The value of design in complex systems

Key takeaways from last Random Friday event

At our last Random Friday event in Copenhagen, we had the pleasure to hear María Vitaller del Olmo and Hadas Zohar from the Service Design Lab share their insight on the value of service design in complex issues. In this article, you can learn more about some of the key takeaways.

The Service Design lab at Aalborg University Copenhagen research and apply service design as an exploratory, co-creative and empowering approach to address issues of societal concern.

1. Using temporary interventions

When dealing with complexity, the question often moves from how might we redesign a service to how might we generate the conditions, tools, and capabilities to facilitate and support the redesign of a service.

A way to approach complex urban challenges is to implement temporary interventions in the meanwhile space. A meanwhile, space is the area between the plan of action and the delivery of the regenerated area. The T- Factor project is one of the Service Design Lab's ongoing projects about urban regeneration. It focuses on leveraging the meanwhile towards desirable futures. The Service Design Lab emphasises the value of implementing temporary interventions to slowly transform a space towards urban regeneration. The interventions can become a resource to test, prototype, and further iterate, with the potential to influence its surroundings and the plan itself. This bottom-up approach effectively assures human-centric results when working with an undefined present toward an unknown future.

María Vitaller and Hadas Zohar talked about dealing with complex systems and temporary interventions as an approach. For example, they brought up Refshaleøen, an area in northern Copenhagen. While it used to be an industrial port, a master plan was launched five years ago. The development plan has a 70-year perspective and should allow Refshaleøen to be part of a vibrant, local community.

2. Creating the right tools

When working with complexity, designers can create the conditions to allow for positive transformation by providing stakeholders with the right environment. Service designers have tools to gather information and create user-centered solutions. In addition, certain situations require re-inventing existing methods to address new issues. An example is how the Service Design Lab arranged hackathons in their work with easyRights. easyRights is a project funded by the EU Horizon 2020.

Gathering inspiration from the hackathon's intense co-creation, the Service Design Lab tweaked the event to fit a design approach. In their work with EasyRight, the "hackathons" mission was focused on improving existing services in collaboration with problem holders, migrants, and stakeholders.

easyRights sought greater integration of migrants by providing better access to information about their rights. The project was divided into three faces: The first phase focused on understanding and exploring the current services. Later, through hackathons, the participants were asked to propose solutions to solve the defined challenges. Finally, the jury board consisting of users, experts, and stakeholders chose a winning team. The team got offered a three-month contract to collaborate with the local service provider and a technical team to develop and implement the improved service.

3. Digging into the 'why'

Fieldwork lays the foundation for constructive investigation and improvement of services by allowing us to define the actual problem. We do this by observing the services being used rather than asking the service providers how they are intended. An example is how EasyRight investigated the public service providers in Birmingham and discovered that several migrants were not receiving important information due to language barriers.

By digging into the why they discovered that migrants lacked both confidence and information in their mother tongue about language courses. It was evident that the existing services were missing a migrant-centered approach. Migrants, therefore, became a vital element in the redesign by being included in the hackathon. They acted as storytellers and mentors to help define ideas and be part of the jury.

Would you like to know more about service design and how design methodology can help approach complex challenges? Please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Educational and social events happen at our different offices in EGGS every month. Stay tuned to our social media channels for updates.

Sounds interesting?

Katja Egmose

Have a chat with our Director of EGGS Denmark
Katja Egmose
+45 299 00 197

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