partners from across the city. By the end of the events, ideas were pitched to the challenge owners, who were able to support teams to test and develop their solutions in the real world.

Why are youth creating GIFs to talk about mental health?

Aye Mind is about exploring how we can harness digital technologies to support young people’s mental wellbeing. We have been running the make-your-own GIFs workshops throughout Scotland. Some of the these also won Adaptive Lab’s GIF competition.

ayemind_gif by Caitlin

Service strategy for employability skills

We helped City and Guilds in building an end-to-end view of their education service designed to help young people acquire the workplace skills they need to succeed.


Systems Changers hit Westminster

I joined 10 of the frontline staff on the Systems Changers programme at the House of Lords. We presented the programme, our learnings, and heard from people with lived experiences. What came through strongly is that we are all responsible for ensuring we have a balanced, respectful and supportive society. “We can choose comfort or we can choose courage. I choose courage.

Culture Shift Cyprus

Working with designers, coders and those interested in the cultural sector in Cyprus, we were hacking at Culture Shift Cyprus with the British Council. The winning team headed to YouTube in London for a two-day residency later in the year and received one month’s free residency in the open working space at Capital Impact. We were lucky enough to support the British Council in delivering similar events in Athens and Madrid later in the year.

culture shift Athens 2016

Big Society Capital kicks off

We began what was to become a long-term working relationship with Big Society Capital. Working to better understand the details of how charities and social enterprises navigate social investment, we built on previous research to bring a product to life. After 12 months of user research and co-design, the new Good Finance website will be launched early next year so, watch this space.


We launch Snook Training

We launch our new training programmes and continue to test them whilst focusing on universities. In 2017, we’ll be scaling these out across sectors to support building design capacity.

20 industrial designers explore the role of digital on students’ mental wellbeing

Each year, we host students from Auburn University for a speedy two-day training in Service Design. It’s been a Snook tradition since 2009! This year, it was Eve and Charlotte tasked with facilitator’s roles and challenged the students to re-imagine mental wellbeing for peers.

Care Hackathon

Following on from two months of research exploring unscheduled care in Ayrshire and Arran with patients, clinicians and community organisations, we developed a series of experience stories to inform and inspire the Care Hackathon event. The last weekend in April saw nearly every member of Snook staff facilitating an enthusiastic bunch of over 120 participants.

GOOD 100

Snooks are celebrating as I’m on the list of GOOD magazine 100 people improving the world in creative and innovative ways. Good reason to pop some champagne in the studio…




We start working together with Chayn and SafeLives on this research project funded by Comic Relief. In the following months, we conduct interviews, surveys, shadowing and workshops with both survivors of domestic of abuse and practitioners working in this sector. In January 2017, Comic Relief will be launching a new funding programme based on design challenges informed by our collaborative research. Watch this space!

Smart Campus: Glasgow University

What if you could prototype a smart city? We facilitated a Smart Campus Awareness and Networking Event that connected relevant people. Once nurtured over time, would these connections help make the smart city a reality?


Anne and Valerie were excited to attend the ServDes conference in Copenhagen, catching up on all the latest Service Design research and practice from around the world.


#ayemind is trending in Glasgow

Everyone tweeted so much during the launch of the Aye Mind website that #ayemind was trending. Whoop

We voted to remain

On Thursday, 23rd June, Snook voted to remain in the EU.


We love when pleased clients come back to us! We enjoyed working with the lovely people from the Information Services Division of NHS NSS to develop a customer insights toolkit, including, of course, the prolific tweeter @maniraahmad

Cyclehack 2016

We run 2016 CycleHack, which is even bigger than before in over 30 cities globally. We run the local Glasgow hack and man the HQ from our Vancouver, Edinburgh and London offices.


Consulting on consultations

In July, we loved working with Demsoc for the British Government Digital Services. We launched the first review of online consultation in the UK to advise next steps forward for better democracy. Have a read below and look out for Emma and Michelle presenting at SDinGov next March.


Grapevine Coventry

July saw the handover of all of the insights and the proposed service model for Grapevine Coventry. The project focused on conducting research and developing a framework to enable young people with Learning Disabilities to live independently, with appropriate support, in their local communities.

Grapevine Coventry


Enterprise and Skills review

Scottish Government has been reviewing support services for enterprise and skills. They commissioned us to undertake a user-centred research to understand people’s journeys. Considering user needs is always the first step in designing an infrastructure that facilitates what people need to achieve, rather than one that people might not understand yet are forced to navigate to complete a task.


We continue to support OIX and the Government Digital Service in testing the Verify service in new domains. This time, we work with Timpsons to look at in-store identity checks.

GIF of the year

This flamingo-wanna-be-rooster GIF is the most-clicked item on our monthly newsletter.



Recognition for collaborative work on youth mental health

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: Snook win a commendation in the Industry and Young People Innovation Award presented by Alison McRae, Senior Director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce (left) at the 2016 Inspiring City Awards at the Radisson Blu hotel on SEPTEMBER 08, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jamie Simpson/Herald & Times)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – SEPTEMBER 08: Snook win a commendation in the Industry and Young People Innovation Award presented by Alison McRae, Senior Director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce (left) at the 2016 Inspiring City Awards at the Radisson Blu hotel on SEPTEMBER 08, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jamie Simpson/Herald & Times)

Team Aye Mind won a commendation for their collaborative work on the project. We received the Inspiring City Awards commendation in the Industry and Young People Innovation category on 8th September.

London Service Design Fringe Festival: Do service designers need a design background?

Snook’s London office held an evening of talks as part of the Service Design Fringe Festival centred around service design in practice with the aim of educating non-service designers. The evening’s structure enabled the audience to not only hear tips from Snook but also hear from the point of view of Snook clients.

What are future customer needs when it comes to social housing?

We explored this during a speedy 8-week research sprint with the Wheatley Group. Through visiting people in their homes for contextual interviews and workshopping together, we met 65 people with various experiences of social housing. The insights gathered and tools used throughout the project are helping inform Wheatley Group’s future proofing of their service delivery.

We launch our new website!

We admit it had been quite a transformational if bumpy 18-month journey, but hey – we got there. It wasn’t really about the website, this was a journey to re-defining who we are as a team.

We talk about Health Care Design

The Health Foundry at Guy’s and St Thomas hospital invite us to talk Health Care Design. You can see our talk here.

Badgemaker is ready to launch!

We launch our new Moodle plug in for Badgemaker. We’ve been working on Open Badges for over 3 years and re-designed our model to go from a badge platform to free plugin. Look out 2017 as we develop this further.


Reflections on a couple of projects

After a couple of really speedy research projects, we took the time to reflect on them all.

We start working with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

We work with the UN in New York and E.U. We start supporting the research and service design to inform the future development of a new Humanitarian Data Centre in The Hague. We work with partners in the Hague and fly out for a one-day trip to NYC.

We go to Brussels to meet labs from across the EU

We represent Systems Changers and meet labs from across Europe who are aligning policy with design in creating better outcomes in the public realm.

Somers Town Sparks

Somers Town Sparks Jan 2016 banner
Bringing together local people and facilitating idea development with young people who are homeless or at risk, to create community initiatives – this is Somers Town Sparks. Initiatives are put forward by young people from New Horizon Youth Centre and the audience votes to fund one of them.

Sasha’s Sandwiches was the latest favourite – a brand new venture launched through Somers Town Sparks. Sasha has experienced homelessness herself and she came to Sparks through New Horizon. She already has her first catering event booked in and she’s super excited. So, how about you kick start 2017 with this heartwarming event on the 12th January? Purchase tickets here.


Featured in Berlin’s Service Gazette

We’re featured on the front cover (looking absurdly mean) talking about designing movements. The launch was at Service Experience Camp in Berlin 2016.

 servicegazuette sarah

Pole dancing bears

It had been a difficult time of the year… So, we watched Planet Earth II extensively. Especially the pole dancing bears. And the sassy dancing lizard.


Making Monster badges with prototyping in mind.

Housing Mark Conference

We keynote at the House Mark conference. Thanks to Jayne Hilditch!

We launch a Design Lab for entrepreneurship

“Most enriching workshop for a student of entrepreneurship. Snook taught us how to structure our thoughts and channel them to create fruitful results. Three amazing days of learning and fun!!”
– Shruthi Hosur

We’re really excited that after a year of discussions, we launch Design Lab, a module that’s part of Strathclyde University Business Centre and the Hunter’s Centre new Masters in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology. We take 25 students through the design process. Watch our announcements for 2017 to take this global!

New York New York

We travel to New York, visit the Mayor’s office, talk about Platform Coops and Systems Changers at Civic Hall. We then visit the awesome Timbuk2 in San Francisco and grab some new bags for CycleHack.


Snook Speaks to… Series coming out in the new year

*drum rolls here please*
Our new series focuses on chatting with leading thinkers across organisations about embedding design. We’re officially launching in 2017 but you get the first preview! We’ll be sharing how different organisations think about great services and how they make them happen.

Snook speaks to Timpson about embedding design. Would you like to feature in the next episodes? Give us a shout!

Cinema Know How and working with Broadway

We finish our work on service design for cinemas in partnership with Broadway. We’ve taken 12 cinemas through a process of change, learning about researching customer needs to testing service concepts. We’ll be talking about this more in 2017.

Systems Changers

We wrap up the second programme of Systems Changers with Lankelly Chase Foundation and The Point People. It’s been an amazing programme and we will be sharing the results in 2017 as well as an online learning module for more frontline staff to learn about changing and challenging systems.

Exploring the future of planning

Diving into the planning system to better understand the opportunities for change, we work alongside Future Cities Catapult and FutureGov to help inform a new challenge fund to stimulate innovation. Have a read of the initial challenge areas here and look out for our research launch in the new year.

Final thoughts

The Creative Frontline

This year, we lost the formidable Professor Stuart McDonald. Over the years, I’ve felt blessed to spend time with him, get advice over coffee and hear our wee Scottish tales of Snook and Cyclehack taken across the globe with him.

Stuart Macdonald OBE

Professor Stuart Macdonald OBE 1948 – 2016 (Photo by WASPS studios)

Thank you for your dedication to the arts, architecture and education. You truly were a phenomenal man and your passing is of deep sadness to me and countless others in our industry. I’m not the first to say, Stuart, you’ll be missed, not just in Scotland but globally. My thoughts are with you and your family this Christmas, Sláinte. I hope Stuart would be proud of what we’re up to. He was like a creative dad at times, watching us grow from the humble beginnings.

So there you have it… and that’s not even everything we got up to this year!

2016 has been a year of us pulling together everything we do and testing it. We’ve got some exciting announcements for 2017 and will be scaling up much of what we tested this year.

But for now, some mulled wine and mince pies are on the cards. Whilst our team kicks about in the UK, USA, Germany, Thailand, Bahrain, Zimbabwe and Ireland, we turn on the out of office email setting and we hope you do too.

See you in January 2017!