We are dedicated to supporting a growing community of change makers. We build the skills of design leaders and capacity in business to create better services and customer experiences.

People from across the world come to the Service Design Academy to learn how to design services well. Organisations discover how to build capacity and resilience to solve problems and transform. Accredited education programmes help create confident design thinkers and leaders.

If you haven’t seen our first blog post on this topic then you can read it here!

Three more learners share their service design journeys . . .

Everyone needs a Rip ’n’ Mix!

Karyn Lumsden is a Head of Brand and Communications and first became interested in the world of service design around a decade ago.

“It wasn’t a well-known concept at the time, especially in the public sector. I attended the first Dundee GovJam and I was hooked. I then applied to be a pioneer on the first SDA PDA and the rest is history!”

Coming from a marketing and communications background, Karyn found it refreshing to see methods and tools in place that backed up the way her mind worked.  

She explains: “I immersed myself into the world of service design and have managed to embed it within all areas of my remit. Everybody needs a Rip ’n’ Mix in their life! I met great people on the course, from all walks of life and business. Having us all in the same room, applying our knowledge was quite inspiring.”

Karyn continues to embed service design methodologies into her work and is currently leading on a strategic project that involves the redesign of many complex systems. 

It helps with those difficult conversations

Kevin Ditcham from Dundee is an Insight & Engagement Lead who is currently studying for a Professional Development Award at the Service Design Academy.

Kevin shares his journey so far: “At the start of the pandemic I got the opportunity to take
part in online ‘test classrooms’ for the SDA. I thought it sounded like a great idea and I’ve now progressed to studying for formal qualifications. The teaching team are just excellent – their ability to translate quite tricky concepts to a group of participants who are all from different backgrounds and fields of practice has been amazing! Humour along the way is always good, too, and keeps everyone engaged and hungry for more.

My key takeaway has been the opportunities and spaces that service design approaches create to have those difficult conversations – in teams, in organisations and across sectors. Being able to ‘step back’ with a service design mindset and see the whole picture is something that is so important and undoubtedly leads to change.

“The skills I have learnt and been able to put into practice at work have been wide ranging. You really will see a difference quite quickly in your leadership behaviours and mindset. You will leave with a new set of tools to add to your toolbox which will help you achieve those outcomes you’re striving for.”

Every school requires a tailored approach

Lynsey Clark from South Lanarkshire is a Design & Technology teacher.

Lynsey shares her experience: “The idea of designing a better service within education appealed to me as I believe that every young person is different, and every school therefore requires a tailored approach to providing the best opportunities. I was able to attend the PDA in Service Design course as part of my professional learning and was very lucky to be funded by my school.

“I learned about the ‘tools’ of service design including that to be effective it is about all stakeholders benefiting, not just the consumer/client. This is very important to me as I believe that teachers who feel empowered and fulfilled will transfer this to the pupils they teach.

“Just prior to lockdown, I felt that I had found a true need and desire in my setting for the opportunities that service design could bring to how we manage change and include all stakeholders in the process. I would like to see service design approaches applied at all levels of education, moving away from the traditional top-down approach, and putting education in the hands of the people at the frontline, practitioners, and young people.

For more information on the Service Design Academy visit: www.sda.ac.uk/contact/

The world is an uncertain place. As the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 virus has powerfully demonstrated, change can happen with devastating speed. At the same time, although less visibly, there are profound global trends at work, ranging from the climate crisis to technological disruption and evolving social attitudes. A business’ ability to thrive in the face of change, in whatever form it takes, will depend on ideas, solving challenges and exceeding customer expectations.

In today’s economy, characterised by digital purchasing, social media and a glut of communication channels, customers have more choice and influence than ever before. Satisfying their expectations is the minimum standard. To stand out from the crowd, companies must exceed expectations and delight customers.


And that’s where service design comes in!

1.       Service Design Improves Business Performance

Defining problems in obvious, conventional ways, not surprisingly, often leads to obvious, conventional solutions.

When service design is an integral part of a company’s strategy, it can improve business performance by unlocking the creativity within teams and encouraging a more collaborative, less risk averse culture focused on making things better for people. Naturally, this translates into a stronger brand with a clearer business purpose, coherent identity and great customer experiences that encourage loyalty and advocacy. Your customers become your sales team.

Long-term studies by McKinsey and the Design Management Institute have compared the performance of businesses with strong design capability against that of their peers. In both cases, the businesses that exhibited the best understanding and most effective use of design were found to outperform their peers by around 200% in terms of revenue and shareholder returns. Many other studies have linked design capability with increased customer satisfaction, faster growth, increased revenue, and exports. Evidence based award schemes such as the Design Business Association’s (DBA) Design Effectiveness Awards routinely highlight examples of design delivering significant value for business.

2.       Service Design Builds Resilience

This pandemic has exposed many flaws and vulnerabilities in our structures, practices, and ways of working that have been ignored for too long.

Service Design will help you re-invent the things that don’t work as well as they should or things that need to change to fit new ways of working.

Perhaps for the first time, people can collectively see and understand that the way we currently work has levels of risk, inefficiency, bias, and waste baked in. We can no longer ignore the compelling reasons to re-invent ourselves, our communities and our organisations and build a better normal.

A service design led pandemic response gave Dundee & Angus College students the support they needed, and the College are able to implement the right customer experience plan quickly, saving time and creating organisational resilience.

3.       Service Design Creates Employee Buy-In

An innovation won’t succeed unless a company’s employees get behind it. The surest route to winning their support is to involve them in the process of generating ideas.

In a stable environment, efficiency is achieved by driving variation out of the organisation. But in an unstable world, variation becomes the organisation’s friend, because it opens new paths to success.

Recognising organisations as collections of human beings who are motivated by varying perspectives and emotions, service design emphasises engagement, dialogue, and learning.

By involving customers and staff in the definition of the problem and the development of solutions, design thinking garners a broad commitment to change.


The framework outlines four core principles for problem-solvers to work as effectively as possible:

Put people first

Start with an understanding of the people using a service, their needs, strengths and aspirations.

Communicate visually and inclusively

Help people gain a shared understanding of the problem and ideas.

Collaborate and co-create

Work together and get inspired by what others are doing.

Iterate, iterate, iterate

Do this to spot errors early, manage risk and build confidence in your ideas.

Staff become more loyal and more dedicated to making things happen. Not just your front line, everyone, because they care and are involved.

Importantly it connects the people designing a service with the people who will use it and moves away from organisational silos. Service Design gets around the human biases, for example, being rooted in the status quo because it’s perceived as “too difficult to change” or attachments to specific behavioural norms “That’s how we do things here”.

It does this by overcoming workplace politics, as generated solutions are based on customer experience data, which is transformed into insights, which help teams agree on the design criteria they use to brainstorm solutions.

Alex Breuer, Executive Creative Director and Tara Herman, Executive Editor, Design at The Guardian tell us how design thinking and service design not only helped them change their funding model and boost revenue, but also adapt their culture

I made 5,127 prototypes of my vaccum before I got it right there were 5,126 failures. James Dyson

4.       Service Design Solves The Right Problem

Service Design explores the rationale behind the use of user research and how important it is to consider all stakeholders when designing the right thing, and the thing right.

The Design Council’s Double Diamond clearly conveys a design process to designers and non-designers alike. The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking).

Discover. The first diamond helps people understand, rather than simply assume, what the problem is. It involves speaking to and spending time with people who are affected by the issues.

Define. The insight gathered from the discovery phase can help you to define the challenge in a different way.

Develop. The second diamond encourages people to give different answers to the clearly defined problem, seeking inspiration from elsewhere and co-designing with a range of different people.

Deliver. Delivery involves testing out different solutions at small-scale, rejecting those that will not work and improving the ones that will.

Double diamond diagram on yellow background

5.       Service Design Is A Catalyst For Growth

For businesses engaged in innovation, regardless of size or
sector, design can be a catalyst for growth.

We can easily see the value of great design (and the detrimental effects of bad design) in the goods, services, and environments that we buy and use in our daily lives.

Great design boosts the value of new ideas by making sure they’re not only feasible but also desirable, useful, and frustration-free. It gives businesses a competitive advantage and allows them to compete on value, rather than price, by offering preferable customer experiences that command a premium. At the same time, design can find novel ways to reduce costs without compromising the result so delivering more valuable outcomes.

When conventional wisdom is challenged, we as consumers are pleasantly surprised and a spark of chemistry with the creator is ignited.

By involving people earlier through user-research, testing and co-design activities, a design approach can help companies make important discoveries and validate ideas sooner. It reduces the risk of late-stage problems, saving time and money and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes thereby reducing innovation risk.


Service Design is all around you. So what distinguishes the best of the best? (Fast Company)

By offering a delightful experience, you build loyal customers who become your salesmen and women. #delightingusers #customerexperience

When you challenge the conventional wisdom of your industry, it allows you to view your organization from a different perspective, which helps you come up with different, more innovative solutions. #innovation #branding #delightingusers

Course illustration

Round Up

The structure of design thinking creates a natural flow from research to rollout. Immersion in the customer experience produces data, which is transformed into insights, which help teams agree on design criteria they use to brainstorm solutions. Assumptions about what’s critical to the success of those solutions are examined and then tested with rough prototypes that help teams further develop innovations and prepare them for real-world experiments. Service Design is about making mistakes in the right way so that you identify the gaps and the areas for failure before you finalise a service or a product. So economically it’s a return on investment to ultimately save time, money, and resources.

Great services don’t just happen, they are designed that way. We can help you to do that no matter what sector you’re in. If you’d like service design expertise in your business,

Get In touch here!

Last month we welcomed Rory Mertes to our Team.  Rory joined us as one of many young people across Scotland looking for work experience through the Kickstart Scheme.  He’s taken up a new role of Media & Marketing Assistant and he has been a real superstar so far.  Read Rory’s story in his own words here.

Kim Anderson, SDA Consultant has been helping Rory to settle into his new role. As well as service design, Kim is passionate about accessible and inclusive design, she is continually developing her knowledge and skills in both these growing areas. She believes that all services should be inclusive and accessible and is proud that this thinking is at the heart of the design approach at the SDA.

 As our expert on accessible and inclusive design, Kim put together some top tips for Rory to help him in his work and we thought we’d share them with you.

Top tips for accessibility

Woman with laptop



A good colour contrast on text, images or graphics, makes it easier for people who have visual impairments, colour blindness as well as those viewing on small badly lit mobile screens to see the content better and easier.  You can check the contrast of any two colours using this online tool, there are different values for size of font and graphics. This tool will give you a pass or fail for all of these.

Combinations to avoid 

Green & Red; Green & Brown; Blue & Purple; Green & Blue; Light Green & Yellow; Blue & Grey; Green & Grey; Green & Black. These can be hard for people who are colour blind to see.  Helpful article on colour designing for colour blindness


ALT text 

Alternative text or ALT text should be assigned to all images on social and the website. This text gives users that use assistive technology a short description of the image where they cannot view it. Best practice for creating ALT tags



Open sans is the SDA brand font, this font is considered to be accessible and easy to read.


Larger pieces of text should be left-aligned, this makes it easier for people who are dyslexic to read and follow.


Text should only be underlined when it is a link (hyperlink), otherwise it can be confusing for users who expect it to act as an active link.


Capitals should be used sparingly and only for small pieces of text. The use of capitals can make it harder to read, for example for those with dyslexia it can make it hard to distinguish between the words. When you use Sentence Case or small case people read by the shape of the letters/combinations in words, blocks of text in capitals removes these shapes making it hard to read.

Social post specific

A handy article here:

Best practice is to include small amounts of text in images if any at all

If text is included in the image, it should be included in the body text of the post as well. Here are a few examples

example of social posts

ALT text on social:

You can add ALT text on social images.

Linkedin                    Twitter                       Instagram

Hash tags

When using hashtags use CamelCase which has capitals on each word – For example: #ServiceDesign (not #servicedesign)

This makes them easier to read and works better with assistive software.

We hope you found these useful. If you’d like to hear more about the challenge and opportunities that arise from implementing Inclusive Design, Kim will be part of an expert panel with Vanquis Bank (details and link in the Events section below).

We’re recruiting

The demand for education and training in service design just keeps on growing. Recruitment is well underway for the PDA in Service Design starting in August and we have an expanding list of clients looking for us to deliver tailor-made programmes to empower their teams. If you’re interested in working at SDA, please apply. Applications close : Friday 28th May.

Great short reads

When we fail to understand the relationships that exist between our organisation and the people we interact with it - we compromise our ability to deliver great services

3 essential relationships that help us deliver great services


How might we create a non-judgmental space where teens can press pause and seek help?


Events worth planning for

Service Design Day 2021


Designing for Inclusivity with Vanquis Bank


June 9, 2021
7:00 PM to 8:15 PM GMT+1

Join Kim Anderson, SDA Consultant to experience the challenge and opportunities that arise from implementing Inclusive Design and be part of the creative solutions that the Vanquis Bank team explores during this journey. 

Digital Leaders Week


14-18 June 2021

Take part, because those with the answers and those who are driving forward digital transformation in the UK are speaking, running workshops, sharing the very best practice and offering solutions that are practical and real.

As always, we’d love to hear if:

You have an article to share with our community of changemakers

You have an event happening and want to spread the word

You’d like to talk about any of our courses or business course funding opportunities

Rory Mertes is a new addition to the SDA Team, he is our Digital Media & Marketing Assistant that joined on the 19th of April 2021. We asked him to write about his experience of his first month working here.

Firstly I’ll say how I found out about the Service Design Academy. In January I signed up for Universal Credit as I had recently dropped out of university, I was studying Game Design Production at Abertay, realising it wasn’t for me I wanted to take a different turn in life. I was given a work coach that helped me quickly pinpoint potential careers that fit my interests, I applied for a job at the SDA as many of the roles looked like they’d be a good fit for me.


Week 1

My first day was just introductions and learning the basics of what my job would entail, I was given a very warm welcome and was made to feel part of the team straight away.

 On Tuesday I was in a workshop about Co-Design, this was ran by Claire and Chris, all I was doing was observing and learning. It was really informative and both Chris and Claire made the workshop a fun and engaging experience.

For the rest of the week I was learning more about what the SDA does and what I’d be doing. I also began learning how to use the video editing software Adobe Premiere Pro, as my first big task was to create a short video on the workshop that I had attended on Tuesday. At the end of the week I had begun work on the workshop video, most of the day was cutting down the 2 and a half hours’ worth of footage and finding key moments I could use.


Week 2

Most of the week was spent editing the video, cutting it down to about 2 minutes of good footage, figuring out how the video should look, appropriate music I should use etc. I had finished my first draft on Friday ready to show the team for the following week.

Also scattered throughout the week I figured out WordPress to create blog posts on our website, and I attended a few meetings, again just to observe and learn how things are done here.


Week 3

This week had me doing more blog posts! I also spent my week updating the youtube channel, giving it a fancy banner, and general house keeping making our videos more accessible and adding links to our other social media channels. I was also trying out a new website, Canva, which lets you create all sorts of content, like posters, or brochures, and other similar items. I was tasked with creating a leaflet on the courses we run here, as always using new software is a bit confusing but after a while I became at least somewhat familiar with it and created a decent looking leaflet (maybe it could use some fine tuning from someone who properly knows how to use canva though!).

On the Friday I attended another workshop, this time titled Tools And Methods, it was being ran by Kim and Katie. Again, I learned a lot, Kim and Katie were great at conveying the information in an engaging manner, and the clients got on really well with the activities they were given.


Week 4

Using the feedback I got on week 3 to edit and improve on my first video, improving the consistency of the colour scheme and accessibility of the video through more clear fonts. I’ll be showing my improved version of the video next week so I hope it goes well! Assuming my video can go public on our channel I’ll begin work on my next video, a workshop I attended in week 3, now with 1 video under my belt it’ll only get easier from here!

I also have created a few blogs, the last 3 blogs were done by me and there’s more on the way! Lastly I managed to create a few short social media posts, advertising our upcoming courses for businesses, which there’s still have time to sign up to!



Overall I’ve really enjoyed my first month here, I was nervous going into a job where I didn’t know anybody before hand but everyone has been really welcoming! I’m really fortunate that this job became available to me right as I was looking for one. My responsibilities are exactly what I enjoy doing, video editing, creating graphics, blog posts etc, so the days are flying by, and I get to learn and use a variety of cool software I otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Tgank you SDA for making my 1st month of work a pleasant one!

Looking at ways to adapt your business to meet today’s evolving demands? Want to re-energise your employees? Or are you an individual looking to boost your career options? A service design approach could be the answer.

People from across the world come to the Service Design Academy to learn how to design services well. Organisations discover how to build capacity and resilience to solve problems and transform. Accredited education programmes help create confident design thinkers and leaders.

Here, three learners share their service design journeys . . .

A life-changing experience

Sorina Oprea from Glasgow has just started a new role as a User Experience Senior Analyst and she puts some of her success down to her service design experience.

Sorina shares her story: “Before becoming interested in service design, I studied Psychology and Political Sciences. I took part in four masterclasses at the Service Design Academy before being offered the opportunity to go for a Professional Development Award (PDA) in Service Design. The mix of onsite and online learning was appealing as I was working at the time and had family commitments. My end of PDA project was done in collaboration with UNESCO City of Design Dundee. They were looking to understand what they could do better to support the community of designers in Dundee.”

Sorina felt her PDA qualification helped expand her job opportunities. “For me, the PDA course was life-changing and I hope I can continue to use my knowledge, skills and experience to develop services and products that are focused on users’ needs and which are ethical too.”

The students produced amazing work

Melissa Anderson teaches Business Studies at Arbroath Academy. The Service Design Academy partnered with the school to help redesign its curriculum.

Melissa explains her involvement: “I was asked by the school to undertake a PDA in Service Design to start using some of its principles in the classroom. I was timetabled one period a week with all S2s to teach service design, creativity, presentation skills, problem solving and teamworking.”

This was Melissa’s first time teaching without a specific course outline so she admits she felt a little out of her comfort zone. 

“The class was fantastic for both the students and me. We looked at service design principles, practised using service design tools and worked on a community project for a local supermarket. We even managed to keep the creativity going during home learning and the students produced some amazing work.”

The school hopes to run this course for S2s again next year as well as piloting a Creative Thinking qualification aimed at S5/6s.

Service design just makes sense

Tatiana Zorina, Period Poverty Project Officer at Dundee and Angus College feels her service design experience has helped her in her current role.

Tatiana recounts her journey: “When our staff development department gave me the chance to complete the PDA in Service Design, I didn’t think twice. Service design really resonates with me – it just makes sense!”

Tatiana learned how to co-design the Period Positive project with staff, students and external stakeholders.

“As a result, it has been a great success with huge engagement,” says Tatiana. “I believe it’s all down to the project being designed for people by people – those who use the service in one way or another. I learned lots of practical tools and methods which I can use in so many work and life situations.”

For more information on the Service Design Academy visit: www.sda.ac.uk/contact/

Renate Kriegler Edwards, Carr Gomm Futures Manager shares her story on how service design brought remote support practitioners together to discover and develop new ways of working.

Attending the Gathering in February 2020 as a speaker, I met Service Design Academy (SDA) at their busy stand. SDA were offering charities the chance to win service design training worth £5,000. Charities were invited to share their problems and the potential impact if they were not addressed. I thought this would be a marvellous opportunity to share the concept and process of service design with my colleagues at Carr Gomm. Service Design places people at the heart of change, using creativity to solve problems. I wasn’t sure my problem statement was what SDA had in mind, but I had my fingers crossed when I handed my entry in.

Carr Gomm is committed to listening to staff, learning from each other to maintain our leading edge in social care. Our Futures programme actively promotes innovation and creativity in the workforce.

As a Carr Gomm national service, Futures is based centrally in Edinburgh. I was concerned that Futures wasn’t reaching and engaging our more remote and isolated frontline workers. Many of our workers spend their days driving between appointments, hardly ever seeing their colleagues. It was so frustrating that we struggled to reach the very people whose voices we needed to hear!

I was thrilled when I got the call that we would be collaborating with the Service Design Academy. Although Covid-19 struck only weeks later, we continued to plan our sessions as the SDA repurposed all their live learning online.

There was a bit of trepidation and curiosity when I shared that we would be working with SDA.  The biggest challenge was to arrange for support practitioners in small services to be relieved from their rotas to join in these discussions that were all about them. But regional and local managers were supportive, and several support practitioners were up for the adventure.

The workshops were facilitated energetically and creatively by the SDA team. They used the digital tool Miro, an online whiteboard space to learn and to express ideas with each other. It gives everyone an equal voice.  All insights can be recorded and re-explored after the session.

The workshop programme was co-designed with a small group representing Carr Gomm’s national service to agree initial problem statements and logistics. A Joining Journey was created for participants to practice with Miro so we could all feel comfortable using it during the workshops.

The main sessions were amazing! I knew many of the issues for frontline workers, but it was so incredibly important to sit down together and learn to listen properly to their lived experience.

The group was introduced to the key principles of design, including the importance of working in the problem space rather than jumping straight to solutions. “Don’t Make Assumptions” is a mantra.

Double diamond diagram on yellow background

Using a variety of tools to capture knowledge, people reviewed themes and formed smaller workgroups. We then moved to understand our problem more deeply by undertaking user research. We learned techniques on questioning and how to listen well. The groups practised their interviewing skills and gathered more data outside the classroom, with “cheerful chats” back at work with colleagues.

This interview data was collated and then we were guided by the consultants on how to generate ideas towards co-designing prototypes.

SDA have a positive approach which empowered the group. They helped us frame problems by encouraging us to think “how might we ……….?”

The impact of using service design has been immediate and will help us going forward. I will use the toolkit again and again for idea generation and implementing actions.

I always knew that Futures was a service to Carr Gomm, but this has helped me to articulate that we are there to design better ways of working with, not just for each other. 

Next steps

·      Five prototypes are now ready to trial, including open door sessions, to help demystify Futures, promoting our “no staff idea is too big, too small or too unformed” message.

·        The experience led to a reflection on how innovation may help shape and deliver Carr Gomm’s next three-year strategic plan.

·        We’re encouraging teams to regroup around their prototypes. Staff are encouraged to submit proposals that will be considered by the appropriate team – even at exec level.

·        Reflecting in my own group on how Futures may bring more fun to the workplace, I was led back to an existing Futures idea – to implement Joy in Work. My frontline colleague Claire and I are now proposing a campaign where we invite staff to nominate “Joyworkers” – colleagues who do little things to make the work-day easier or more enjoyable for others.

·        We hope to create a more deliberate process of gathering evidence from Futures projects, which will help close the funding loop.

·        Our learning will also support Carr Gomm’s ambitious digital inclusion strategy.

More than anything else, the workshops have led to improved communication, insight, reflection, empathy and collaboration between the central teams and local services.

As someone driving innovation, I feel invigorated and inspired. The participants enjoyed being creative, having pride in what they achieved and learned. Particularly so for support practitioners, this was a profoundly different experience. Our collaboration with Service Design Academy is something to build on for sure. I’d recommend this approach to any charity looking to find better ways of working.

About Carr Gomm

Carr Gomm is a leading Scottish social care and community development charity. Established in 1997, it became an independent charity in 2002.

Carr Gomm supports about 2,000 people across Scotland to live their lives safely and well according to their choices, whilst making plans to achieve their hopes and dreams for tomorrow. Our support is person-centred and strongly reflects our values of choice, control, respect, interdependence, and openness and honesty, ensuring that people can lead full and positive lives as active citizens. A core part of our work is fundraising, to fill the gaps in society and provide support where no one else is – specifically focusing on tackling issues of loneliness and isolation.

For further information and images, or to discuss interview opportunities with Carr Gomm, please contact: eilidhmacleod@carrgomm.org

About Service Design Academy

Service Design puts people first, using creativity to solve problems, challenge thinking and make lives better. It creates an environment where people thrive, and innovation happens. It builds resilience and supports new ways of working.

SDA was launched in November 2017 at Dundee and Angus College and is a not-for-profit company committed to creating positive impact through interactive, practice-based learning. We have considerable expertise working on transformational change programmes across the private, public and third sectors.

SDA’s training and education programme ranges from a half-day introduction to service design mindset to the Professional Development Award in Service Design – the first and only Scottish Qualification Authority accredited course in Service Design at this level (SCQF 7) in the UK.

Our courses and customised programmes aim to foster design leadership, build service design capacity and create a community of practitioners. In 3 years, SDA has delivered over 350 workshops to over 5,000 people from 400 organisations.

SDA shapes programmes to address strategic objectives, while developing skills to meet the growing need to transform effectively. We work with delegates who come from organisations across the UK including local authorities, NHS, professional and financial services, national and community based charities.

We are proud to have been the first organisation in the world to be awarded full accreditation in 2020 from the Service Design Network, the global body that leads and drives service design thinking and education.


To find out more about Service Design Academy please contact Maralyn Boyle m.boyle@dundeeandangus.ac.uk

Photography © Mhairi Edwards

Dundee is the UK’s first and only UNESCO City of Design.  The global designation as a Creative City acknowledges Dundee’s rich design heritage, it’s thriving contemporary design sector and a city committed to using design to solve problems and make Dundee a better place to live.

Dundee has a strong tradition of embracing the power of design and designers hold an essential place in the life of the city. The programmes run by the UNESCO City of Design Team celebrate and demonstrate the impact of design, embrace co-design, promote talent, engage designers in decision making and collaborate with other Cities of Design.

As a longstanding learning partner of UNESCO City of Design, the Service Design Academy has the mission to teach service design at a world class standard by facilitating creativity and collaboration accessible to everyone.

Funding was made available for several projects in Dundee under the Spaces for People programme that aims to create redesigned streets with more room for physical distancing, walking, and spending time in. The Spaces for People programme is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Sustrans Scotland.

By providing this additional funding, Spaces for People has allowed local authorities, transport partnerships and NHS Trusts to implement measures focused on protecting public health, supporting physical distancing, and reducing transmission rates.

UNESCO City of Design wanted to ensure that voices were heard across the specific communities benefitting from the Spaces for People programme and knew that the Service Design Academy’s experience in participative community engagement would help them take the best approach.

The Service Design Academy facilitated a series of online workshops and discussions with Dundee’s UNESCO City of Design team and community representatives to identify and co-design community led ideas to meet these measures while meeting the needs and wants of citizens.

In workshops held for the Stobswell area, two streets were identified as places which could become spaces focused around people. Priorities raised by the community workshops which have been incorporated into the proposals include:

+ Using plants to screen areas from traffic noise

+ Providing an opportunity to enhance biodiversity in Stobswell

+ A desire to see more colour and vibrancy in the areas around Albert Street

+ More greenery and opportunities for planting/growing

+ Better quality outdoor spaces for people without access to gardens

+ Maintaining access for emergency vehicles

The UNESCO team took on board the communities’ priorities and suggestions and these images show the resulting design.

It is intended that these new spaces will be completed by the end of May 2021, the revamped streets are initially temporary and designed as a trial. Over the summer the Stobswell Forum, Sustrans and Dundee City Council will gather feedback to inform future decisions.

Eliza Street


These images give a feel of the pocket parks layout and the way that seating and planters will be clustered. The materials are concrete and Siberian larch which will be left natural and silver over time. Gaps in the wood will provide natural drainage and the design limits areas for litter to accumulate.

Dundee designer Louise Kirby has worked to incorporate patterns seen around Stobswell into the design for the art work. Shapes from iron railings around Baxter Park, the roof of Morgan Academy and the zig-zag from the sculpture at the bottom of Albert Street.


The planting scheme has been chosen to sup- port biodiversity as well as to respond well to the shady site and need for minimal maintenance.

There will be no vehicle entry to this section of Eliza Street, parking spaces will be removed.

The addition of dropped kerbs is also being addressed to improve access in and out of the park area.

This plan drawing shows the proposed positioning of the artwork and the various planters and seating areas for Eliza Street.

The layout has been specifically designed to allow access for all emergency vehicles including the largest type of fire appliance.


It has also been designed to support physical distancing with the space between planters and seating at 2 metres.

As part of the next stage, we will mark up the positioning of the planters on the street. This will allow residents to see the exact positioning.

Craigie Street


These images give a feel of the pocket parks layout and the way that seating and planters will be clustered. The materials are concrete and Siberian larch which will be left natural and silver over time. Gaps in the wood will provide natural drainage and the design limits areas for litter to accumulate.

Dundee designer Louise Kirby has been inspired by the circle brick work design on the gable end at Craigie Street. The circles on the street are positioned to remind people of the 2 metre physical distancing.

The planting scheme has been chosen to support biodiversity as well as to respond well to the shady site and need for minimal maintenance.


There will be no vehicle entry to this section of Craigie Street. Parking bays will be removed and the road will be closed beyond the entry to the car park.

The addition of dropped kerbs is also being addressed to improve access in and out of the park area.

This plan drawing shows the proposed positioning of the artwork and the various planters and seating areas for Eliza Street.

The layout has been specifically designed to allow access for all emergency vehicles including the largest type of fire appliance.


It has also been designed to support physical distancing with the space between planters and seating at 2 metres.

As part of our next stage, we will mark up the positioning of the planters on the street. This will allow residents to see the exact positioning.

Lead Consultant Katie Murrie shares her enthusiasm for Service Design Academy’s role in Spaces for People: “The team of consultants can’t wait to see the areas when they are finished and to hear the feedback from the community, we truly hope it will have the same positive impact as another project we worked on with the UNESCO Team in summer 2020, the pedestrianisation of Dundee’s Union Street which has been revamped after a successful pilot saw it closed to vehicles.”


From this pilot project in the summer 2020,  Dundee City Council has had very positive feedback with the changes made to Union Street proving popular with locals and traders, As lockdown eases in late April 2021 and shops and hospitality opens, the street designs by Callum Laird have had a fresh coat of paint, some minor repairs and new planting for the spring and summer months.


Mark Flynn, convener of Dundee City Council’s city development committee, said: “All the indications are that the changes made to Union Street are welcome and despite some initial scepticism, businesses and customers like what has been done. So much so that the temporary street art, signage and annual planting will be brightened up for what we hope will be a bumper spring and summer where locals and visitors have more time and space to use the shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes.”


Katie from Service Design Academy adds, “The Service Design Academy feels privileged to partner with UNESCO to take a participative approach in our facilitation of Spaces for People. We’ve been thrilled with the level of engagement in the workshops from local people, and hearing their voices has ensured that they are actively participating in the future of their communities”.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy

This issue is dedicated to the journey you are taking as a changemaker. Once you start adopting service design tools and methodologies, you’ll probably find yourself reflecting on your old ways of thinking and working. That’s a good place to be, indeed it’s our aim!
We have witnessed transformations in people and teams who have embraced service design. They:

are aware and equally wary of functional silos

create multidisciplinary teams and give all experts an equal voice

are more holistic and able to understand the bigger picture

embrace uncertainty

co-design with their staff, customers and stakeholders

maximise realism and minimise self-deception

have an open and curious mind

have fun while working

"Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it'll always get you the right ones.”

John Lennon

You should treat service design like a trusted friend who has been in your situation many, many times before.

Like a true friend, service design is ready to ask difficult questions and push you out of your comfort zone. The service design tools provide a starting point, a guide, and a robust set of processes to take you on a journey.

We can use service design to: 

put users at the very heart of a business

bring customer centricity and an experimentation culture to internal process development

create a shared language and an agile and customer focussed way of working

augment the nature of our role and relationship with customers, seeking alternative mechanisms to meet customer needs and thereby better manage demand

identify services or areas that will benefit from a service design approach and where specific projects can be supported and improvements delivered

That true friend will help you:

with an easy toolbox to adapt and apply to different types of services, work and life situations

as a proven tool to create new, innovative services in a fast, efficient, and holistic way

as a guide on how to create new ways of working in the digital era

to ensure that you have looked at your service from all relevant angles

to introduce a shared language and a common methodology to a multidisciplinary team

as a visible, fast and easy way of communicating your work to other people, and encouraging them to give relevant feedback

Like all true friends, they’ll support you, rather than do the work for you to have: 

a creative and results-oriented mindset. The tools will never create awesome results by themselves. At the end of the day, you, and your team drive performance 

a humble attitude. You must be willing to throw away precious or sacred ideas 

the ability to listen to your customers and colleagues

the confidence to deal with irrelevant and obtuse feedback

"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new."


At the Service Design Academy, we believe that the ability to question, be curious and interrogate is as important as knowing the methods and mapping the journeys.
Our accredited education programmes are developed for learners to grow as confident design thinkers and leaders.

We keep learning. We explore and learn from others. We research and test our ideas thoroughly and take time to reflect and change.
Visit www.sda.ac.uk to find out more.

Great short reads

5 benefits of making service blueprints when you build or improve a service
What is Service Design and Why Does it Matter to Your Nonprofit? 2 Tools to help your business
Scaling service design in organizations
Service Design beyond design thinking, journey maps and personas
Beyond the blueprint: methods for service design implementation

Events worth planning ahead for

Service Design in Education Thinks & Drinks – 19 April
Helena Good and Ruth Cochrane will inspire with Daydream Believers new Creative Thinking qualification and resources.  Tickets free, but limited.

Converge & Emerge – 14 May
The Great Open Space Gathering for System Changers
Magnify – the inclusive design & research conference – October 6-7
Service Design Global Conference 2021 – October 21-22
Take a deep dive into the trending topics, insights and developments shaping the future of our practice. While details are still in the works, we guarantee you this online experience is not to be missed. Sign up for the SDN newsletter here

As always, we’d love to hear if:

You have an article to share with our community of changemakers

You have an event happening and want to spread the word

You’d like to talk about any of our courses or business course funding opportunities

Dundee and Angus College is determined to support local businesses and just one of the ways it can do that is by helping them make use of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund. This funding allows access to a suite of training specially designed to help businesses recover and flourish, from Service Design and Mental Health First Aid through to Management, Digital and Health & Safety.

Last year Jessica Chan, Business Development Manager at Shelter Scotland applied to the FWDF through D&A College. Jessica explains, “Shelter has an ambitious new strategy and we need to ensure we have the right skills and capacity to deliver our ambitions. We were keen to use Service Design to find new and better ways of working. Taking this approach has helped us better understand the needs of our client groups and we are looking forward to using the FWDF again this year.” 

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Caron Sandeman, Service Design Manager at the Service Design Academy reflects on the process, “The availability of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund means businesses can access support to create better customer experiences and aid post-Covid recovery. This will be a year of rebuilding, and organisations must re-imagine, re-think and re-design everything that has gone before.”

Civil engineering contractor Kilmac has also benefitted from the FWDF. HR Officer, Sean Davidson explains, “This funding has given us the opportunity to advance our employees’ skills at all levels across the company. We selected training courses with a specific group of employees in mind. For example, HAVS, Dust and Noise Training helped our construction site staff increase their awareness around this very important aspect of their work. I opted for the Microsoft Excel course which has shown me an array of different functions I can use in my role, improving overall efficiency.”

coins with plants

Meanwhile, Bairds Malt offered various sessions to all its employees. Project Coordinator Isla Prentice says, “I found each training course very valuable as it allowed me to develop useful skills, most of which I was able to apply immediately at work. In particular, I found the Project Management course very informative and beneficial. It really helped with my performance and confidence in my new role.”

Caryn Gibson, Economics Partnership Manager at D&A College says, “This is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to think to the future. Whilst Covid has brought challenges it has also brought opportunities and an acceleration of the evolution of digital and technology. We would urge businesses to use this fund to upskill or reskill their workforce ensuring they have the internal skillset required to allow their businesses to benefit from these advancements.”

For more details visit: https://dundeeandangus.ac.uk/businesses/flexible-workforce-development-fund/

As we all look to a post-Covid future, in a world that’s still uncertain and changeable, one thing is certain: compassion, creativity and collaborative problem-solving have never been more important. People with these skills are more and more in demand as business, local and national governments and the third sector seek to harness the power of service design.

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Our (only good) News piece this month focuses on service design jobs, but first …..

Great reads to put a spring in your step

“We need to stop designing faster and learn how to start designing less”


“Mezzanine levels in Service Design”


“Let’s stop talking about products and start taking about service design”


In case you missed it: This was Services Week 2021


(Only Good) News

Design for Recovery

THE V&A Dundee is to develop into a national centre for design over the next three years as Scotland recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

The museum will work in partnership locally, nationally and internationally to position design as one of Scotland’s greatest resources and to develop the country’s design capacity. Supported by the Scottish Government, it will look at the role of design in Scotland’s long-term economic and social recovery from Covid-19. The Scottish Government is providing additional funding of £2 million a year for three years to support V&A Dundee’s operations as both Scotland’s design museum and centre for design.

Service Design Careers

We’ve been talking to Scottish Government who are kicking off a large recruitment drive to fill around 40 vacancies over the next few months. There’s a mixture of permanent/ pensionable, temporary and consultants’ posts. We’ll post links on our socials as an when they are advertised. If you don’t already follow us, we are on Twitter @SDA_Scot

If you’re looking for a job in Service Design, we’d definitely recommend https://www.servicedesignjobs.com/ one of the very few (if not only) job board focused only on Service Design, there are 173 open vacancies from across the globe listed there. Follow on Twitter @sdxjobs

Many of you reading this will either be in Service Design roles or looking to get a Service Design role. The problem is that many companies don’t even know they need Service Design roles, yet!.  So, if you want to be a Service Designer – and are still wondering where to start, Caron Sandeman, SDA Service Design Manager shares her thoughts with a few pointers:

“You don’t have to be a designer, but you do have to adopt design mindset and methods. Start identifying opportunities to test out service design methodology in your current workplace. Find ways to run rapid experiments, to show value, to get buy-in, and to creatively apply service design concepts to your area of focus. Engage others in what you bring and how you bring that, use maps for links and understanding and to show the value of service design. This will help you to shift personally and help to change mindsets.”

If you have questions about a career in Service Design or need support in raising awareness at work, the team are happy to have a cheerful chat with you. Please do contact us.

Design skills are becoming increasingly essential for careers in any sector. No matter your role or your organisation, you can apply a human-centred design thinking approach at work.

We’ve developed 4 2-day courses for those looking to take their first steps into service design. Demand has grown for these spring & summer courses for individuals and small corporate groups across all sectors. Participants will learn by doing in live online classrooms, to then apply new skills back in the workplace. These courses are for anyone

who hasn’t used Service Design Tools and Methodologies before and wants an energetic, hands-on and insightful introduction

who wants to drive innovation and problem solve on a whole different level

For the many who’ve navigated the path into service design roles without any accreditation then the Professional Development Award in Service Design is just right for you.  There are limited places available for our April 21 cohort.

All our courses are accredited by the Service Design Network guaranteeing you the very best service design education in the world.

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Events you won’t want to miss

Curious as to how design can enable a more sustainable business? Join Livework Studio’s webinar. Climate change has become impossible to ignore. Last year saw an explosion of commitments to zero carbon goals. The challenge for many organisations is translating good intentions into real change. This is where design comes in. 

Wednesday 17 March @ 10am


Service Design in Education Network‘s monthly Thinks and Drinks!

18 March: Thinks & Drinks organised by SDinEducation is a monthly gathering of service designers, subject experts, co-creators and education enthusiasts to share knowledge & ideas!


13 April: Learn about UX and service design research at this special UX Research & Strategy + Service Design Network crossover event with Erika Hall


22 April: Join FutureGov for Transitions 2.0 to hear the real stories of change shaped by the toughest challenges we’ve faced in a generation.


1 June: Service Design Day – Join the buzz and shake up the world


We’d love to hear if

This gave you a little lift, or if it didn’t do tell us why

You have an article to share with our community of changemakers

You have an event happening and want to spread the word

You’d like to talk about any of our courses or business course funding opportunities

Contact Us