Ben Holliday

Make it happen

A general observation from work I see happening across the public sector:

The quality of creative thinking, communication, visual and content design limits the effectiveness of the process or practice of designing services. There’s also a lack of implementation as the result of service design work.

Service design as a process can be much closer to service research. There’s a solid foundation of learning that happens to understand how things work, with evidence gathered to support and prioritise future opportunities. But this can mean that there’s much less time spent on actually designing and bringing to life how future service models, user journeys and organisations might work.

Make it a creative process

Design has to be creative. This means not doing the same things.

A creative process is about learning what doesn’t work by experimenting and being prepared to be more ambitious with what could work. It lets us move beyond how things have to work now, makes new sets of rules, and creates ways of approaching different types of constraints.

A good or bad idea is dependent on what you choose to do next. The success or failure of how things will work in the future is tied to how we start to join up the policies, processes, and existing components of the systems and circumstances we are working with now. Being creative with how we make new and meaningful connections is how what might be possible is made clearer.

It’s important that we’re also creative when communicating these ideas, what is being designed, and why. This is where visual design can make space for experimentation supported with structured content and narrative.

A creative process has to communicate its value.

Make it a practical process

There’s a practical element to this. Jan Blum (FutureGov Lead Service Designer) has written a great blog post – Service designers: stop dreaming, start implementing. I especially liked the points here about useable artefacts and increasing the emphasis on shared ownerships of outputs from service design work.

When people think of service design, they often think of post-its, customer journeys and workshops – not of implementation.

Make it real

The emphasis on design has to be to make things happen. There was a great quote I heard from Elle Tweedy (FutureGov Lead Product Designer):

The biggest superpower design has is to make things tangible.

To make something tangible means to make it real. It has to become solid, tactile and material enough so that people can begin to experience it in a meaningful or compelling way. This is the case whether we’re prototyping a product as part of a new service model, or whether we’re telling a story to describe how something could work in the future.

1 + 1 = 3

Making it happen isn’t the 142 page report or slide deck. The end-point of a design-led process should be an alternative to academic reasoning, complex methodology and traditional business consultancy models.

Whatever the outputs and the process, the important thing is that design makes things happen. And it must do so creatively and clearly in order to go further than the sum of the parts of the process might otherwise allow.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.