For our interactive presentation at this year’s SCVO The Gathering we focussed on Assumptions and Biases and how these impact on our daily decisions when we are thinking about the services we deliver for our communities. 

The Gathering 2022 took place at Glasgow’s SEC on 15 and 16 June 2022, organised by SCVO, it’s the largest voluntary sector event in the UK. Over two days, amazing people from the voluntary sector and beyond came together to enjoy a packed programme of over 80 workshops, seminars, and training sessions.

2,000 delegates attended including voluntary sector staff, volunteers, board members and trustees from charities, social enterprises and community groups, politicians, academics and journalists, students, and members of the public. 

SDA joined forces with our partners at the Scottish Digital Academy, yes, that’s 2 x SDA’s, we know right! We find it confusing too 😊

Over 100 delegates heard from Dean Rhodes, Senior Agile Coach about the Digital Academy and its Enhanced Course Offer where they select partners to deliver courses where they lack expertise or the capacity to deliver programmes. The Service Design Academy is one of their key partners delivering Service Design education and training programmes.

Assumptions and Biases impact on our daily decisions.  It’s something we cover in all our courses.

We used a technique called Breaking Down Assumptions and there was a great buzz in the room when we revealed our first assumption based persona was Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister! What’s the point of assumption-based personas?  They let you see exactly what our brains do when presented with information and the biases we make and take from that information.

This slide reads - Where do our biases or assumptions come from? The bullet points read 1. People are naturally biased. 2. Even when we intend to be completely fair, our brains have a hard time remaining impartial. 3. Biases form because of the human brain’s tendency to categorise new people and new information. 4. To learn quickly, the brain connects new people or ideas to past experiences.

Source: https://cpdonline.co.uk/knowledge-base/business/controlling-overcoming-unconscious-bias/

We explained that our biases are influenced by our:

  • Background
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Education
  • Personal experiences
  • Media influences
  • Societal stereotypes
  • Cultural context

and that these can get in the way of designing inclusive services.  As Kat Holmes, Author of Mismatch : How Inclusion Shapes Design says, “the things we make reflect our biases”.

So how might we innovate to deliver better services for our communities?

If we take a co-design approach to designing services, we encompass various methods and communications which lead to meaningful participation in design. 

A group of 3 people standing in a room looking at two sets of 6 photographs on a wall. The photos are taken from social media accounts and the people are creating a persona about that person based on the photos they post
A group of 2 people sitting in a room looking a set of 6 photographs on a wall. The photos are taken from social media accounts and the people are creating a persona about that person based on the photos they post
A group of peope sitting and standing in a room looking at photographs. They are working in groups of 2 or 3. The photos are taken from social media accounts and the people are creating a persona about that person based on the photos they post

Photos courtesy of Dean Rhodes on Twitter

User’s voice is at the heart of co-design, where engaging service users in developing and deciding on solutions that will affect them is essential to its success.

Through the power of User Research and Co-Design we can:

1  Reduce risk

2  Drive out inefficiency

3  Engage all stakeholders (removing biases and

4  Deliver Better Services

Thanks to everyone who signed up for, and attended our session, we look forward to continuing conversations with Scotland’s charities.

If you missed the session and would like a free copy of our slide deck please contact Maralyn Boyle

Welcome to a special news edition of SDA Insights. It’s your round-up of exciting things happening at SDA and some noteworthy items that have captured our attention in the wider Service Design world.

We know that your time is precious, so we’ll press on.

EduJam is back ……
In June Service Design Academy is a proud sponsor of EduJam, taking place live and in person at the wonderful V&A Dundee on the 10th, 11th and 12th of June.

If you’ve never jammed before………
A Jam is a creative space to explore ways to try out design-based approaches to problem solving, building networks. EduJam is inspired by GlobalJams and aims to provide an open and collaborative space for everybody passionate about the future of education. The Global Jams website tells you much more about the power of Jamming.

We’ll be joined by mentors including the founder of Global Jams, Adam St John Lawrence, co-author of “This is Service Design Doing” and visual facilitator Andy Du Vale of WorkVisible.

How can you get involved?

1. Take a look at our EduJam website  to find more about the event.

2. Follow us @EduJamUK on Twitter and Instagram for live updates.

3. Book now. There are ticket options to suit every pocket and sponsorship of this event has ensured that your ticket price covers the cost of refreshments over the weekend. You can book your EduJam tickets now or please get in touch for more information at                      edujam@sda.ac.uk

edujam graphic

Service Design Academy Short Courses – in demand

Companies and individuals have been in touch enquiring about the next dates for our short courses in the summer. We’d like to find out from our community what works best for you.

You can read more about what to expect with Welcome to Service Design 1-day course and Service Design for Innovation and Impact 5-day course.

If you are ready to start your service design journey with our live and online courses please fill out the doodle poll below and we’ll be straight back in touch.

Anyone who expresses an interest will get a 15% discount when booking.

girl with laptop
woman pointing to text

Inclusive And Accessible Design – Our new 2-day course is booking now 1st and 8th June – 10am – 4pm

This 2-day online introduction to Inclusive Design course has been developed and designed with industry experts and those experiencing barriers every day.

It’s perfect for any individual or group of colleagues to learn how a design approach can be used to improve the services, products, and experiences they deliver. Not only this but learners will leave with a plan to start to work more inclusively

You can read Inclusive and Accessible 2-day course information

You can book  Eventbrite: Inclusive and Accessible Design 2-day course

Not quite what you need? Find out more and register interest in all Service Design Academy short courses

Co-creating an innovative and sustainable framework to support community led projects

We’re delighted to share our recent work with The Wood Foundation and Russell Anderson Development School (RADS) through the Service Design Network Case Study Library. You can find out how we facilitated the creation of a new framework for community led projects which connect, engage and support young people in new ways through sport.

Read Service Design Network RADS Case Study to find out more.

Scottish Public Sector:  invitations for SDA to tender for service design training and education can now be made through Public Contract Scotland through the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for Digital Technology Services Dynamic Purchasing System – Lot 1. This DPS is available for Scottish Government, Councils, Colleges and Universities, health, third sector and other public sector organisations.

Good Luck Rory
After a year of Kickstart work experience, Rory Mertes, our Digital and Marketing Assistant has moved on for new and exciting opportunities.  The team wish Rory all the very best as he leaves his legacy of video resources we’ll continue to share. Ranging from the “Valued Voices” series to backgrounds on our courses, Rory has left a video record of SDA in action for us to build on.

Have a dip into the Service Design Video Library  

Don’t forget to join over 1,000 subscribers of our Service Design Academy Youtube channel who watched nearly 6,000 hours of our content last month. 

Professional Development Award Reflective Survey

Although we gather feedback regularly throughout learning labs and in 121s with our students to shape development and delivery of the course, we are keen to understand more about the longer-term impact from the course from students completing the course in the past 18 months. 

We were delighted to receive a 100% 5 star rating from respondents on recommending Service Design Academy to colleagues.

The comments below reflect motivations, expectations and impact of the course.

“Having no formal service design qualifications, the PDA was a great opportunity to get a qualification and foundation of knowledge relevant to my role while still delivering what I needed to be in my job”

“I hoped to gain a better understanding of the tools and methodologies and to become a confident and competent Service Designer”

“One huge change is the mindset of understanding customer needs first before focusing on a specific solution, the other big takeaway for me is being able to go on the journey of identifying these needs, exploring them deeper and ideating around potential outcomes before trialling and prototyping solutions”

When it came to asking for 3 words to describe the experience – this board says it all!

For more information about this survey or the Professional Development Award starting in August 2022 or January 2023, please get in touch info@sda.ac.uk

Have a look at Professional Development Award in Service Design Information (including Rory’s video!)

Service Design Network Accreditation

We are delighted to announce that Service Design Academy has been awarded organisational accreditation by the Service Design Network for the next three years.

In 2020 we were the first SDN accredited organisation in the world, and this is now a strong validation and recognition by the Service Design Network of the developing authority and quality of Service Design Academy in the provision of the following services at a consistently high standard to offer service design training and consultancy.

As a result of a successful accreditation, Service Design Academy will be recognised and promoted as a high-quality partner of the SDN and the SDN Academy, joining an exclusive and esteemed international network of outstanding SDN accredited organisations.

We want to thank Birgit Mager and Carolina Corona for their support and look forward to working together to build a global community of changemakers.

Read Service Design Academy Accreditation blog to find out more.

Learning Fest 22

The Service Design Network’s first ever student led Learning Fest (SDNLF22) is on the 21st and 22nd May.

The SDNLF22 is an international virtual conference connecting the next generation of service designers. Open to all disciplines, our goal is to facilitate learning and push the boundaries of service design to foster growth, together in synergy.

To find out more and register SDNLF22 details and booking form.

Learn Fest Graphic

Please do share and invite your colleagues to join our mailing list with Service Design Academy’s contact form

Please get in touch with any Service Design news you’d like us to share in our next issue info@sda.ac.uk

It is easy to understand the direct impact of Customer Experience on business success.  If a customer isn’t happy, it’s likely you’ll never see or hear from them again.  But the relationship between happy employees and their impact on growth and business performance is less obvious.  

Employee experience has never been so important for both employees and organisations.

We’re witnessing a generational change in the way we work and, in the employee/employer dynamic which we’ve only previously experienced following huge disruption, or industrial and technological revolutions. Now more than ever, preserving and protecting employee experience is a responsibility shared across the board and throughout leadership.

graphic with people

Designing a powerful employee experience isn’t simply a tick box exercise for the HR team, it can have a significant impact on many aspects of an organisation. Research from MIT Centre for Information Systems Research shows that companies with the best employee experiences see dramatic business benefits when they get employee experience right.


graphic with people working

Companies who invest in Employee Experience, do four things, they:

1.Put people first

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

 2.Improve engagement

Recognise organisations as collections of human beings who are motivated by varying perspectives and emotions, they emphasise engagement, dialogue, and learning.

3.Collaborate and co-create

Work together and get inspired by what others are doing

4.Connect and Change

By involving staff in the definition of the problem and the development of solutions they garner a broad commitment to change.

It all starts with Design

Ultimately taking a service design approach to your employee experience will lead to noticeable benefits because developing great employee experiences isn’t a one size fits all approach people are different, companies are different and even in one business, roles and functions are different.

It is about treating people like people and understanding what detracts from people having a really positive experience at work whoever they are and whatever they are doing.

Interested in Designing your People Experience?

Check out https://www.sda.ac.uk/service-design-for-employee-experience/ or

Get in touch https://www.sda.ac.uk/contact/

Co-creating an innovative and sustainable framework to support community led projects through Service Design

INDUSTRY* Education, Third Sector, Health, Wellbeing and Sports.

The Challenge:  The Wood Foundation wanted to support the creation of a new framework for community led projects which connect, engage and support young people in new ways through sport.

The Approach:  A service design learning programme covering user research methods, ideation, prototyping, and implementation support built skills and capabilities to identify the needs of young people and radically re-think provision to co-design innovative new projects.

The Outcome: One charity re-designed their service provision, business planning & operations. Service Design provided space, process & an opportunity to reflect, reset and refocus  on providing high quality support for young people in some of the worst areas of deprivation in Scotland.

The Impact:  Pilot programmes included initiatives that enabled young people to connect with sport by providing appropriate clothing, mental health support, food education, young leaders, and work experience programmes, broadening the scope of support and the ages of young people involved.

Re-imagining funding and support opportunities

The Wood Foundation (TWF) has offered strong financial support for many years to the health, fitness, and wellbeing of young people in Aberdeen. Just one example is the Russell Anderson Development School (RADS). RADS provides quality fitness and health coaching to young people aged 4 -11 in one of Aberdeen’s most deprived areas. As well as increasing opportunities for exercise and encouraging healthy lifestyles, the coaching programme supports communication, social and life skills.

TWF recognised the opportunity for its support to evolve towards the development of more innovative and sustainable projects to meet the challenge of improving the health and wellbeing of young people in the community.

TWF wanted to develop and support a new framework of community- led projects that concentrates on what communities need, rather than dictating where funds will go or asking organisations to bid against each other for funding. They envisaged enabling collaboration and connection across the city for the benefit of young people.

By building the skills sets and capabilities of health and wellbeing partner organisations to fully meet the needs of young people in their communities, it is hoped that the partner organisations will collaborate, as well as involving their communities and team, on the co-design of new and innovative project proposals. Critically, they should build resilience through discovering new sources of sustainable income.

The Service Design Learning Experience

The Service Design Academy (SDA) worked with TWF to identify a shared problem statement, to connect partner organisations while learning the service design process. Five full days of interactive, engaging and impactful sessions were delivered online, for delegates, alongside representatives from TWF.

The sessions were designed to fully engage delegates with group work to encourage shared thinking and collaborative working. Service design principles influenced the workshop design positively with an equitable approach – all voices must be heard. The activities promoted group and independent discovery.

“How might we work together to remove barriers for young people and co-create new, exciting, and innovative ways to positively challenge sport, health and wellbeing in Aberdeen?”

Embracing the learning for success

The process was much more than just training, it enabled delegates to practice service design tools on organisational problems, ideate solutions, develop, and test their ideas in an atmosphere that was conducive to collaboration rather than competition. RADS have

graphic with yellow post its

To support partner organisations SDA hosted individual data analysis and reflection meet-ups 4 weeks after the workshops. These allowed organisations to reflect on their time with SDA and start to formulate plans and proposals for funding to present and share. 

This was an integral part of the process, that enabled SDA to identify where additional support was needed but also to gain invaluable feedback on delivery approaches, learning materials and facilitation

Service Design Outputs and Outcomes at RADS

RADS had taken the opportunity to stop, reflect and re-design their future services. They built service design into regular meetings, providing an equitable and creative space for the rest of the team to join the service design journey.

User research and the ideas generated were the catalyst required to drive change with purpose and momentum.  RADS prepared a service journey map, co-created new “Pilot Light” initiatives and collectively ranked their priorities, planning each topic with a service design approach, even creating personalised service design tools inspired by their experience through the training.

A Business Model Canvas created a new proposal based on the acronym STEPS = Social, Thinking, Emotional, Physical Activity and School.  This was a collaborative effort giving everyone input, including schools, teachers, young people, and families to design the best initiatives possible. 

bullet point text

Radically improving and expanding service provision

Four months later, the impact of embedding service design across the organisation is clear.

RADS have completely changed the way that they work involving Trustees, volunteers, and coaches at a strategic level and giving their young volunteers a platform to grow in ability and confidence.

RADS work is targeted to focus on local areas with high deprivation levels, and their mission was never to gain new business but to radically improve and expand on their services. Service Design has allowed them to do this, but also identified those who require their support, but for whatever reason, were previously unable to take part.

graphic with quotes

Many of these children have very little “discipline” and family guidance to attend after school clubs, RADS are delighted that they will have a purpose and a means of “getting young people off the streets” and into meaningful and impactful programmes.

children playing sport
wall with quotes

SDA consultants supported different learning styles, were mindful of differing levels of comfort and experience that the delegates had collaborating remotely. The skills, expertise and lived experience from the delegates contributed to the workshop outcomes. The collaborative processes created an environment where everyone had a role to play in innovation and improvement, a new culture that allowed people to imagine alternatives and allowed them to come to fruition.




– Data analysis and reflection meet-ups 4 months post-training, provided a short timeline which encouraged the partner organisations to take next steps quickly and allowed SDA continue support going forward.

– Facilitating collaborative working across organisations, previously seen as ‘competitors’, helped to solidify their common goal and created a network of allies to provide support across their shared area of work.

– Iteration is a huge part of the way RADS work now.

– Improved relationships with schools.

– Gained a huge confidence boost, especially regarding creativity.

– Adapting and collaborating much better as a team.

– Have engaged in new partnerships



Katie Murrie, SDA Lead Consultant

Claire Hartley, SDA Consultant 

Are you motivated by the desire to make work better? Would you love to have a toolkit to help you lead the way? Well, we have some exciting news – the Service Design Academy has launched 5 new courses designed for purpose-driven people like you in the buzzing arena of Service Design.

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. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re just hearing the term for the first time, or you’re a seasoned veteran looking to enhance your skillset.


What is Service Design?

When we started the Service Design Academy, practically every conversation started with this question. Luckily the world has changed a lot since. What hasn’t changed is our belief that service design has the potential to transform entire organisations and markets.  We say that:

Service Design is the practical and creative application of design tools and methods, with the goal to develop or improve services. It is the activity of orchestrating people, infrastructure, communication, and material components of a service to create value for all stakeholders involved, build a distinctive customer experience, and maximise business potential.

Service Design is a Mindset


Service Design is having a passion for the customer and improvement, question everything, and don’t rush into solutions. Embrace uncertainty. 

Welcome to Service Design - This image is hyperlinked

Service Design is Set of Tools


Service Design gives you the tools to explore possible problems and opportunities.

Tools for Problem Solving & Innovation - This image is hyperlinked

Service Design is a Process

Service Design is a structured process that provides grip at the uncertainty and fuzziness of the innovation process. It’s a cross-disciplinary language with the customer at its centre, Service Design creates a silo-breaking language and stimulates collaboration between people and departments.

5-DFay Service Design for Innovation and Impact - This image is hyperlinked

Good Service Design is Inclusive Design


Design should always be judged by whether or not it achieves an inclusive environment. Design which does not do this is not good enough. Good design should reflect the diversity of people who use it and not impose barriers of any kind.

Take Care of your Employees and they’ll take Care of your Customers


The secret to employee experience is treating your employees like your best customer and giving them the same great experiences. In turn, they’re more likely to provide better customer service. Research has shown that engaged employees positively impact customer experience, and we know experience impacts engagement.

We have an excellent track record of designing courses for business. Courses can be customised and delivered privately for your organisation.

If you’re wondering if service design is the right career for you and how to get started, the first step is to consolidate your experience and build your skills. Many people come to service design with a background of different career experiences, lateral moves, even U-turns.


Ringing in the new year means new resolutions. If entering Year 3 of a pandemic has taught us nothing else, we now know that being happy at home and work is essential to our well-being.  

At the Service Design Academy, we know that loving who you work with, loving your environment, being content with your financial rewards, and most importantly – loving what you do – will make your life healthier and happier. After all, many of us do spend 35 hours a week (or more!) doing our jobs, so we might as well be in love with what we do! 

Making a career transition into service design can be hard. Most service designers have had to make a leap from one career path to another or from student to professional.  It can be challenging and sometimes feels painful.  Changing your career can take some time and there may be a few false starts until you find the right fit. 

Many people come to service design with a background of different career experiences, lateral moves, even U-turns. Team members at SDA are no exception:

Katie Murrie our Lead Consultant graduated in Law from the University of Dundee, worked in the legal profession, then completed a Masters in Leadership and Innovation where she discovered her love for service design.

Kim Anderson began her career in graphic design after graduating with a degree in Computer Arts from Abertay University. It was taking part in design sprints that inspired her to learn more about design thinking and service design. 

In fact, every single member of the SDA team reached service design after career experiments! If this is your story, consider yourself lucky, you will have a lot to offer and work with. If you’re considering a move to service design, think about:

·       How your past has taught you many valuable skills you can bring to
the table

·       Areas that excite you and that you specifically want to learn more
about/lean towards

·      How you want to grow in the future

a man in a yellow t-shirt on a blue background looking and pointing at the words : Believe. Achieve. Succeed.

Think about new opportunities in the jobs market. It’s not that long ago that there just a handful that mentioned service design or human-centred design.  Now design is EVERYWHERE – government, start-ups, charities, and the private sector. You’ve only got to search on LinkedIn or Twitter feeds to see how diverse the range of jobs currently are. And these are only the jobs that specifically mention service design, there’s a whole host more that designers/those working in a human-centred design way could fulfil, that don’t have the title.

Scottish Government statistics state that over the next 10 years the demand for service designers in Scotland will increase by 35% with an estimated 17,000 jobs available in both the public and private sector.

If you’re wondering if service design is the right career for you and how to get started, the first step is to consolidate your experience and build your skills. Here’s some tips and resources from the team at SDA. 

Just Start written on an orange post-it note

You don’t need to wait for permission or a project, just start 

Start doing service design within your current environment. As Lauren Currie said on the Service Design Show, a great way to start is by redesigning a service that makes you angry, or a service that is really close to you.


Be confident about the skills you already possess

Don’t hide them—use them to your advantage, try to figure out how they might fit into a service design context.  The holistic nature of service design means it sometimes feels like you literally need to know

everything.  You might even feel a bit overwhelmed. There’s just so much info out there that you could spend all day, every day, studying and learning. If you’re spending your scarce time learning new skills, you want to know that you’re learning things that really matter and that will put you ahead in the job market.”


If you’re just reading books on service design, you’re going to miss out on some really key skills.

Becoming a service designer isn’t just about learning the tools and methods, it’s also about developing your communication, facilitation, improvisation, empathising and curiosity skills. We believe the ability to question, be curious and interrogate is as important as knowing the methods and mapping the journeys, that’s why all our courses take a learn by doing approach. They’re fun, interactive and all available to study online from anywhere.


Build a network

Building your network is important.  The service design community is open and generous, make those connections and more importantly, maintain them.

We regularly hear from alumni of our Professional Development Award in Service Design of their success stories as they develop into Service Design Practitioners.

In Spring 2022 SDA will be launching a range of short courses,

designed to support the beginning of your journey as a service

design practitioner.


·        Welcome to Service Design is an introduction to the fundamentals of service design the mindset, the approach, and the principles


·        Tools for Problem Solving & Innovation is a holistic approach to problem solving using tools that will enable you to drive innovation within your organisation. 


·        Service Design for Innovation & Impact is our flagship programme for business re-designed for those who are ready to innovate and adapt for the future using design thinking and service design methodology


We are also developing new specialist courses for Designing People Experiences and Accessible and Inclusive Design. Watch out for our next mailshot.


If you work in Scotland’s Local Authorities then our inaugural Professional Development Award in Service Design, in partnership the Scottish Digital Office, starts on 15th February 2022.  Scottish Government statistics state that over the next 10 years the demand in Scotland for service designers will increase by 35% with an estimated 17,000 jobs available in both the public and private sector. Achieving a PDA in Service Design will put you ahead of the competition, and your new skills will be in demand. Check out the Heartbeat Information Pack or contact us via info@sda.ac.uk


Gillies need no introduction to many people in Tayside and the North-east of Scotland, as a well-respected family run furniture retail business. With a flagship branch in Broughty Ferry, they employ many loyal and long-serving staff who hold the company’s ethos of having strong customer relationships. The part Gillies plays in local communities is core to their values.

Gillies recovered after the first lockdown in 2020 with customers returning quickly to their stores. The management team had learned lessons during lockdown and had made some investment in their online presence to future proof their business,

Although Gillies have built a strong reputation on meeting high customer expectations within stores, this has been challenging to replicate online. And like many thriving organisations, improvement was needed with internal communication processes.

Gillies senior team recognised that they needed to re-design elements of their business. After speaking with Dundee and Angus College’s Skills Advisers and the Service Design Academy team, Managing Director David Philp was keen to learn how service design could be embedded as an integral part of the company’s strategy. David’s vision was to improve business performance by unlocking the creativity within Gillies teams to encourage a more collaborative culture.

Through a series of exercises in a 90-minute Discovery meeting with the Service Design Academy team in July 2021, Gillies senior management team shared what they wanted to achieve:

·        To build an improved and streamlined customer journey across stores and online that is truly exceptional

·        To create a cohesive, collaborative team to find solutions that are always customer focused

 The Approach

From these insights, the Service Design Academy’s accredited consultants designed a customised online and interactive programme with clear learning objectives and business focused goals.

A team of 14 staff took part in six fast-paced and collaborative online workshops over six weeks. The workshops were designed to encourage creativity, guaranteeing everyone’s voice being listened to equally. The group had basic training on the online whiteboard Miro, and all accessibility needs were met to ensure a welcoming and productive environment. 

The Workshops

The participants collaborated on a design challenge set by senior management –

design challenge - how might we improve the customer journey and experience at Gillies?

To start, they captured and recorded knowledge and assumptions. From that teams were formed to work on different themes using a variety of tools and methods. The teams were trained in user research techniques to challenge their assumptions and fill gaps in their knowledge. Out of the workshops and back on the shop floor, they carried out in-depth user interviews (or cheerful chats) with customers. Participants learned to use empathy techniques  – walking in their customers’ shoes and observing shoppers’ behaviour.

From this research activity, the teams gathered insights and then learned how to flip their problems into new opportunities. The teams used tools specially designed to encourage creativity and generate a large volume of ideas relating to these opportunities.

SDA consultants then guided the teams through the process of refining and prioritising ideas until they were left with only 3. They explored their ideas further by prototyping to testing and tweak ideas again and again through feedback and evaluation from critical friends.

The final day was devoted to planning how these new solutions could be brought to life. The teams learned to use tools to understand what every step would look like from the user’s perspective and how to create storyboards of a user interacting with the new service. To consolidate all their learning, activities and future plans, each team shared their journey through the design process and their final ideas.

Utility belt for implementation

The Utility Belt Tool for Implementation let the teams come to a shared understanding of how their new, or re-designed service might scale up. The tools also help  them consider how to truly embed service design into the organisation. 

The Outcome

Four final ideas are being taken back to the business. These cover a new customer tracking system; a blended approach to internal communications; introducing rewarding activities for staff and shaking up the induction process for new staff to ensure they truly understand the whole business, not just their role within it.

Post it notes explaining what Gillies liked about their training course
Post it notes explaining what Gillies learned during their training course


To help build on the progress achieved in the six sessions it’s been recommended to the Gillies team to use all their golden nuggets of user research to inform the improvement of customer experience.

The management team will decide on which of the prototypes they would like to pilot, and this will be supported by the planning already done in the workshops. How the pilots land with customers will be tested using newly learned user research techniques. SDA encourages setting up a team of champions to ensure that progress is kept on track with clear guidelines on responsibility, with this new mindset of designing “with, not for” people. SDA looks forward to meeting up with the Gillies management team soon to reflect on progress and to offer support in building momentum on the change already being implemented.

Immediate Impact:

Chris Muir, SDA Consultant reflected on a successful training programme:

“The comments around the value of this training from Gillies has been extremely positive. The work produced by each of the groups was fantastic, not only in the workshop but in gap tasks. The insights and discoveries made ensured that we were indeed solving the right problems, particularly when we entered the develop and deliver phases.

There were lots of comments about building on this momentum for making changes which will ultimately result in a more focussed and better customer experience across all Gillies stores. The online workshops offered the opportunity to collaborate across different stores and demonstrated a way to capture everyone’s voice and do so in a very open and transparent way.”

 On how these new skills will be used, Claire Hartley, SDA consultant added,  “As service design educators, we introduced all participants to the service design mindset and showed them how all these different tools and methods can be used to facilitate conversations and capture insights.

The teams have reflected on the value from experiencing the design process and thought of many ways it will be used for being a better business, from customer satisfaction to staff engagement. However, this would not have been possible without the commitment and passion all participants gave to the challenge presented by the management team at Gillies.”


Valued Voices from Gilles

You can learn how taking a service design approach has made an impact by listening to Director David Philp and Group Store Manager Jonathan Creece here

Ideas are cheap and abundant; what is of value is the effective placement of those ideas into situations that develop into action. Peter Drucker

What makes the Service Design Academy’s Professional Development Award in Service Design different?

Lack of community, low engagement and often no incentive for completion. The world of online learning is becoming stale. We’re in a post-content doldrums. In the past, educational content was valued – it was expensive and relatively scarce. It became a major selling point for universities. Today educational content is everywhere, plentiful, and much of it is cheap. Blogs, social media, newsletters, YouTube have replaced validated and reliable sources of knowledge found in the lecture theatre and library.

And that’s not all, Low cost or free online courses, incubators, accelerators, and alternative education programmes have been created to serve the lifelong learning needs of working professionals. But content profusion has created its own set of unique challenges for educators and students.

Most learners are actually worse off for all this low priced and plentiful content. More access does not equal more engagement or achievement. Take for example, MOOCs, the “Massive Open Online Courses” popularised in the 2010s, with a completion rate of just 3 to 6 percent.

Online meeting

At the Service Design Academy, we believe cohort-based learning holds the key to impactful learning. They are interactive, community-centric, remotely delivered online courses where a group of students advance through the materials together – with hands-on, feedback-based learning at the core.

What makes our courses unique?

They are engaging, real-time, and involve community-driven, active learning as opposed to solo, passive content consumption. Fixed start and end dates ensure a real-time and paced experience. Mentoring making for an authentic, personalised approach even the smartest of online content – with machine learning and algorithms – can’t match.

Scarcity drives value. In today’s content-rich world, what scarce is community . Cohort-based courses provide community and so much more.

A great course is a catalyst for transformation. Before we created our first lesson, we identified what the transformation would be. We thought about what our students can do after taking the course that they couldn’t do before. We explored the structure of the course. We wrote compelling learning objectives and explored different curriculum formats with real world examples to make the most sense of our students.

SDA Toolkit

Online learning has defaulted to on-demand video where viewers watch experts share information. Our cohort-driven courses introduce fundamental learning principles through active learning. Using the tools of service design on live business challenges, we’ve a complete toolkit to cover the subject. We’ll show and share how and when to use these tools so you can immediately use them in your professional context. From break out discussions to case studies you’ll join a community of like-minded people seeking a similar outcome.

We call it “learn by doing” – active learning, not passive watching, every workshop is designed to help you put your learning into practice.

Expert, passionate, and accredited staff will keep you engaged and help get you make sense of the process and the theory.

And we do recognise the value of online resources but only when they are offered in the context to our interactive remote learning. Learners benefit from our signposting to a resource of validated, trusted online learning material including Storytelling videos.

Are we a course creator with a trusted voice in the service design space?

Absolutely. Our course became the first and only, service design qualification accredited the Scottish Qualifications Authority. In 2020, The Service Design Academy became the first organisation in the world to receive the Service Design Network’s Organisational Accreditation following a rigorous and in-depth audit. Through this initiative, the SDN has recognised the authority and quality of SDA in the provision of service design education and qualifications. You’ll receive certification from SDA and SDN. We were shortlisted in the Top 3 of the Digital Leaders 100 Awards 2021 in the Public Service Innovation of the Year category for the approach we took to designing our online learning with our students and not just for them.

Accredited by the Service Design Network

Is the course taught exclusively by us or by a collective?

We are not an Agency who provides training, we are educators pure and simple. The recent influx of independent course creators means these new teachers may have practical experience but less theoretical knowledge. We have achieved mastery in our skills in service design, in facilitation and in teaching. Four members of our team are SDN Accredited Practitioners, and our Lead Consultant is an Accredited Master Trainer who sits on the SDN Accreditation Panel. Our Team Bios show the range of our expertise and achievements. Our Newsroom shares stories of our successes so far both in terms of the individual achievement of our PDA in Service Design graduates and alumni our work in building service design skills and capacities in organisations.

We’re backed by Dundee & Angus College’s well-developed reflection and self-evaluation arrangements which enables review and any necessary action and improvement to take place timeously. Themes and priorities for consideration link into the Quality Themes and Indicators outlined within the Education Scotland How Good is Our College framework, and to the Professional Standards for Lectures in Scotland’s Colleges.

A team of Learning and Teaching mentors within our Academic Development team support academic staff through teaching qualifications. They promote the sharing and enhancement of practice through a flexible model for observation which supports and encourages innovation.


We’re very social

Social interaction is right at the heart of what we do. We want to put an end to the loneliness of the long-distance learner. That’s why, throughout our course, you’ll find discussion steps and chances to debate and interact with other learners. That way everyone learns from each other, discovering new perspectives and forming new ideas.

We love service design

For us, service design is not just another discipline – it’s in our DNA. We believe the ability to question, be curious & interrogate are as important as knowing the methods & mapping the journeys.


Watch the overview video and apply

SDA Insights Vol 7 focuses on the Service Design Global Conference which took place on Thursday 21 & Friday 22 October.  The newest member of our team, Robbie Beautyman, was a SDGC Conference newbie. We asked him about his favourite talks, key takeaways, and personal impressions of this year’s event.


I found the SDN Global Conference to be an amazing experience on many different levels. It was great to be surrounded by hundreds of like-minded individuals – albeit virtually. You could feel a sense of camaraderie in the air between the speakers, MC’s and attendees in the chat function which is no mean feat to achieve online.”

Cat Drew, Chief Design Officer at Design Council kicked off the event. Cat’s role brings together architecture and the built environment, public sector design and business innovation to support people live healthier, happier lives.

Cat’s keynote was a real highlight for me. It set the tone for the rest of the conference. I particularly enjoyed the section around using trees as infrastructure, including them as main stakeholders within cities alongside humans, especially her example of Melbourne giving 70,000 trees identification numbers to enable citizens to email them (and receive replies!).”

Trees as infrastructure - The Design Council's Design for Planet presenation slide explaining trees as infrastructure and the benefits they bring to a city area, such as improved air quality, storm water reduction, and regenerates soil quality

Cat insisted that service design can have a positive impact on the planet if we start to bring the planet to the table as a main stakeholder.  The numerous examples, data and insights from across the world included in Cat’s talk was phenomenal!  From the caulibox takeaway containers to recycled industry material slow fashion bags.

“If you aren’t designing for the planet, what planet are you on?”


I tuned in to Florie Remond’s talk – Planet Centred Service Design. Florie works to raise awareness of eco-design in the field of services and helps companies to align their strategy and their services with their values and those of their customers.

Florie Remonds presentation slide : “we must integrate some new reflexes and review our design steps”

Next up I joined Zeynep Falay von Flittner’s workshop.  Zeynep discussed changes organisations need to make when transforming towards sustainability, arguing that organisations can no longer rely on good customer experience, now it’s more than that, sustainability is important, and we must stop thinking about the planet as an external factor and start thinking about the human/planet relationship.

3 change needs of organisations transforming towards sustainability – mindset shift, organisational shift and systemic shift

Key Takeaways

: 9 coloured post-its with quotes

Overall Impressions

I first thought 20-minute talks would be the perfect length; enough time to get the speaker’s point across but not too long to lose attention.  The latter was true, but this top-level approach often left me hanging, wishing there was more in-depth information about the speaker’s research. The fact that I was left wanting more meant I was then inclined to go away and do my own research on the topic, so in this respect, these ‘taster sessions’ into each topic served their purpose very well.


The conference was very well facilitated on Brella. As an attendee, I found it very easy to navigate and thought the chat and poll functions were very useful. The ability to upvote other attendee’s questions during Q&A sessions was a great feature too. Since there were people with such a wide variety of experience streaming the conference, they often asked questions I would not have thought of personally but was still interested to hear the answer to.”


SDGC Inspired short reads & a podcast

  1. Accelerating Sustainability Transformations within organizations by Zeynep Falay von Flittner, Hellon: https://blog.hellon.com/en/accelerating-sustainability-transformations-within-organizations
  2. Meet the SDGC Award Winners: https://www.service-design-network.org/headlines/service-design-award-meet-our-winners
  3. Design Council: Design perspective – sustainable living: https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/enabling-sustainable-living  
  4. The Design Thinking 101 podcast teaches listeners what’s possible when you think and solve like a designer. In its latest broadcast, Cat Drew shares her design insights and highlights the value of using Design Council’s new Systemic Design Framework to achieve – and go beyond – net zero targets.
Events worth checking out


Design Council: Design for Plant, 10th & 11th November 2021

A landmark festival to galvanise and support the UK’s design industry t commit to a sustainable, climate-first future. This 2-day event will give a platform for visionaries across the sector who are leading the way in sustainability and climate action and will support others in the industry to prioritise the welfare of our plant in their work.


SDA’s Professional Development Award in Service Design

Applications are open for our PDA in Service Design starting in January 2022. We’re created a short overview video that talks you through. If you’d like to talk to one of our Consultants about any aspect of the study, use our Contact Form or call us on 01382 448868. Delegates from a huge range of backgrounds have successfully completed the Award.

A list of 39 companies of delegates who have completed the PDA in Service Design with the Service Design Academy. Some being: Angus Council, Dundee Council, Dundee University, Natwest Group, NHS24, Scottish Government, Arbroath Academy

Kevin Meehan recently completed our Professional Development Award in Service Design, a 6 month course that covers the core skills, tools and mindsets you need to service design powerful interventions for complex issues.

It was great to hear from Kevin last week about how his learning has benefited him and the student loans company he works for.

“Since completing the course, and implementing the techniques and methods learned I have managed to secure a new role within the company as a UX designer.”

Kevin also said;

“This wouldn’t have been possible without access to the PDA, so thanks to all at SDA, but especially Chris and Claire for all the help and guidance provided.”

We’re so glad to hear that our PDA helped Kevin secure his new role within the business, and wish him every success.

If you have a service design success story please share your good news.

An upcoming event worth planning for

Service Design Network Virtual Global Conference Join us on October the 21st – 22nd, 2021 in Taking a Stand to impact our organisations and our communities so that we may co-create a better tomorrow.


Vote for Us!

The Service Design Academy is thrilled to be a finalist in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards in the Digital Public Service Innovations of the Year category! This recognises how we redesigned our online learning with our learners, customers partners and friends.

We’d love this wonderful collaboration to be celebrated – so please do take 20 seconds to vote for Dundee and Angus College “Service Designing Online Learning” here.

Public Service Innovation of the year Finalists 2021