Illustration of a magnifying glass

20 Dec 2017

Snook 2017 : A year in review

Snook Featured Image

It’s our Top of the Pops of 2017. There’s almost too much good stuff to mention but we’ve done our best to cram it in to one post.

As ever, we’re grateful to everyone we’ve worked and partnered with, so this is a big cheers to you on our collaborations across 2017. Thank you for supporting and challenging us to design a better world together, one service at a time. Now for that year in review…


Comic Relief launch the Tech vs Abuse funding initiative

Together with Chayn and SafeLives, we engaged with over 250 people affected by domestic abuse, and 350 support workers who help them, to see where digital could help. Based on findings from our research project, a targeted £500,000 fund for tech innovation and creative digital solutions was launched to improve the safety of women affected by domestic abuse. We’re proud to see the innovations created so far and look forward to seeing more progress in the future.

Tech v abuse



Not Chanel, but almost. Starting in January, we worked with the equally on-trend Cork County Council over a few months to deliver a Service Design training programme, aiming to transform services across the region and build the Council’s in-house capabilities. It resulted not only in the launch of a new Service Design Centre in Cork but also, in the Council co-hosting the first International Service Design Experience, a conference for people from all sectors interested in Service Design and Design Thinking.


Badgemaker funded by the UFI Charitable Trust

We worked with 5 colleges to design and test our Badgemaker plugin for Moodle to integrate Mozilla open badges. It’s quite technical but we went with the approach of building into platforms that students use, rather than building our own. You can see and use the code on Github.

Creating in-house capacity

We worked with Thames Valley Housing Association, who’ve been fantastic all year, and looked at future needs of residents with their new service design team. It’s been great to see the team build their own studio and take on the challenge of bringing Service Design to the wider organisation.


From co-design workshops to Wetherspoons

We interviewed and organised co-design workshops with offshore oil and gas workers in Scotland to better understand their lives, on and off rigs. One of our favourite stories from this project is conducting interview sessions at an airport Wetherspoons – turns out there’s not just one way to conduct research. What’s your best story?

Hello? Lo? Lo. O? O?

For the 7th year running, we hosted the Glasgow leg of the 48-hour annual Global Service Jam, joining over 100 cities across the world. We gathered designers and service enthusiasts to solve problems around the elusive theme ‘Hello? Lo? Lo. O? O’ and the final presentations included singing Backstreet Boys at the top of our lungs, learning valuable life lessons on why we should all be more like cats, and fabulous dancing with strangers. The jammers learned new tools, experienced different ways of working, and got to share their ideas with the rest of the world. Want to join next time? Keep your eyes peeled for the Global Service Jam 2018.

Service Jam


Our first Show & Tell of the year

Our team gathers every month to Show & (not) Tell each other about what we’ve been working on. It’s a monthly celebration of successes, failures, methods, findings, and ideas, and gives us some quality time to appreciate and learn from one another.


Making digital transformation work, for citizens and local government

Renfrewshire Council commissioned us to research, in-depth, the needs of customers using digital public services. The project combined efficient and sustainable digital transformation with the Tackling Poverty strategy which aims to reduce digital exclusion. As Renfrewshire Council explained, “if we can get it right for our most vulnerable users, we’ll get it right for everyone”. With over 66 days of research, we completed in-depth interviews with 83 citizens and shadowed 80 Council Customer Service phone calls. We quickly discovered that the digital barriers to access were only the tip of the iceberg. Public services are complex by nature, but using service design methods we helped the council start their journey towards more person-centred services.

Words are powerful

Sometimes, language used can make it harder for young people to get the help they need. This can leave them feeling frustrated, disappointed, or decrease their trust in practitioners and services. We worked with The Children’s Society to change that, aiming to gain a deeper understanding around the problematic use of language about and towards young people passing through services and systems. Initial scoping work confirmed that front line practitioners recognise it as an issue. We were appointed for further insight, discovery, and definition work to frame the problem more clearly.

‘Communications is not just about content’

We finalised and presented our research exploring stakeholders needs for Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Interviewing a wide range of people, from MPs to big retailers, we helped JRF to understand what people want from their research and what they do with it. Our friend John Schwartz from Soapbox mentioned this work in his article on the need for a permanent revolution in think tank communications.

Designing services is everyone’s business

At this year’s Service Design in Government conference, Emma spoke about the future of online consultations while Sarah was one of the keynote speakers, getting the honour of closing the conference. From getting critical to empowering the frontline, there were a wide range of crucial takeaways. Want to come along next time? Get the 7th – 9th March 2018 in your diary.


Launching the Global Dating Service Jam (or did we?)

Considering how many times we’ve been disappointed by dating apps, like Tinder or Bumble, we decided it was time to hack for love and launched the Global Dating Service Jam on April Fool’s day (or did we?).

Shaping policy and producing tangible outputs – in tandem

Good Finance, a collaborative project and service to help charities and social enterprises navigate social investment, launched after extensive research and co-design with the sector. This is the result of four years of work by a number of collaborators after discovering that, despite money being available, social ventures struggled to identify and obtain finance that was right for them. For us, this project is a great example of how design can be used to move directly from informing policy through to building a product and we’re proud to have been involved the whole way from discovery to build.

A Service Design crash course

It’s become an annual tradition we look forward to, being visited by eager industrial design students from Auburn, Alabama. This year we challenged them to design a service which helps Glaswegian job seekers gain work experience in order to teach them about service design and how products fit into the larger web of services. Using chairs to replicate the seats at the barbers and a clothes rail as a check-in desk, the solutions were plentiful and presentations imaginative.


Sharing is caring

Our Val ventured both to Edinburgh and Copenhagen to share her knowledge. She spoke about our work with service design masters students at Aarhus University, and about co-creation of health and social care services with users at the University of Edinburgh. We were, as always, thrilled to be asked to share our experiences.

Transforming future museums

The British Council and the International Museum Academy Greece aim to address the current and future challenges of the museum and heritage sector, both in and beyond Greece. We helped turn their learning materials into online toolkits, addressing a wide variety of themes, from understanding audiences to common fundraising methods.

A trip to sunny Athens

We went to Greece to teach anyone interested in service design about its fundamental tools and key methodologies. Redesigning the seemingly simple task of filling up your car with fuel, Charley facilitated a hands-on workshop enabling participants to utilise the tools presented.


Design for ageing well

We were asked to write a chapter in the book ‘Design for Health’, and we’re proud to see it published this year. Writing about and drawing on our experience of how a service design approach can facilitate co-design of supportive communities and service frameworks for older people, we reached the conclusion that ‘fragmented services delivered in isolation cannot solve the intractable problems of sustainability in both human and economic terms’.

Working with the United Nations

We flew to Jakarta to support the United Nations Humanitarian Data Exchange in bringing stakeholders and end-users together to co-design the new Humanitarian Data Centre in the Hague.


Hack till you drop

We worked with Fortune 500 company Tech Data Cloud to organise their first ever hackathon, signed, sealed, and delivered in only eight weeks. They wanted to understand how the independent software vendor market can be supported, and bringing together a wide range of people with different backgrounds to find solutions in a short space of time was the way to do it. Innovations ranged from tools managing freelancers’ expenses to supporting people in emergencies, and the lucky winners were flown to Washington to present their work at Microsoft Inspire 2017.


Everyone Has a Story

We started work with the Corra Foundation to design a new platform that supports young people who have lived experience of parents/carers with drug and alcohol issues to share their experience. Informed by research with young people, we picked up the baton on colouring in the detail and testing the platform.


Back in April, Emma worked within Tesco to support their journey to embed a service design mindset to the organisation. This excellent work led to us signing Tesco as a new client and supporting them on their journey to build service design capabilities in-house, with a further 6 projects signed off and more in the pipeline for 2018 we hope to showcase some of our in-store work with you in the future, watch this space.

Supporting vulnerable residents

We continue to work with Origin Housing Association to develop a vulnerability training programme for their engineers and to scale up their ability to support potential vulnerable residents. We are excited to announce we’re working with them to develop this into a product in 2018.



Creative partnership with Smart STEMs

We’re great fans of Seric Systems’ initiative SmartSTEMs, supporting young women to get into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) industries. We formed a creative partnership with Smart stems to help them map out a smoother process and looked at how we could design this initiative for scale. We’re still beavering away on making SmartSTEMs go beyond Scotland and, as they say, ‘take over the world’.


Snook team bonding
Regularly the Snook team takes time out of the office to reflect on our work, celebrate achievements, engage in team-building activities, and, more importantly, brainstorm about where we can do better. So in August both the London and Glasgow teams travelled to the Lake District for two days of team bonding, charades, empanadas, unconferences, communicating in colour, and positive energy.

Transformative leadership
We work with the University of Edinburgh to design their Mastercard Foundation summer school programme in transformative leadership. Our Keira supports by creating a learning pattern and rhythm and testing it with the scholars. It’s an amazing programme which means the university can provide 200 full postgraduate and undergraduate scholarships to students from Africa who have great academic and leadership potential but few educational opportunities.


Forget the Oscars

In September we learned that Sarah was a finalist for the People Make Glasgow Inspiring City Awards. She was nominated for an award within the Outstanding Contribution by a Young Business Leader category. Learning of this, the Snook team used it as an excuse to celebrate the contribution Sarah had made to the city by dressing up fancy, drinking prosecco, and dancing the night away! Sarah came away with a commendation and we all came away with a slight hangover.

Becoming British Council superheros!

We’ve long been fans of the British Council, having worked with them in the past on Culture Shift in Africa and Europe. They’ve been doing lots of research and engagement around what makes creative hubs (i.e. spaces to invent, collaborate, make and create) work. This year, we have been helping the British Council capture and share three workshops designed to support Creative Hub leaders across Europe. The first toolkit, ‘How to be a Hub superhero’, is already out. In 2018  we will be putting the finishing touches on two more toolkits and films, watch this space!

Guess who’s back? It’s CycleHack time

Taking place in over 25 cities, we once again accepted the challenge of solving the barriers to cycling in Glasgow and in London with Cyclehack 2017. With us for the ride this year were Keira, Harriet, and Greg and, in the South, Maya. We were also joined by a brilliant team of volunteers and, of course, our wonderful hackers. This year’s solutions ranged from a lycra delivery service called ‘Underoo’ that launders your lycra while you work, to the ‘Penguin Crossing’ that provides a warning to cyclists to slow down and safe areas for pedestrians to cross cycling paths when going to and from bus shelters.


We sign up Musgrave, Ireland’s biggest retailer to our roster of Ireland clients. This enables us to spend more time enjoying a cheeky Guinness and travelling to our new favourite city Cork, to help the business look at their offers. We’re excited about working with them in 2017 and continuing our fast paced in-store prototyping with them in 2018.


Breakfast and design time

In October we were proud to launch Design on the Inside (affectionately known as DOTI), a bi-monthly breakfast meetup in London discussing designing services on the inside of organisations. Over the past year, we’ve been involved with a range of projects that focus on skill-building and embedding design, and we felt it was now time to share our lessons and learn from others embarking on the same journey. Our first event was part of the Service Design Fringe Festival and included speakers from Tesco, Thames Valley Housing, Reach Volunteering, the Government Digital Service (GDS), and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). Our third event is taking place on the 19th January in our new London studio so keep an eye out for the ticket launch! For those who can’t make it to the actual event, we’ll be launching the DOTI podcast in 2018.


Working smarter

We continued our series of work with NHS National Service Scotland in bringing service design and agile practice into the organisation. Valerie conducted intensive user research for NSS to inform development of a user research framework for their Digital Workplace workstream. This brings together the Government Digital Standard and Safe Agile methods. We’re excited to really help the organisation on their way to working smarter.

Bikes, trains, and a whole lot of adventure

We were excited to run London Midland CycleHack, a creative day that brought together cyclists, passengers, and staff in Birmingham to rethink travelling by train with a bicycle. This was CycleHack’s first collaboration with a public infrastructure provider. Teams were guided through activities to create solutions in response to the challenges from our month of research. Activities included idea development, storyboarding, concept feedback, and prototyping. The day gave real insight into how we can look to solving the challenges of bikes on trains.


Snook goes global!

In October Sarah racked up the air miles representing Snook in not one, but two, countries. The first stop was at the SDN international conference in Madrid where she discussed designing on the inside of government and organisations. Sarah was lucky enough to share the stage with our clients, Cork County Council, presenting the launch of Service RePublic and talking about how we started embedding design in their organisation.

Next stop was Japan. In Osaka, Sarah joined colleagues from the the University of Edinburgh Centre of Service Excellence to give a talk on designing public services and then journeyed onto Kyoto to share the tale of Snook’s journey and growth. The final stop was Tokyo, at the international foundation for information technology, discussing how government can use design to improve citizen services. And not even a little bit of jet lag was felt…

#OneTeamGov comes to bonnie Scotland

This November saw the inaugural OneTeamGov Scotland. Originally started by Kit Collingwood-Richardson in London, OneTeamGov brings together people who are passionate about making government work smarter. Sarah was part of the team that brought #OneTeamGov north of the border, to Edinburgh. On the day, participants from across the public sector and the service design industry came together to discuss how they could make Scottish Government more effective, using the #OneTeamGov unconference style. We discussed designing for disability, how not to do digital transformation, is ‘user’ the right word, future leadership in Government and more. At the end, our 80 participants made promises to continue their work in making Government work better for people.

Opening up (data)

How do you open up council data? And how do you get access to the data as a business owner? These are some of the questions we wanted to tackle on our work with North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) and Urban Tide. In November we embarked on this project, funded by the Open Data Institute, that challenged us to implement a ‘open by default’ policy for non-sensitive data to meet customer needs. We’re helping them to open up and match non-domestic rates data in order to publish a full open dataset of all business rates liabilities (minus sole traders) and create new datasets for NLC to identify new sources of income. What’s exciting is that we are creating a toolkit for any other council to follow this process as well, meaning our work will stretch beyond North Lanarkshire to the rest of the globe! (hopefully)

Hack o’clock!

Sustrans held a hack-style event to design their core strategy in Birmingham. With only a month to go, they commissioned us to help shape the challenges, build the event agenda, and support the delivery of the event. One hundred Sustrans team members spent the day getting stuck into active travel challenges through rapid idea generation and hands-on storyboarding and prototyping. It was an energetic team day where different departments came together to share skills. One of our highlights was witnessing a walkthrough of a day at a rural post office that provided advice and guidance on connecting people and places.



Snook, the shopkeepers

We are excited to be working with The Letchworth Heritage Foundation to help them introduce service design to their organisation through a series of workshops helping them tackle some of the challenges they face. We will be using a rented shop as a community engagement space for our work in order to build their internal capacity and redesign their visitor centre services.

User-research in Uganda

Valerie and Harriet spent two weeks working with Deutsche Welthungerhilfe in the refugee camps in northern Uganda, conducting user-research to inform development of a user-centred design toolkit for better sanitation. They visited Bidi Bidi (the biggest camp with a population of 270,000), as well as Imvepi and Omugo camps, attending community engagement and health board sessions. At each sight they visited refugees in their homes to better understand their needs and preferences for sanitations facilities. Meeting with local partners and the Welthungerhilfe team helped to highlight the challenges of providing appropriate sanitation facilities in a rapid-onset emergency. This project is funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund.

Shelter Hack

During a two-day hack, Shelters’ team delved deep into some of the issues currently facing the organisation, both internally and externally. From open data to corporate volunteering, the team addressed these challenges head-on by disassembling and exploring the issues and contributing factors related to campaigning to help end homelessness and bad housing in England and Scotland. The hack was facilitated by Keira, Greg and Isabella in Edinburgh’s’ beautiful Dovecot studio located near the Royal Mile.

Berry good times in Dundee

Did you know that 50% of the world’s raspberry varieties are bred in Dundee? No? Well, neither did we until we partnered with TayBerry, with a project supported by Innovate UK’s Design Foundation Fund. Even though this is the case many local people do not get a chance to eat and enjoy the fruit. In fact, many Dundee residents use food banks and 30% of children live in poverty. The aim of the project is to grow raspberries and blueberries across Dundee, so that local residents have access to healthy, nutritious food. With this in mind, Ness and Greg headed out to speak to people in and around Dundee about a local fruit growing scheme so we can design a sustainable service model. Keep an eye out for developments in 2018!

Fish finale!

Did you know that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that between 8 and 25% of the total global fisheries catch is discarded? That’s 27 million tonnes per year! So we’re thrilled to begin work with the brilliant SafetyNet who design, build, and test light emitting devices to increase the selectivity of commercial fishing practices, making the industry more sustainable. Their new product repels fish from nets and we’re helping them look at the service and commercial model of their business. Just wait for all the emergent fish puns (or is this not the plaice?!)

We say goodbye

Not all of our news is happy. This year we said goodbye to three friends of Snook who we’ve had the pleasure to work with.

We’re remembering Roanne Dods, an incredible woman we sat on panels with and supported with democracy hacks at her brilliant imagination festival. Roanne really was a force of nature in and around the cultural sector. Outspoken when someone needed to speak up, fearless in building bridges when conversations were tough, and a real connector of people.

We’re also remembering Calum MacDonald who was a regular at our Christmas parties and ex-digital editor of the Herald. We shared many covert conversations with Calum on his brilliant positively Scottish platform, supporting his journey to set up a new news format and genuinely enjoyed his warmth and wit, particularly around his bowl-cut jokes from early childhood memories.

We’ve known both for many years at Snook, you are missed and remembered by us.

And personally my dad.

Nivin Drummond was an engineer for Edinburgh Council, faithfully serving them for over 25 years. In fact, he was always quite shocked we’d met his boss at the time Sue Bruce to talk about design for Local Government. It was a tough year to keep working with this grief in the background and I look forward to raising a glass to him, 12 months on since I last saw him.

Final thoughts

We want to thank everyone who has supported us this year: clients, workshop participants, organisations, individuals, and our friends and family, we appreciate every one of you.

As you can see, 2017 has been a busy year for us – and that’s not even everything we got up to! We’ve got some exciting plans for 2018 and are eager to start it.

But first, we need a rest to charge our batteries with mulled wine and mince pies. We hope you, like us, have a restful and festive season.

Happy holidays and see you in January 2018!

Could you be part of our 2018 highlights?