At Your Service

At Your Service is a new podcast about service design— a tool for improving the way things work. Episode by episode, we’ll tell the story of one London design team facing down a big and difficult social challenge.

The podcast also doubles as my Master’s thesis at Hyper Island. You can read the academic supplement to this podcast here.

Episode 1: WTF is Service Design

“Service design is about shifting political power to people in communities” —Mike Press

In this inaugural episode, we debunk the biggest misconception about design, explain service design, and introduce the team we’ll be following for the next two months. We explain the process with help from a jazz band and a pinball machine. We also introduce the taboo and challenging design brief that will drive the rest of this season.

Episode 2: The P-word

“In a digital world, because we are the de-facto urban planners of our time, I think [redlining] is a term we need to pay a lot more attention to.” —Michael Hardy

In this episode, we share and summarize the findings of our research in financial services and inclusion. From the poverty premium to digital “poor doors,” there are a lot of opinions and complicated politics to understand. We hear from a digital expert, an ethnographer and lots of people immersed in problems of finance and banking while struggling to make ends meet.

Bonus links for this episode:

Episode 3: The Fog

“Design research is not something comfortable, at all.” —Dalma Kadocsa

There’s this little secret about the design process that nobody likes to talk about. It’s an anxiety-provoking, scary moment. It can feel pointless, but it actually has a purpose. What is it? Why do we work this way? Our team hits this moment of truth, and tries to maneuver out of it through a meeting with a certain expert in the sector.

Episode 4: A-ha

“Reframing from struggling to juggling— that’s a designerly lens.” —Nick Durrant

We finally make our way out of the fog, with help from an unexpected source. Building off this “a-ha,” we design phase 2 of our research plan, which takes us away from our desks and into the world. We also hear from Jeff Greger, a member of the FAIR Money research collective, who turns out to be doing some very similar work on the opposite side of the globe.

Episode 5: What’s this thing called?

“How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb?” —Gill Wildman

This episode is a special discussion about naming in design disciplines. What’s this work called, anyway? Service design? Experience design? Strategic, transdisciplinary, post-disciplinary?

At the table are George Oates, Sarah Drummond, Gill Wildman and Nick Durrant—founders of various design agencies here in the UK—plus Lily McCraith, an undergraduate student who’s just starting out.

Episode 6: Interviews & Insights

“It’s possible to be in business and not be an asshole.” —Neil Hinchley

In this episode, we reveal the results of our three-part research plan: understanding local business owners’ thoughts on community-building, a survey about loaning to neighbors, and learning from people who manage low incomes well. We dig into the design tools that helped us get the most out of our research. A special segment on power dynamics features two unusual and creative projects addressing the issues of economics and class.

Bonus links for this episode:

Episode 7: Open studio

This episode marks the end of phase 1 of this project. We’ve covered the first half of the “double diamond” process: discover and define. We close this chapter with an open house— a space to share what we’ve done, invite people into the process, and get precious feedback. Gill, Nick and Katie each share closing thoughts and hatch a plan for what will come next.

Bonus link for this episode: