By: Sarah
Posted: 21/12/2018

Snook 2018: A year in review

From co-designing government services and training charities in service design to focussing on sustainability and reflecting on our 10th year as Snook - these are our highlights of 2018.

So that went fast, right?

Every time I sit down to write our annual review and see our team submit their entries, I burst with pride. Our journey from a humble beginning in Scotland, pushing upstream to educate people on the value of service design, to today, working with governments and commercial institutions to implement service design at the heart of what they do – and at scale, is beyond exciting.

We could do the whole ‘write a short blog post so everyone reads it’ thing, but to be honest, there’s been so much interest in our work this year, we think there’s something in here for everyone. We’ve gone to town, setting out our highlights and the projects we’re particularly proud of this year.

Before we dive in, I’d like to say a massive thank you from me to our team, past and present, who have been part of delivering our work this year. It’s often hard work, at times quite unsexy, and behind the scenes it isn’t actually as ‘creative’ as it all looks. When we finally get to the creative ‘bit’, the team thrive on building strategies, support, and ideas, with the hope of making lasting (or even fleeting) impact.

We’re grateful to everyone we’ve worked and partnered with across 2018 and into the new year. Thank you for challenging us to design a better world together, one service at a time.

– Sarah


This year at Snook…

We’ve worked with 33 clients from England, Scotland, Ireland, and further afield in Europe, on 48 projects – big and small.

We looked at the plumbing that sets standards for good, accessible services

We got to work on defining what good services are, before thinking about processes and tools to create them.

Reviewing service assessments and service standards for the Scottish Government

In early January, we reviewed the digital first assessment process for the Office of the Chief Information Officer in the Scottish Government. We researched with Government bodies and teams who had been through the assessment process to highlight opportunity areas to improve it. This is a critical step in creating standards of what good services look like (and how they function), creating things that work for everyone in the general public.

Researching the needs of the BSL community to co-design government services

Continuing our accessibility theme, we conducted research with the British Sign Language (BSL) community in Scotland to create processes for involving deaf BSL users in the co-design of public services.

A snapshot of our BSL consent form.

Forming the focus for digital identity in Scotland

We were commissioned by the Scottish Government to conduct a discovery project, exploring people’s perceptions of online identity. This is a landmark programme for the Scottish Government. We worked alongside Mydex and Projects By IF to frame service models that are currently being tested in alpha phase. We were part of a large open show and tell, and it’s exciting to see this work progressing in 2019.

Snook – Online Identity Assurance – Scottish Government Show & Tell on Vimeo.

We built services on the internet

This year, we built on our digital skills by producing some new products and services that make it easier to do things in and with government.

Taking on the PlanTech industry with Hackney Council

We were pleased to release an early prototype of a new digital application for submitting householder planning applications. Working to reduce invalid applications, we’re showing the potential of digitisation in the planning space through the delivery of a new service.

Building HURL, Hackney’s user research library

Sounding like a cute Robot, our affectionately named HURL is a user research library that helps Hackney reduce the duplication of research and gain better access to data that will help build user-centred services.

Hackney's new digital planning application in progress.
Hackney's new user research library as a prototype.

Helping business use services in Hackney

We worked with local business across 2018 to understand their needs in relation to the services on offer by Hackney Council. We co-designed information pages to develop a new structure, cleaner online access, and content that speaks in plain, human language.

Making safe services on and offline

Fighting against terrorism, bullying, online harms, and ensuring age-appropriate content needs careful design in the building and constructing of services. We helped the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport scope a future direction in supporting people who are ‘not of the internet’ understand how to build safer services.

We focused harder on sustainability, and worked on designing future models to tackle the damages of the climate crisis

At Snook, we’re waking up to the fact that the world is being damaged by our disastrous pace of innovation and race to ‘the top’ to meet our needs. We’re building a portfolio of work, and trying to be more conscious in our decisions about how we design services that balance the needs of our wider society and our planet.

We wrote about our commitment to focus not only on user needs but also on building sustainable services and interventions that will help our planet support humans for generations in the future.

Building super berry growers in Dundee

Building on our sustainability theme, we worked with James Hutton Institute (funded by Innovate UK) to explore how design thinking, methods, and tools could be used to involve people who face food poverty in co-designing a locally-based community gardening programme, with a focus on soft fruit.

Learning from fishermen in Devon

We supported SafetyNet Technologies to help design a service for Pisces, a light-emitting diode which can attract and repel certain types of fish when attached to fishing nets. We focused on understanding how the product would land in the hands of fishermen by working with them directly to understand their needs.

Pisces: Built by fishermen, for fisherman from Snook on Vimeo.

Joining Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

In November, Sarah joined as a board member of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, with a particular interest in bringing design innovation and service design to the park’s capabilities. Watch this space as they build services that balance conservation and user needs in one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

Making sustainable decisions

As a company, we had a vote about where to hold our away days, in the UK or Europe – and decided not to go to Barcelona, calculating the carbon footprint to be too high. We said goodbye to a swimming pool and hello to an intimate venue in the North of England.

Our wonderfully sustainable team.

We continued training charities and councils across the country

We’ve been training organisations, large and small, in Service Design, building skills beyond the basics of journey maps and personas into the ethics of design and being bold in the delivery of new models.

We’ve worked on exploring the future of health and social care models in partnership with the Local Government Association and 10 brilliant councils around the country. Furthermore, we’ve worked with Save the Children to train their frontline teams in design and services that support parents in places; with Cancer Research UK on reviewing how they grow service design capability across their organisation; and with Reach volunteering.

We built design capabilities in Ireland

We spent time with Limerick County Council, developing design skills and a project on re-designing parking permits. We’re still enjoying the perfect Guinness and overwhelmingly friendly people.

Our friends at Cancer Research UK.
Our Design On The Inside event in action.

We created and facilitated conversations on how services are made

We ran an entire series of Design On The Inside (DOTI), launching a new brand and website. We heard about the planning system, innovation in the digital mental health space, how charities are using design to improve services, and where big agencies like Lloyds, Skyscanner, and the Government Digital Service are building design maturity in how they make decisions.

Sarah keynoted at SDnow 3, talking about being more bold in Service Design and accidentally started a global chat on the state of the discipline on twitter, which we want to hear more of.

The team have spoken at many other conferences including Serv Des, SDN Global, Service Design in Government, and National Social Value Conference to name just a few.

We worked on critical services

We conducted work on critical services that support people who are vulnerable, facing tough challenges in life, or find themselves in crisis.

Designing service propositions to support end of life care

We worked with Barbara Chalmers from Final Fling for Macmillan to develop service propositions to improve the experience of end of life care in Glasgow.

Supporting Addaction to re-design their IAPT services

Prior to joining the board of Addaction this year, we undertook a two-week discovery to make both immediate improvements and longer term visions for improving their service ‘Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT). As a result, the IAPT service is starting to see an approximately 90% attendance rate from appointments booked online, up from 60%, meaning that roughly 700 to 800 more people are entering treatment each month.

Developing designs to improve sanitation in refugee camps

We started the year by building on the insights gained from Valerie and Harriet’s work onsite in Northern Uganda with Deutsche Welthunger Hilfe to develop user centred design approaches to enable refugees to contribute to the creation of more appropriate sanitation facilities in rapid onset emergencies. This project was funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and is now being implemented.

Addaction's IAPT service in review.
Researching in Uganda.

Researching financial inclusion in the UK

We worked with Big Lottery to ensure people were at the heart of how funding from dormant bank accounts in the UK will be available for organisations to tackle financial inclusion across the UK.

Supporting Medicine Sans Frontier to look at outbreak

We undertook a discovery and alpha, exploring ways to streamline outbreak communication between field ops and HQ.

We spent time rethinking business models

We’ve always said that service design needs to be bold and move away from just surface layer user experience tweaking to deeper challenges of the business model. We had great opportunities this year to get stuck in with some bold clients.

Challenging the funding model for health research

We worked with the Wellcome Trust and Dot Everyone to research and develop new propositions that support the connection between health research, practitioners, and citizens in need. We developed the Citizen Research Centre that challenges the model of funding health research by putting the decision in the hands of people needing the research through crowdsourcing models.

We also developed ‘charity as a platform’ to look at how we can help charities share common modules to reduce the overall administrative burden, with a hypothesis that the public might give more if they believe that this was reduced on operational delivery.

Bringing positive language to children’s services

We worked with the Children’s Society to develop a programme on ‘positive language’, aiming to turn the deficit model upside down of how children are often treated in services. We brought prototyping skills to organisations to consider how they can challenge language, like ‘DNA: Did not attend’, in the everyday user experience of children using services to more positive framing.

We went international with our embedding design work

Embedding design has been a huge part of Snook since the beginning. Over the years, we’ve been researching and practicing how to help organisations deliver great services by bringing design in-house. We’ve been travelling this year, taking our embedding work across the globe.

We showcased and co-designed our model for building design capabilities inside organisations at Better by Design in Madison, SDnow3 in Melbourne, and Service Design Days in Barcelona. We’ll be launching the model next year, with input from brilliant people around the globe.

Researching berries in Dundee.
Prototyping solutions with data science students.

We undertook place-based and asset-driven innovation

Going back to Snook origins, much of our early work was in asset-based community approaches and using place as a supportive boundary to bring about positive change. We’ve been undertaking more of this kind of work, using strength based approaches to work with people to design new services that are integrated into the fabric of local areas.

Re-designing how local leisure centres work in Camden

We were commissioned to conduct a discovery to inform a strategic review of Camden Council’s leisure centre services and consider how the wider ecosystem of Camden’s voluntary, civil, and statutory sector (from GPs to health visitors) could be integrated more holistically to make it the most physically active area in the UK.

Designing interventions to support the battle against fraud on older people

We worked with Neighbourhood Watch to design a new initiative to combat the targeting of older people by criminals. We co-produced a pilot which is now being run outside of London, taking our ideas from supportive information guides to local ‘scam marshals’ to test if we can support communities to combat this and help people feel safe.

Systems changers programme

We continued our training and work on Systems Changers, now being run by the Children Society and supported by Lankelly Chase, to work with frontline staff who support people with multiple and complex needs.

We prototyped end-to-end services

We love when we get the opportunity to fully test our designs as a whole service.

Some of this work we regrettably can’t talk about, but our team ended up in delivery vans, full size cold fridges, and full concept stores for our clients testing new ways to deliver food.

Re-designing free fruit for kids

Working with Tesco, we redesigned one of their most popular initiatives to better meet customer needs. We’re currently trialling changes to the proposition in 5 stores across the country, so look out for it and grab your free orange, apple or now… pear!

We worked on health and wellbeing

We continued our work in the NHS looking at improving how health services work.

Improving the volunteer journey in the NHS

We worked with the brilliant Help Force to map and understand the current experiences of volunteers in the NHS. They make a vital contribution but it isn’t alway easy to volunteer, so we got to support the organisation to design better services to improve the experience.

We designed governance in Birmingham

We finished our work with the team at Impact Hub Birmingham (IHB) to figure out how to break down the governance of an organisation and re-design it from the bottom up. We worked on re-designing board structures, job descriptions, weekly rituals, and more. It’s often the ‘unsexy’ part of how organisations work, but vitally important to look at to make initiatives like IHB viable and sustainable in the future.

We really look forward to 2019

We’ve got lots of exciting work coming up, for example with the Mayor of London’s office on an amazing new programme.

As part of All of Us: The Mayor’s Strategy for Social Integration, Snook have been commissioned to design and deliver the Social Integration Design Lab and are inviting local authorities to apply and take part. The Lab will enable local authority officers from across London to work with social design experts, public sector innovators, and citizens to embed social integration and design principles into public service delivery, projects, and policies. We’re working with our friends New Economics Foundation Consulting and London Met to deliver this. Join us at the open day to find out more.

We’ve also got lots of work coming up on digital rights, mental health, neighbourhood development, and research ops.

Oh my goodness, we’re 10!

It took us a while to go through the ‘how old are we?’ question. Are we 10 in our tenth year, or actually on the day we were incorporated? In December 2019, we will actually be 10 years old, so it’s a celebratory year for us, and a time to reflect.

We’ve been building a new brand, values, and focus, and are excited to be launching them next year, bringing back our original focus on assets, place-based innovation, and helping people thrive.

We’re going to write a book of Snook, reflecting on ten years of learning and stories.

If you’re interested in any of these things, sign up to our mailing list where we’ll send you updates – you might even be invited to an anniversary party…

Final thoughts

2018 has been an inspiring, wonderful, and challenging year – and that’s not even everything we got up to! We’re eager to see what 2019 has in store for us.

But now it’s time to enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a few too many mince pies. Our team is enjoying a break across the UK, in Singapore, Ireland, Norway, France, and Finland, and as we turn on the out of office email setting, we hope you do too.

We wish you all Happy Holidays and wonderful New Year!

See you in January 2019!


Could you be part of our 2019 highlights?