In my first blog about the Service Design Global Conference 2019 I wrote about ‘how good services work for people’ and ‘good services are those we trust.’ Blog 1 can be found here, Today I will focus on the next two themes and I will kick off with my favourite one. 

Good services have the right scope. 

This was my favourite topic! How big or small is the service we are designing for? A couple of the speakers emphasised that a scope could be that of an activity, a product lifecycle, a transit system or an island. I already explained the design for activity and I will highlight here the product lifecycle. So let me start with the island. Fogo Island to be exact, Zita Cobb a born Fogo Islander spoke at the conference. I’d seen the documentary about this island in the past as also ‘our’ Dutch designer Ineke Hans was involved. After the commercialisation of fishing in the seventies the island did not have the income that they had before, as their lives revolved around fishing. The main question for Zita, after getting a business degree, was: How might we turn the money back into fish? She stated: “we have lost track of what we are designing for, we have lost track of what is really most important.” She is talking about the strongest capital of the island, the community. So she started a co-op and invited artists; “Cause artists make things appear.” With the co-op they looked at asset-based community developmentand emphasised everything that truly makes Fogo Island. The highlight is a beautiful Inn, of which every detail is designed and made on the island. Amongst the many things she was telling us she added something that struck me.

She said, “money can be anything, we just have to ask it to be.” In other words, let’s show what the level of transparency is that we wish to reach and she re-designed the price tag to be a map of the money route. Her talk was filled with a sense of human connection and hope for more positive, unique futures. This positivity and almost perfect-ness that was portrayed got a nice counterbalance from Josh Greenmut who is designer for the New York Transit system, not so perfect. Especially not since this system is heavily based on three imperfect elements: customers, employees and conditions. But instead of trying to make the system perfect he designs for the moments of imperfection. Based on the imperfect customer journey he looks at how to prevent or mitigate the nervous feelings. He urges us to design for whatever you can do in the meantime, to respond and also acknowledge the discomfort. In this way we make those moments more human. As the Island shows to be a perfect scope for an overall system re-design approach, the New York Transit System may be too complex for an overhauled design, this requires another response.


Good services do not harm the eco-system.

Sustainability was and is indeed the hot topic. Zita Cobb sees sustainability as the core for the design decisions at the island as they are all made locally and durable other designers talked about designing solutions for the ever more crowded planet. Anne van Lieren from Livework on the other hand, looked at the design for sustainable change in human behaviour. Where, looking at the whole eco-system of a customer journey it is possible to design nudges or even better will be a rational override.

A nudge changes the immediate behaviour of the person coming across it, and works great when the context is the right fit! Don’t copy and paste without understanding the full context. Rational override, as Anne explains, slows down a process to allow the user to get out of their autopilot mentality and fully realise what he or she is doing. Anne showed an example for filing complaints at an insurance company, but can you imagine how human behaviour around the consumption of a service or product could be influenced!? The life-cycle of a product is incredibly short, even worse is that at least 50% of the product we buy is something we don’t even want. Tom Szaky from TerraCycle and Loop held a great talk about the garbage we all collect in the world as we don’t want to own the shampoo flask, just the shampoo, the same counts for the deodorant roller. He looks at really changing the relationship with our products and redesigning the future of consumption. But not only by asking us, the consumers, to change something, he already learned that the short-looped systems are working where collecting gums, diapers or car seats for recycling are very successful. He has moved a step further and places the responsibility of the wrappers of our products back in the hands of the producers. Of course, Loop looks further and co-designed new shampoo bottles out of ocean plastic, soap holders that you can refill and can be recycled and even one step further really re-designing the the full loop of a Proctor and Gamble product to go from initial sale to cleaning, refilling and reselling.

You might own the shampoo bottle that I previously owned soon…This conversation around behaviour in our full ecosystems goes from our consumer behaviour to policy level. So the designers at Loop also speak at places like the World Health Organisation to make a wide sustainable impact. The nudges and design in rational override is still necessary to leverage on a mindset level in the ecosystem.

As you can see, there are a lot of topics to talk about over and above everything I spoke about with the many designers that were present. For me this was a fruitful two days that affirmed me in some of my thoughts about service design development, but also made me wonder where the room was to ‘just play’ as craftsmen in this abstract design field. Let this piece be a starting point for a conversation around what we can do for the services you have, or are designing. I have certainly reflected with this knowledge on the projects in which I am currently designing services and will definitely apply some learnings. As a (fellow) service designer I’d like to leave you with some questions and look forward to having a conversation with you about them: 

  1. To what extent are you able to/do you include all stakeholders and users in the design of new services? 
  2. What do you do to gain people’s trust?
  3. At what scope are you designing services, is it the right scope?
  4. Are the right people holding the responsibility for positive (feedback) loops in an ecosystem?
  5. How might you use your craft to enrich innovation or the service design community?

This blog was written by Nina Pennock, service designer at Nextview. If you have any questions regarding her blog or design thinking in general, feel free to reach out to here at