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Service Design Global Conference 2022 recap

Published in Design

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November 3, 2022 · 6 min read time

After a three-year hiatus, the global service design community was able to gather on-site in Copenhagen at Service Design Network’s annual Service Design Global Conference 2022. Nitor supports learning with five annual freely chosen training days. Heidi, Lotta, Mervi, Liisa, Merita and Tia from our design team decided to join the conference to enjoy, interact and take in everything that this intensive event could offer. Now they want to share their learnings.

As this year’s conference theme was “Courage to Design for Good”, the talks touched upon so many topics: futures thinking, responsibility, inclusiveness, journey management, storytelling, data science and service life cycle management. 

Our top picks from SDGC 2022 

Leyla Acaroglu “Activating Agency”:
A blast of energy and inspiration to kick off any conference! 

A crowd favourite, without a doubt! Leyla challenges her audience of service designers to rethink their attitude towards their role as designers and their field of work. Asking the simple question: What problems should we really solve? Instead of Design Manifestos, we should directly focus on action and bringing about change.

Mansi Gupta: “Designing for the Missing half”:
Concrete ways to design inclusively 

In her eye-opening talk, Mansi opened up the topic of discrimination by design, with her bold statement that even today, "design for all" is often "design for men." Designs that are apparently created for everyone, are in reality discriminatory against women.  

Mansi offered two concrete tools to tackle gender bias: “Non-Negotiables Checklist” and “Women-centric Eye framework”. Both are going to be tested by our designers in their daily work. 

We highly recommend Mansi’s talk, as the tools and frameworks she shared can definitely translate to broader inclusive design, where considering marginalised groups of all types is essential. 

Louise Van Jenssen:
“What’s next versus what’s valuable?” 

“When everything is seemingly changing – what is standing still?” As Louise ponders this question, she uses three simple statements to redefine an alternative way of looking at innovation and design  

  1. Look ahead? Rather look around and invest in values that have not changed. 

  2. What’s the rush? Innovation is not just about developing new ideas. It can be about redefining the context of existing challenges in order to look at them through a new lens. 

  3. “Stay in the trouble” by strengthening the ability of designers and ethnographers to identify new opportunities and perspectives in past and current themes, they can create more desirable, alternative future scenarios. 

Jennifer Briselli “We make the road by walking it”:
A story of growth many can relate to 

Jennifer tells the story of what it took to change a design organisation from chaos to distributed decision making. She told this “growth story” honestly and pragmatically. Many of the metaphors and her storytelling abilities created a rather interesting talk that resonated with many of us in the audience.  

We asked our designers to give us a taste of one of their learnings from this year’s conference: 

Linear Economy needs to move towards a circular economy

In many cases, it’s still money that talks. For example, new electric cars are easily trashed instead of repaired because they are too expensive to fix. I liked the idea of making the planet a stakeholder. I see that in the future, designers must consider the planet as one stakeholder for every design.
- Heidi Holm, Senior Designer

Making the alternative a better experience

One of the themes that stuck with me came from Stefan Moritz’s and Malin Orebäck’s talk “Sustainable Experiences By Design”. They discussed different skill sets and methods that are needed to make future sustainable solutions and options more attractive compared to current ones.

By taking the mindsets of “making the possible future more tangible” and “making the sustainable alternative a better experience” in use in my everyday work, I feel I can nudge my ways of working towards advocating a more sustainable future. Some topics for me to study next could be behaviour design, such as nudging, and emotional, ecosystem and scenario mapping.
- Lotta Ahonen, Senior Designer 

The future is not static nor decided, nor is it something to fix

The future is a product of our decisions as designers and as humans. Alicia Shao's "Thinking About Futures NOW" and Louise Vang Jensen's "What's Next vs What's Valuable" underlined that what we value today should be what we bring to our desired futures. By investigating what we value now and what values endure, we can cultivate a mindset that takes advantage of past and present knowledge to innovate solutions for sustainable futures.  

Futures thinking and ethnography are both areas of study that I feel are key to growing the design profession when thinking of sustainability and innovation. 
- Liisa Benmergui, Principal Service Designer 

Desirability, feasibility, viability AND sustainability

The classic Design Thinking Venn diagram has a new, important dimension. Many conference talks emphasised the crucial role of designers in creating more sustainable and inclusive future services. Let’s take on that challenge! 

“Tool-centric-design" or trying to make organising around customer experience easier? I am currently very interested in tools that would help scale service design and enable large organisations to align around holistic customer experiences rather than work in silos developing individual products and service touchpoints.

I do agree that usually, the tooling is not the most challenging part of this path. People, culture and ways of working are much harder to change. Still, I am convinced that proper tools can smooth the way. 
- Mervi Rauhala, Principal Service Designer 

 Improving inclusive design

I agree that sustainability has become an integral variable in the design process. Another thing that resonated with me was a tool presented by Mansi Gupta: the women-centric eye. In my current customer, the variety of users is wide. I got the idea of using the tool for taking other special user groups' concerns and needs into account. This is a concrete way for enhancing inclusive design, which is an important value for me as a designer. 
- Merita Lemmetty, Senior Designer 

 Design and designers as enablers

The most inspiring speeches challenged us as designers to think about how much power we have when defining future directions and possibilities. We have all the tools and means to bring about change, so long as we dare to use that power to do good and identify the desired futures to aim towards. Leyla Acaroglu shook us as an industry into direct action instead of rhetoric. She emphasised that we humans can be the problem OR the solution of the future, depending on what and how we plan in the future, according to the principles of sustainable development or not.   

We designers have so many great tools and superpowers, such as storytelling. So let's use those superpowers to make the stories of the future even more interesting, desirable and attainable. 
- Tia Sistonen, Senior Service Designer  

As all good things come to an end, we all agreed that the conference talks were well-curated. We do hope you will get a chance to enjoy them once the recordings are shared with the public. In the meantime, if you are looking to dive into a service design project, we would love to sit down and have a chat. We are inspired, recharged and ready to tackle the challenges you and your organisation might be facing. 

Drop us a line and we will be happy to help you envision a more equitable and desirable future today! 

Further reading: Book recommendations from various talks 

  • Caroline Criado Perez: Invisible woman  

  • Kate Raworth: DoughnutEconomics 

  • Katrine Marcal: Mother of Inventions 

  • Charles H. Vogl: The Art of Community 

  • Erica Keswin: RitualsRoadmap 

  • Kursat Ozenc: Rituals for Work 

  • Anna Valtonen & Petra Nikkinen: Designing Change - New Opportunities for Organisations 

  • Donna J. Haraway: Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Experimental Futures) 

  • Christian Bason: Expand – Stretching the Future By Design 

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