By Clara Llamas a prospective student of the
MA Service Experience Design and Innovation, London College of Communication

The photo above is from Francesco Mazzarella’s Twitter account @FraMazzarella, retweeted by MASEDI-LCC @MASEDILCC  (Left to right: Anish Joshi, Dr. Geke van Dijk, Francesco Mazzarella, Dr. Alison Prendiville and Prof. Silvia Grimaldi).

The masterclass entitled The Craft of Service Design, part of Service Design Fringe Festival, provided a stimulating evening at the London College of Communication.

As a prospective student of the MA Service Experience Design and Innovation, I was a bit anxious about attending the event, designed for future students as well as for the community of practitioners. However, the relaxed nature of the setting immediately dissipated my worry and I soon settled into reading the briefs of each speaker and talk, thoughtfully prepared by the year two students that made the event possible.

The focus on the concept of “craft” in service design, raising issues around individuality and what each person’s background or worldview brings into the discipline seemed very powerful. The eclectic group of practitioners made for a rich session with distinct views and practices; yet, a harmonious undercurrent on what is truly essential in Service Design practice seemed to weave the whole session together.

Anish Joshi, head at Deloitte Digital Strategy, UK, provided a business-focused view on the value that design thinkers bring to companies and brands, coupled with original views on how designers might take into their hands the tools of business thinkers to make more impactful contributions. A designer with an MBA, his insights help define how value can be maximised by multidisciplinary skills development.

Dr. Geke van Dijk, founder of STBY, focused her talk on her work in design research. It was highly specific and hands-on, going into details of a global case which really brought home the value of ethnographic, multimedia and immersive research formats to elicit rich consumer insights. For a Cultural Anthropology undergrad as myself, the approach made perfect sense when compared with less directly engaged forms of market research, as did learning about specific niches within Service Design–such as Design Research.

Francesco Mazzarella, a PhD researcher at Loughborough Design School, not only shared with us his own original frameworks, but also explained the virtues of his “situated approach”, whereby service designers move from being “parachuted” into projects into “activating meaningful social innovation”. In his proposal, this is done utilising an anthropological framework for Service Design that takes into account “context”, “elicit tacit knowledge” and is able to interweave narratives to “make sense of sustainable futures”.

The differences in approaches were illuminating for a Service Design novice. Focusing on the versatile notion of “craft”, individual perspective and shared experience and how this might inform and lead the process into different directions, raised interesting questions around the impact of subjectivity and personalisation in Service Design.

At this point, Dr. Alison Prendiville’s intervention timely brought it all together under the umbrella of “evaluation”. “The value of Service Design – and how do we evaluate” was the title of her talk. Using cases from public sector as talking points, she raised structural questions that underpinned the whole session. In Service Design intervention, evaluation is always somewhere at the core of the process. An appropriate grasp of what should be evaluated and how in any given moment of the process seems like a critical stone to set, and perhaps one of high complexity and nuance–with potentially detrimental or instrumental impact on outcomes.

This was an experience-based and polyvalent session, timely placed a few days ahead of our studies. Looking forward to many more like it.