I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Marc and Marcel from 31 Volts - a service design agency based in Utrecht.

I like to talk about Service Design...lots...this was a great opportunity to see it in action in the real world :) There are lots of interesting projects happening at 31 volts - ranging from tackling obesity in local schools to improving the service of an insurance company.

Since beginning my work in Amsterdam, I have been reading and hearing the word 'tools' very often. This was puzzling me slightly....'what is a tool? Surely, a tool can be any single thing at all?'. Part of my task was to design 'tools' to encourage interaction, to draw information out of stakeholders etc.

Marcel's perspective on what a 'tool' can be to a service designer is interesting:

"A tool is anything that is not a question. They spark conversations..."

This made my thinking much clearer. I also believe it is important to design 'how' tools will be used and 'when' and 'where'.

This is a little tool they designed as a 'leave-behind' for one of their workshops.

The participants take this bottle filled with coffee beans, sugar and syrup, home with them. The writing on the front instructs the owner to shake the bottle once a week for 4 weeks. The mixture will then dissolve into a tasty coffee shot.

It is personal, thoughtful and interactive. The kind of thing you need to provide so participants don't forget about the workshop, and the issues and questions keep ticking over in their mind.

And of course, it is fun :)

Another tool used to bring stakeholders to life. Life sized cardboard cut-outs.

A nice little experiment Marc created:  'One Line of Service Design'

"If you look closely, most people tend to give a definition of service design. But now what are those practical examples you'd give to your grandma (eg. service design makes you walking out of a hospital with a smile?)"

I like this. I created a similar experiment as part of my dissertation research. I sent out postcards asking the question "What is service design?"

I think these are good examples of how to gather opinions and visually display them.

We need tools like this to help us understand ourselves what it is we do.

The team have excellent blog. It is written mostly in Dutch, but lots of interesting links and images for the non-dutch :)

They will also be part of the Picnic Conference and the Service Design Network conference in Amsterdam.


In the very short time I was there I learned alot...in particular the challenge all service designers of explainng what they do to other people.

I really liked their studio space, which was in an old school building. The building has lots of creative teams working within it...A great environment!

Thank you for sharing your stories with me and making me welcome!