fbpx
Service Design Academy

Perception vs reality of what designers do

Ernest Hemingway coined the phrase  “iceberg theory” as a writing technique where the writer only shares superficial details, allowing the reader to work out implicit detail and the deeper story for themselves. As a creative technique, it offers freedom for our imagination.

However, when it comes to solving business problems, the “Iceberg Principle” has serious implications. It suggests that we cannot see or detect most of a situation’s data. We have to dig deeper to understand root cause. The iceberg is a useful visualisation in business to remind us that what we are aware of and what causes problems are two completely different things.

Iceberg Principle

a theory that suggests that aggregated data can hide information that is important for the proper evaluation of a situation.

Monash University, Marketing Dictionary

https://www.monash.edu/business/marketing/marketing-dictionary/i/iceberg-principle

Adam StJohn Lawrence uses the iceberg to reflect on how service design/design thinking is perceived (workshops and sticky notes) and what it really does (e.g. research and implementing change). Adam asking the question, “why it’s hard for service design to get attention” suggests that the value of design is not being given the appreciation or prominence it deserves. What designers do, and the impact they make is not always properly understood.

Image of iceberg used for service design

Graphic by Adam St John Lawrence

The Service Design Academy team wanted to explore the perception gap by bringing the iceberg exercise to life at UX Scotland. This 3-day conference gathered over 300 designers, researchers and other user-centred professionals Edinburgh over 3 days in May 2024 to learn, share and connect with their community

At the conference, we introduced our “perception vs. reality” iceberg to uncover the hidden depths of delegate’s roles. Participants were asked two simple questions:

What do people think you do?

What do you actually do?


The first question was all about perception—subjective and varied. The second focused on reality—grounded and tangible. To respect anonymity, and keep the exercise suitably fun for people to take part in conference breaks, we didn’t track individual responses for comparison. Rather, we themed answers above and below the line. We also had to recognise the safe environment where the questions were asked, so it did lead to some people “venting”, sharing that adding their thoughts felt like therapy!

Service Design Academy UX Scotland 2024

Post-its on Service Design Academy's banner above and below the line of iceberg

Above and below the line

What people think designers do

 

Responses were categorised into four main themes:

Creating Things

Many people believe (UX) designers primarily create things like websites or apps. This perception is based on the visible outputs of their work.

Superficial

There were amusing yet telling responses like “I talk all day” or “spends time on social media,” highlighting a surface-level understanding of their roles.

Creating Barriers

Some see them as the “GDPR police” or the ones who “say no to great ideas,”; that they often hinder more than help.

Helpers and Facilitators

Interestingly, some think of designers as “firefighters” or “therapists,” reflecting a belief that their primary function is to help others to achieve their goals.

Image of Service Design Academy's iceberg banner with coloured post-its
Back at SDA HQ, the data was themed above and below the waterline

The Reality of Design

 

When it came to what designers really do, the themes were notably different:

Creating Value

Their true role is to help emotionally and functionally connect with people. Designers reported that they create meaningful experiences that resonate with users.

Versatile Roles

UX and service designers wear many hats. Strategists, researchers, and problem-solvers, adapting to various challenges and responsibilities.

Challenging and Disrupting

constantly asking, “Why are we doing this?” UX roles involve questioning assumptions and pushing boundaries to improve user experiences.

Contributing to Organisational Success:

Beyond individual projects, designers play a critical role in creating an inclusive culture and driving the overall success of the organisations they work for.

Challenging Perceptions

 

The exercise at UX Scotland highlighted a significant gap between perception and reality in design. When designers communicate the value of their work, it’s crucial to share not just what is created (the “things”) but the thought processes, research, and decisions (the “outcomes”) that underpin design.

How can we bridge this gap?

Educate colleagues to explain the breadth and depth of your role to team members and stakeholders

Showcase impact by highlighting the positive outcomes of projects and work, from good user experience to business success.

Continuous learning by staying curious – keep asking critical questions of each other and colleagues.

Understanding and addressing the perception vs. reality gap can lead to a more accurate appreciation of the amazing work designers do every day.

UX Scotland Service Design Academy zone

Thank you

A big thank you to all the delegates and volunteers at UX Scotland who participated in the exercise, Connor Finlayson Kim Anderson and the Service Design Academy team for designing the iceberg activity and to Niloofar Kumblafor analysing the data.

A small step towards shaping how design is communicated in our organisations.

We’d love to hear what you think

For more insights and learning opportunities, visit sda.ac.uk or drop us a line at info@sda.ac.uk

We believe that building skills and capability in service design goes beyond gaining knowledge. It involves applying learning with real examples and developing skills through your experience with others. 

If you are wondering how you can develop your skills further in service design or curious about how your colleagues could use service design to improve your organisation’s service offering, our open course programme can help.  

Service Design Academy courses follow a pathway, progressing from service design awareness to working and practitioner level.    

 
Raising awareness – Discover service design 
Building knowledge and skills – Introduction to tools and methods 
Putting service design into practice – Practical service design 
Developing your professional practice – Professional development award
 

Hear what our learners have to say:

Quote mark

The practical approach to learning, the real world tools and templates we get to take away and their secret weapon - their facilitators! Energetic, engaging, super knowledgeable.

Quote mark

The team at SDA brought skills, experience, innovation and enthusiasm by the bucket load……The feedback we have received from the community members who were trained and supported by SDA has been incredibly positive.

Quote mark

A whole new way of doing things that will improve my working practices

Quote mark

The practical exercises and real-world examples we worked on during the course have undoubtedly enhanced my understanding of service design and its applications. I'm excited to apply this knowledge to make a positive impact on the experiences of those I serve.

About our courses

In this 7-hour course, you’ll develop your awareness of the mindset, approach, and principles of service design. You will learn about the process used to design services, how to describe a service, and discover the relationship between services and you. 

Wednesdays 10 & 17 July 2024 

Thursdays 22 & 29 August 2024 

09:30 – 13:00

Live and online

Price: £250

Find out more and book here

This introductory course has been designed for you to grow your knowledge of the value of service design. You’ll learn how to engage with people, identify problems and create innovative solutions to bring plans into reality. 

4 x 3.5 hours

Thursdays 6, 13, 20 & 27 June 2024 

Wednesdays 4, 11, 18 & 25 September 2024

09:30 – 13:00

Live and online

Price: £595

Find out more and book here

This comprehensive 5-day introduction offers a hands-on, learn by doing insight into the process of service design. You’ll build on your existing knowledge and expand your toolkit to develop a deeper understanding of the service design process. 

Wednesdays 5 June – 3 July 2024 

Thursdays  24 October – 21 November 2024

09:30 – 13:00

Live and online

Price: £1795

Find out more and book here

In this accredited 6-month programme, you will learn-by-doing how to design better services for people. Here’s what you can expect from the course: 

  1. 1. Tools and Methods: learn about the tools and methods used in service design and how to
        use them in your job. 
  2. 2. User Research: how to do research to find out what people need from a service. 
  3. 3. Co-design: how to work with people who use services to design them together. 
  4. 4. Communication: learn how to talk about and reflect on your service design projects. 

13 August 2024 – 10 March 2025

28 January 2025 – 18 August 2025

Live and online

Price: £4200

Find out more and book here

2-day online masterclass

A course for anyone looking to improve their colleagues’ experience.  

To arrange a chat with our team to find the right course for you contact us info@sda.ac.uk  

Are you aware of service design but have been wondering whether you want to develop your skills further in this field? Could it be helpful to your business or career advancement?

Perhaps you are curious about the value of supporting your employees to use service design to improve your service offering?

Service design helps you design services well. It equips you or your team members with the tools and knowledge to solve problems by taking a human-centred design approach.

Our Professional Development Award (PDA) in Service Design, which is accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), is a training programme designed to empower learners to grow as confident service design thinkers and leaders in order to transform the organisations they work in.

Who is the PDA in Service Design for?

The PDA in Service Design is ideal for someone who:

  • Wants to become a service designer.
  • Has been in service design roles and wants to consolidate and evidence their knowledge by  obtaining a qualification.
  • Is looking to empower their team to develop skills to innovate and problem solve.
  • Is in a job role where they want to adapt their current service offering to better suit what customers and colleagues need. They want to create impact by making things work better with the improvement of team processes and working environment.
  • Is looking to enhance their future job prospects by upskilling in service design.

The PDA is popular for people who already has a good understanding of what service design is but wants to be able to use it to create positive change. Learners join us from many different roles including digital transformation, organisational development, project and change management.

Girl using a taking part in a workshop activity
Service Design Academy Workshop 2024

What’s unique about this PDA in Service Design?

  • It is delivered part-time and online, offering you flexibility with your work and the opportunity to build collaborative skills in remote environments.
  • Our online and interactive learning labs give you a safe space to practise new methods and techniques with other learners on a relatable design challenge.
  • Across the 4 units in the course, you’ll apply everything you learn straight back in the workplace, with your practical assessments based on challenges you or your business are facing.
  • On completing the course, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you have the skills, experience and confidence to drive change.
Laptop on floor with cup of black coffee with paper and pencils
Lauren Mancke Unsplash

Benefits of gaining the PDA qualification

Here are the 6 main benefits of undertaking the PDA in Service Design with the Service Design Academy:

1. Evidencing your service design experience

Acquiring new skills and knowledge through the PDA can improve your career prospects. At the end of the course, your portfolio will demonstrate to your existing employer of your capability.

2. Skills Development

The PDA in Service Design involves training and learning experiences that improve your skills in areas such as user research, prototyping, customer journey mapping, and other relevant aspects of service design.

3. Problem-Solving

Service design focuses on solving complex problems related to user experiences and service delivery. The PDA can enhance your ability to identify, analyse, and solve problems in innovative ways to help your business or organisation thrive.

4. Stay up to date with industry trends

Service design is an evolving field, and staying current with the latest trends, tools, and methodologies is crucial. This course provides insight into emerging trends and best practices to set you up to be the best service designer you can be.

5. Cross-functional collaboration

Service design often involves collaboration and co-designing across various disciplines, including business, technology, and user experience. The PDA can equip you with the ability to co-design and work effectively in cross-functional teams.

6. Business Development

For those interested in entrepreneurship, a background in service design can be valuable for creating and optimising services, whether launching your own start-up or contributing to innovative projects within existing organisations.

Our next PDA in Service Design cohort starts in August 2024.

Find out more and book your place here: https://www.sda.ac.uk/pda-service-design/

If you have any questions please email info@sda.ac.uk to arrange a chat with one of our consultants.

Bringing service design principles into project management can improve outcomes and lead to happy stakeholders. It offers project managers a toolkit that supports effective delivery. By focusing on user needs, experience, and value delivery, service design gives project managers the opportunity to create effective solutions with users.

Service Design Academy helps to give project managers the framework, tools and skills to face the complex challenges of managing scope, resources and stakeholders’ expectations.

Here’s just some of the ways service design capability can help:

Solving problems

Projects are all about solving problems and service design methodology can turbo-boost problem-solving skills. Learning about user research, journey mapping, prototyping, and testing can help project managers better understand complex challenges, explore innovative solutions, and make more informed decisions throughout the project lifecycle.

Getting closer to users

Service design is all about understanding and empathising with the people who use your services.  Bringing these needs into every stage of a project can be confident that the final product or service meets what people need and expect.

Graphic with colour post-it notes with text Problem solving skills...

Holistic view

The entire service experience is looked at, considering all touchpoints and interactions between users and the service. Project managers benefit from this approach by identifying potential gaps or opportunities for improvement across the entire project lifecycle, leading to more integrated solutions.

Collaboration

Service design always encourages collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork. Project managers can enjoy taking this collaborative approach to facilitate  better communication and co-operation among team members from different teams, leading to more cohesive project execution and outcomes.

Iterative and agile

Service design asks for an iterative and agile mindset;  continuous learning, adaptation, and improvement. Project managers can apply this mindset to project management practices, helping to respond to changing requirements and stakeholders’ feedback ultimately enhancing project agility and resilience.

Buy-in

Stakeholders are involved in co-design activities meaning that project managers can use participatory approaches to build stronger relationships with stakeholders, and give them a sense of ownership and commitment.

Value

Service design creates value for everyone, aligning project goals with user needs and business. Project managers can give the assurance that projects will deliver value and impact, ultimately contributing to growth and sustainability.

Image of Service Design Academy team from left consultants Kim Anderson, Connor Finlayson, Business Manager Maralyn Boyle and Caryn Gibson Business Partnerships Manager

Service Design Academy L-R Kim Anderson, Connor Finlayson, Maralyn Boyle & Caryn Gibson

If you’d like to find out more about how Service Design Academy can build service design capability to help your business get to where it needs to be please  get in touch info@sda.ac.uk or go to our website https://www.sda.ac.uk/newsroom/

What does a good experience look like for the people you work with? The Service Design Academy can help you challenge your assumptions by understanding what matters most for a purpose-led and motivated team.          

When people are happy at their work, good things happen in that business.  

James Timpson, CEO of the high street and online home services company Timpson’s Group, talks about “Upside Down Management” . Business success comes down to two things: the satisfaction of its staff, and what it gives back to society.  

Watch James Timpson’s Channel 4 News interview here  

Picture of James Timpson , CEO of Timpson's Group

James Timpson  – Picture Credit: The Times

People vs Employee Experience

It’s important to think about how you frame good employee experience. At the Service Design Academy, we like to focus on “people” rather than “employee” experience. 

We believe that this subtle change in language can have a positive impact on mindset when creating these experiences. Breaking down the hierarchical assumptions around the word “employee” allows everyone who works with an organisation to be seen as a unique person – whatever they do and however they do it.   

Taking a service design approach offers the perfect way to improve people experience because it will always involve people front and centre.  

Picture of Kim Anderson, SDA consultant

Led by Service Design Academy educator Kim Anderson, our Design Your People Experience course will give you and your colleagues the mindset, and tools to build your new people experience plan. 

Find out more here  

Book Your Early Bird (£595 before 30 April) place now  

Quote on Green background

If you are interested in this course being customised for a group of 8 or more colleagues, please email our Business Manager Maralyn Boyle m.boyle@dundeeandangus.ac.uk 

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Group of people attending a Service Design Workshop

Specialist service designers have a critical role to play in the development and improvement of services with large organisations. Their jobs are challenging and often clearly defined in terms of role and function

Their focus is on improving and optimising the end-to-end experience of a service. They research user needs, collaborate with stakeholders, and use design thinking to create human-focused solutions. Through prototyping and testing, they refine and make service delivery better for users.

However, many of the organisations Service Design Academy works with simply do not have the luxury of being able to resource a full team of professional service designers. However, they recognise there is a need to build capacity, skills and knowledge to drive change and transform services to meet users’ evolving needs.

The ideal for these organisations is for an emerging community of non-specialist and committed individuals with service design skills and confidence. A community that understands that by taking this approach they’ll be equipped to adapt to change, evolving customer needs, and emerging market trends.                   

Why does it matter?

Creating a community within an organisation, where individuals and teams are aware of service design, leads to improved collaboration, a customer-focussed culture, and better problem-solving across different teams and departments.

In our experience of working with diverse organisations across different sectors there are some important reasons for not having one person or even a team responsible for service design. There needs to be a community.

What does a community look like?

A Shared Understanding

A community of individuals aware of service design principles establishes a shared language and understanding across different teams. This common ground helps in effective communication and alignment of goals. We learned a lot about shared language when we worked with The Centre of Civic Innovation Glasgow City Council

A Collaborative Culture

Service design often requires input from various departments. Building a community ensures that individuals from different teams have the space and empowerment to bring a 360 degrees approach to service delivery. We’ve enjoyed partnering with Edinburgh Napier University Information Services Directorate as their PMO makes amazing progress.

Breaking Down Silos

Service design can suffer in environments with departmental silos. A lack of big-picture thinking stifles creativity and leads to duplication and frustration. Creating a community encourages the breaking down of these silos, promoting collaboration, information sharing, and a more integrated approach to problem-solving.

Always keeping the customer in mind

The customer must be everyone’s concern. A community that is collectively aware of service design principles helps maintain a consistent customer focus across various teams. This alignment is crucial for delivering a seamless and positive customer experience.

Bit by bit - iterative improvement

A community will be geared for generating and sharing continuous feedback loops, allowing for regular evaluations and refinements of services based on insights from different perspectives.

Problem-Solving

When individuals across various teams are aware of service design principles, problem-solving becomes easier. The collective knowledge allows for a quicker identification and resolution of issues that may arise in service delivery. We loved working with ANGUSalive frontline staff with a customised “What’s your problem and how to solve it” programme.

Better People Experience

Having this conducive environment helps to provide a platform for employees to actively contribute to the improvement of services, creating a sense of ownership and pride in their work. Manchester City Council HR and OD had a clear vision of building service design capability to improve their people experience on our customised programme.

Facing Change together

A community that understands service design principles will lead to resilient mindsets – better equipped to adapt to changes, evolving customer needs, and emerging market trends.

If you recognise that service design is needed not just for you but for a wider group, we’d love to talk. We’ll find out more about your challenges and goals and you will learn what Service Design Academy programme meets your needs. info@sda.ac.uk

Service Designers taking part in SDA workshop

“A whole new way of doing things”                      

Data and service design work together closely.  Data analysis and insights inform service design decisions around people – their behaviour, preferences, and needs.

At the same time service design can be used to design processes that capture relevant user information to improve products, services and experiences. Learning more about how data and design work together means that we can understand the relationship between information about people (data) and insights (the things we can learn).

Thanks to support from our partners Tay Cities Digital Skills and the Data Lab, the Service Design Academy at Dundee and Angus College was delighted to welcome 25 people working in data roles to a 14 hour live and online Service Design for Data Professionals course over four mornings in November. 

Learners joined from a wide range of roles and functions including Data Analysts, Insight Analyst, Human Resources, Organisational Development and Improvement, Library Systems, Employability, Workforce Development, Policy and Programme management.

In our pre-training support survey, we discovered a variety of reasons learners had for wanting to learn more about service design:

– Developing new techniques to research and develop data analytics

– Problem solving in a project environment

– To have some tools and structure to use in the future will be very useful and help my audience     understand the data better

Everyone shared the goal of wanting to learn how service design can help them to solve problems with (not just for) stakeholders.

The course was designed to help data professionals communicate and effectively engage people in the story and context of data, helping their organisations to make data-informed decisions.

Service design training helped them think through issues and problems and develop techniques and confidence to undertake user research, analyse and synthesise qualitative data, generate ideas, and create prototypes for testing and communication.

Kim Anderson, lead educator on this course shares what happened over the 4 mornings.

Kim Anderson, SDA Consultant

“Using the double diamond and its phases Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver the group were introduced to service design through a blend of theory and practical activities.

Working on a relatable challenge  – the Future of Food – the group first gathered thoughts and experiences to then work in seven self-selected themes. 

Graphic of Service Design Prototype

These themes covered diverse topics from Policy and Regulation to Education and Human Rights. To challenge their initial assumptions, learners made user research plans and learned interview techniques. We then showed the teams how to analyse and synthesise data. From there they worked on problem definition and then to generate ideas before prioritising, prototyping, testing, and iterating their ideas.

We love working with enthusiastic learners, and this first cohort of the service design for data professionals course didn’t disappoint.  Each person gave it their all every week which created a fun, and supportive learning environment.

The group left with reflections on what they liked and what they had learned, and we’ve taken that feedback to update our next course running from the Friday 8th March.

Picture with coloured post it notes with feedback of what the group learned in the session
Picture with coloured post it notes with feedback of what the grouped liked about the session

Service Design Academy is passionate about offering a hands-on experience of service design as an approach to understand the issues and needs of people to collaboratively problem-solve. We hope a key outcome for our learners will be a shift in mindset; that working in a data role is seen as a service that supports many others within and outside their organisation. We look forward to hearing how the participants continue to use service design in their role.

We are incredibly grateful to Digitay and The Data Lab for giving Service Design Academy the opportunity to be part of a fantastic programme which will contribute to building new skills and opportunities for people in Tay Cities.”

Service Design for Data Professionals will run again four mornings 09.30 – 13.00 from 8th  – 29th March with fully funded places for people living or working in Tay Cities available meeting the eligibility criteria.

We highly encourage those living or working in Dundee, Angus, Perth & Kinross and North Fife to take advantage of this valuable opportunity and apply for a funded opportunity to upskill.

For more information about Service Design Academy please contact Maralyn Boyle

m.boyle@dundeeandangus.ac.uk

01382 448868

Taycities logo
The Datalab logo

Leigh Watson  
Senior Education Officer – Curriculum Design 
Education Scotland 

Leigh works for Education Scotland as a Senior Education Officer in Education Scotland’s Curriculum Innovation team and is committed to ensuring education meets the needs of Scotland’s learners. Leigh graduated with a Professional Development Award in Service Design (PDA) in 2023.  

Leigh shares her story of how the PDA was a gamechanger for her work in curriculum innovation. 

My service design journey begins

I had an awareness of Service Design through the Scottish Approach to Service Design and had used this approach in my previous role as Education Manager in a local authority.  When I joined the Curriculum Design team in 2022 I felt it made sense to explore it on a deeper level. Part of my role would be about supporting and shifting mindsets to drive change and improvement rather than a more traditional knowledge exchange model of support so it made sense to explore evidenced based learning to support me in doing that. 

My first experience of Service Design Academy was with a 2-day introductory course I attended with other colleagues. Although it was online and remote delivery, I felt like I was “in the room” and liked the way it was delivered, it kept me engaged and involved. I was delighted when the PDA was offered as an opportunity to me to do some deeper learning and also to develop my skillset when facilitating work with education partners.  

Before I joined the PDA, I had the obvious concerns about balancing full-time work with study.  A number of colleagues in the team had previously completed the PDA so I was reassured that because I could apply the assessments to real work based problems I would be blending my learning into my day job. 

In the Learning Labs

When I started the course, I quickly realised there was so much to learn, and I made the effort to read suggested texts and review content. In the learning labs, going through live tasks with colleagues from different organisations was so interesting. If you are learning with people from the same background, like education, you end up talking about the same matters. It was so refreshing to be working with colleagues from across the world and from different sectors. 

The interactions with the tutors were superb. They had nice clear delivery, the resources offered were a good support and easily accessible and the flow was well-paced. It also helped they have a good sense of humour too. 

The balance of learning labs, doing work back in your own place and having online sessions as worked well and I found it a nice balance between lab and self-directed learning. 

Assessments

Assessments? Yes, they can be a pain, but I’m sure that’s the same for anyone doing a qualification while working. Because the content was so relevant to my work and helped with live projects, they were worthwhile. 

Taking the SDA team’s advice, my Tools and Methods, User Research and Co-design unit assessments were based on discrete pieces of work to demonstrate learning in these areas.  

My final project culminated in a huge piece of work to support the Interdisciplinary Learning Co-design Group. This national group of educators is currently researching and developing support for education reform through the lens of interdisciplinary and project based learning approaches. There’s a great deal of interest in this work: the group has over 150 colleagues coming from across the education landscape – schools, local authorities, universities, colleges, early years, Community Learning Development and Education Scotland. 

Through my project unit I facilitated the group to do all the exploration work needed to define work streams. Three subgroups are now set up and the project is now in its second iteration. These three work streams will deliver outcomes on professional learning, on shifting culture and practice, on the pedagogy for Interdisciplinary learning, but also looking at project based learning for secondary school learners. 

We are evolving the model through Knowing,  Doing and Leading and are now in the developing phase of the design process.  This continues to be a iterative process in response to the needs of the wider education context. 

The support that I was offered outside of the PDA online classroom made a valued contribution to my final project. Any time I had a question, an SDA colleague gave me a quick call and we’d talk something through, giving me examples of where to find resources.  

Impact of the Professional Development Award

Without the deeper knowledge and understanding of the service design process, (being a PE teacher at heart, that’s not part of what I would learned in my core pedagogical practice), the shift to the user centric element of design was a key outcome of doing the PDA. 

The impact for my practice in education innovation is that I constantly ask “what would the learner say?”  Not only from a hypothetical response, but really asking them in authentic ways.  There has been a real shift in my mindset. The education arena has its own language, so I have had to lose assumptions that everyone understands ‘eduspeak’.  The PDA really helps you think about how to communicate with people outside of education. 

I’ve found my skills in co-design support many elements of my role in the Curriculum Innovation Team including partnership working where I’ve supported how to reduce siloed working, lose duplication of effort and activate cross organisation teams.  As a team who have almost all completed the PDA, we not only have the potential to support our external education partners, but we use this as part of our  core practice. This has helped to improve efficiencies in work and better connected thinking using a range of perspectives.  

As part of a significant piece of work across five different local authorities, I facilitate curriculum design workshops in different localities. I make sure that what is being done fits with the co-designers’ priorities by having deep discussions in advance. In workshops, it’s made me much more responsive to their needs and to follow and support the direction co-designers are taking.  

The PDA has helped me realise I’m working on two levels – creating the right conditions for people to co-design through my facilitation and this also supports the design of Scotland’s curriculum into the future. 

Advice for new PDA students

Protect times in your diary so you can be at all the live learning labs. You’ve got people there to practise design challenges with you and you also get a chance to work with people with different expertise and refreshing perspectives in a safe space. You’ll come out of your bubble to look through a collective lens with other learners, before you apply your learning in your work context. Be prepared for the challenge of managing your workload, and above all else enjoy learning how to do things differently.   

Make 2024 the year when you have the skills and confidence to drive change, solve problems and innovate. 

Here’s a rundown of what you could be learning! 

Our flagship SQA accredited course

Professional Development Award in Service Design

Our PDA takes place in four parts over six months. All classes are live, interactive, and online, supported by a wealth of online course material.

Find out more and book:

You will:

  • Learn to use the fundamental tools and methods of service design.
  • Apply your learning in your own professional practice.
  • Build user research skills to help you identify user needs.
  • Explore how you can involve people throughout the design process using co-design.
  • Create a portfolio from four small-scale work-based projects to evidence your development skills and knowledge.
  • Drive innovation through the empowerment of others
  • Generate ideas to prototype and test before they become solutions. 
Quote mark
Fantastic course if you are interested in Service Design and using it in your workplace. One of the major advantages for me as a leader in these initiatives is the active involvement of stakeholders from the initial design phase right through to delivery.
Duncan Brown
Quality & Academic Standards Development Manager University of Dundee

2 x 3.5 hours short course

Discover service design Online

Get a comprehensive introduction to service design, the mindset, the approach, and the principles. This one-day introduction (split over 2 days) is designed for those looking to enhance their own skill set or elevate their business. 

We will support you to reflect upon what it is you might need to do differently. We’ll help you identify who is key to your services or the experiences you provide. 

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone who wants to learn how service design can help you engage with people, solve problems, and bring ideas into reality. 

As you learn about service design, you’ll tackle a design challenge with other learners. You’ll try out some tools and develop skills to bring service design to life. 

How will this course help you?

This interactive and activity-led short course will help you to understand the value of service design. 

You will learn how the design process supports you to fully understand problems before working towards solutions. 

The course will give you the opportunity to try out proven tools and develop skills in a safe environment. 

5 day short course

Practical service design

Five six-hour online sessions over five weeks.

Each week you will join others in an online, learn-by-doing environment. You will learn and experience the service design process, making use of a core selection of tools and methods for problem solving.

You will be equipped to:

  • Demonstrate deep levels of empathy with customers and colleagues.
  • Engage with a core selection of service design tools.
  • Drive innovation through empowering others.
  • Generate ideas to solve problems.
  • Prototype and test solutions.
Quote mark
A relaxed atmosphere was maintained by the trainers. They always felt approachable, interested, and supportive. I learned lots of good techniques I'm looking forward to trying out.

4 x 3.5 hours short course

Service design for data professionals

For anyone who loves working with data, this interactive online introductory course has been designed for you to grow your knowledge of the value of service design. You’ll learn how to use the process to understand problems, to then work towards solutions. You will explore the relationship between information about people (data) and insights (the things we can learn). 

Fully funded places available Supported by Data Skills for Work at The Data Lab through the Tay Cities Deal Digital Skills Project, funded by the Scottish Government.
The Datalab logo
Taycities logo

How will this course help you?

We will help you to understand how service design can be used to solve problems with (not just for) your stakeholders who need information about people. 

You will learn how to communicate and effectively engage people in the story and context of your data, helping your organisation to make data-informed decisions. 

The course will help you to think through issues and problems and develop techniques and confidence to undertake user research, analyse and synthesise qualitative data, generate ideas, and create prototypes for testing and communication. 

A key outcome will be a shift in mindset. You will learn what you and your teams do as a service that supports others within and outside your organisation. 

By the end of this course you will have hands-on experience of service design as an approach to:  

  • Understand the issues and needs of people 
  • Work with people to uncover problems 
  • Collaboratively problem solve 
  • Develop ways to engage with colleagues, customers, and stakeholders 

2 day short course

Design your people experience

A highly engaged workforce offers several benefits to an employer.  Creating a good employee experience means that you will attract the best people, motivate them to perform well and ensure that they want to stay. You’ll have created the right conditions to accelerate growth and create a competitive advantage for your business. 

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone who wants to improve their people experience by putting them at the heart of the design process. You might be in a role in a people team, HR, recruitment, OD, a hiring manager; one of the many people who are part of the end-to-end employee experience. 

Delivered remotely over 2 days, 10am – 4pm, these live and interactive sessions will cover:

You will: 

  • be introduced to the Service Design approach and mindset 
  • develop an understanding of the importance of the end-to-end employee experience 
  • develop a people centred approach to create the future of work at your organisation 
  • learn how you can increase employee satisfaction by developing ways to improve the employee experience 

Are you aware of service design but have been wondering whether you want to develop your skills further in this field? Could it be helpful to your business or career advancement?  

Perhaps you are curious about the value of supporting your employees to use service design to improve your service offering?  

Service design helps you design services well. It equips you or your team members with the tools and knowledge to solve problems by taking a human-centred design approach. 

Our Professional Development Award (PDA) in Service Design, which is accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), is a training programme designed to empower learners to grow as confident service design thinkers and leaders in order to transform the organisations they work in.  

Who is the PDA in Service Design for?

The PDA in Service Design is ideal for someone who: 

  • Wants to become a service designer. 
  • Has been in service design roles and wants to consolidate their knowledge by obtaining a qualification.  
  • Is looking to empower and enable their team to develop their skills to innovate and problem solve. 
  • Is in a job role where they want to adapt their current service offering to better suit what customers and colleagues need. They want to create impact by making things work better with the improvement of team processes and working environment.  
  • Is looking to enhance their future job prospects by upskilling in service design. 

It would suit someone who already has a basic understanding of what service design is but wants to be able to use it to create positive change in their workplace. Learners join us from many different roles including digital transformation, organisational development, project and change management. 

Participants taking part in a workshop using post it notes

What’s unique about this PDA in Service Design?

  • It is delivered part-time and online, offering you flexibility with your work and the opportunity to build collaborative skills in remote environments. 
  • Our online and interactive learning labs give you a safe space to practise new methods and techniques with other learners on a relatable design challenge. 
  • Across the 4 units in the course, you’ll apply everything you learn straight back in the workplace, with your practical assessments based on challenges you or your business are facing. 
  • On completing the course, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you have the skills, experience and confidence to drive change. 
Employees collaborating by writing on white board

8 Benefits of the PDA Service Design Course

Here are the 8 main benefits of undertaking the PDA in Service Design with the Service Design Academy: 

1. Skill Enhancement 

The PDA in Service Design involves training and learning experiences that improve your skills in areas such as user research, prototyping, customer journey mapping, and other relevant aspects of service design. 

2. Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills 

Service design focuses on solving complex problems related to user experiences and service delivery. The PDA can enhance your ability to identify, analyse, and solve problems in innovative ways to help your business or organisation thrive. 

3. Stay Updated with Industry Trends 

Service design is an evolving field, and staying current with the latest trends, tools, and methodologies is crucial. This course provides insight into emerging trends and best practices to set you up to be the best service designer you can be. 

4. Validation of Expertise 

Completing this accredited training course in service design can serve as a validation of your expertise. It provides a formal acknowledgment of your skills and commitment to staying current in your field. 

5. Cross-functional Collaboration 

Service design often involves collaboration and co-designing across various disciplines, including business, technology, and user experience. The PDA can equip you with the ability to co-design and work effectively in cross-functional teams. 

6. Increased Job Satisfaction 

Contributing to the improvement of services at your place of work or business with your enhanced skills learned through this PDA can not only increase the employee experience for your team but also create job satisfaction for you. The ability to make a positive impact on user experiences and business outcomes can be very rewarding. 

7. Entrepreneurial Opportunities 

For those interested in entrepreneurship, a background in service design can be valuable for creating and optimising services, whether launching your own start-up or contributing to innovative projects within existing organisations. 

8. Career Advancement 

Acquiring new skills and knowledge through the PDA can improve your career prospects. Employers often value employees who actively invest in their professional growth and development.  

Our next PDA in Service Design cohort starts on Monday 4 March 2024. Find out more and book your place here: https://www.sda.ac.uk/pda-service-design/