What is the best example of using service design in the public sector?

Ahead of the Service Design for Public Services conference in Cardiff this month, experts give us their examples of how service design can be used.

Andrea Siodmok

“Bad service design is a time thief. It can also make us anxious. As a customer, patient, citizen and service ‘user’ my favourite design saves me time and soothes my otherwise frenetic day. There are countless good examples in health; in New Zealand, the Canterbury health system redesign found reducing patient waiting time increased efficiency across the whole system, saving patients more than a million days of waiting for treatment in just four clinical areas, and in the UK A&E redesign reduced aggression by 50 per cent.”

Andrea Siodmok, head of Policy Lab, Cabinet Office

Simon Penny

“It’s an exciting time for service design in the public sector. The Government Digital Service is doing a great job of transforming the way we access Government services. But for me some of the best examples of service design in the public sector have originated from the fringes. GustoGoodGymGroupleNana Café and Casserole are addressing social issues such as isolation and failing health and are improving people’s lives by broadening social networks and increasing community resilience. They aren’t always designed from within the public sector but are undoubtedly helping to reshape the mould. The challenge for the public sector is to bring service design in-house and use it to influence everything they do, and as designers we need to help them.”

Simon Penny, business design consultant, ip&e

Paul Thurston

“MacMillan Cancer support nurses are the best example of service design in the public sector. Their organisation and people have been providing an incredibly valuable service to people affected by cancer and they do this by understanding patient journeys and creating well-designed touchpoints. The role of design within this is key and cuts through the clutter and confusion at an emotional time for patients and their families.” 

Paul Thurston, head of service design, PDR

Joseph Harrington

“We are at a crossroads for service design in the public sector. One path leads us towards becoming a valuable, but yet instrumentalised set of alternative tools to support existing ways of working or tweak dominant practices; the other might accelerate design to becoming an understood alternative in its own right. So, although it runs the risk of leading design down one road, the new Cabinet Office’s Policy Lab has got to be the most exciting opportunity for service design to promote a cultural transformation at the heart of Government.”

Joseph Harrington, partner, Innovation Unit

Estyn Jones

“I can’t help but admire the recent Dementia Plan developed for Cardiff & the Vale through the SPIDER project. I’ve seen first hand the effect dementia has, not just on the person diagnosed but their family and friends. Coping can be such a struggle. One of the strengths of this plan is how it was developed to consider how best to embed service design processes within that sector to develop an a new forward-thinking culture. I remember one of the Design Council’s ‘Living Well with Dementia’ design challenge solutions; The ‘Dementia Dog’ Service. I’d love to see outcomes like this spring from the Dementia Plan.”

Estyn Jones, Insight & Innovation Officer, Cricket Wales

Arren Roberts

“The work I admire the most will really stretch the public sector to think differently about the problems that they are trying to solve and its not always clear whether this is public sector design or design for social innovation. I am influenced by Participle’s work, especially the Circle movement, as well as FutureGov’s Patchwork. The common feature is the level of detail that went in to understanding the real problem they were trying to solve.”

Arren Roberts, business design consultant, ip&e

Amy Whitney

“The government’s new register to vote transaction is a really great example of service design. The team working on it had to challenge the way things worked in areas that hadn’t been challenged before. It meant changing legal language and encouraged other teams and services to do the same. It’s really about putting the user first.”

Amy Whitney, interaction designer, Government Digital Service

Ben Reason

“I am very proud of our team in Norway who redesigned special needs services in schools in a service called ‘good school start’. It changes the service from that focused on specific ‘difficult’ children to one that aims to help all children have the best experience of what is a significant life moment.”  

Ben Reason, founding partner, Livework


The Service Design for Public Services event is held in Cardiff on 29 January.

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