Service Design Drinks 9: Lauren Tan on social design in the UK 22 March 2011

Guardian infographic on public expenditure. “For 670 billion pounds, there must be a space for design there” — Lauren Tan

Earlier this week Lauren Tan presented at Service Design Drinks on her university research paper. In it she looked at 2007 DOTT (Design of the Times, internet archive link, may not be complete site) design projects in the public and social space.

“This PhD programme aims to identify and understand how design methodology is used in the public and social sector and the contributions it can make to the broader context of sustainable development.”
— Lauren Tan.  Reference: http://northumbria.academia.edu/LaurenTan

Tan researched the methodology of a number of agencies and within the context of service design found the role of the designer to be that of a:

  • creator
  • researcher
  • provocateur
  • facilitator
  • social entrepreneur
  • capability builder
  • strategist

Lauren’s talk gave everyone the opportunity to compare their work with what is being done overseas. Lauren ran us through 2 case studies.

Case study 1. Alzheimer 100

The agency: Thinkpublic

Design role: Designer as co-creator

The problem: The difficulty faced by those recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their support network of learning about the services available to them.

The challenge: Foreseeing the future of dementia services.

The approach: Co-design workshops with service provider stakeholders, researchers, carers and sufferers. These workshops were preceded by an extensive research phase that defined the themes of the design project.

The deliverable: Recommendations for a dementia adviser concierge service. A poster for carers to navigate the service network.

The outcome: Two years after the conclusion of the project the UK government published a strategy document. One recommendation, for a dementia advisor to facilitate easy access to care, support and advice following diagnosis, directly spoke to the research project i.e. the project was written into government policy. The Dementia Adviser Service is now being rolled out in the UK by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Case study 2. Low Carb lane

(internet archive link, may not be complete site)

The agency: Live|Work

Design role: Designer as provocateur

The problem: Reduce carbon footprints, while not compromising heating needs, and while tackling fuel poverty.

The challenge: By 2016 all homes to have a net zero carbon foot print with all carbon output offset by household activities.

The approach: Design research with residents of Castle Terrace.

The deliverable: A financial product concept articulated through a scenario. Called “Saverbox” it is an interest free energy loan for energy saving measures. Repayments are based on actual energy savings.

The outcome: Several years after the project a government agency released a similar product  for small business.

Ultimately what this talk spoke to was the growing scope of design. User experience design and strategy is slowly colonising problems belonging to other fields. It can do so effectively with the inclusion of the user in defining the problem and sometimes even helping to design the solution and through the use of design tools to communicate its outcomes.

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