service design

In conversation with Tenny Pinheiro: service design and entrepreneurship

I'd like to introduce you all to Tenny Pinheiro. Tenny lives in San Francisco, CA. He is the author of three books on Design Thinking and Service Design, his latest publications are The Service Startup: Design Thinking gets Lean and Breaking Free From The Lean Startup Religion: The Service Designer Manifesto.

Glasgow to Manchester. One year in review.

One year ago I moved to Manchester. And here are some highlights of what I've done since. One year in review. Before we go any further I'm aware this post is a sort of showreel. One of my students called it diary narcissism and he may well have a point. So why have I written this? Firstly, going through my calendar and pulling it all together made me reflect. At Hyper Island reflection is part of how we operate. Asking ourselves questions on a daily basis to try to understand why we behave the way we do and have the feelings we have. This process made me realise how important these past 12 months have been for me. Why? I made a super big decision. I'm still in a period of transition. I'm making a huge effort to slow down. This involves things like trying to be quiet, going to the gym, eating well, reading books and often having feelings of guilt, doubt and confusion associated with said activities.

Secondly, I want to make it easy for other people to start things. I'm sharing this in the hope that it will add some value to you and the journey that you are on.

Thirdly, it's my 29th birthday today. For me this is as good a reason as any to hold up a mirror and take stock.

Here goes...I've pulled out the biggest learnings from each one.


I was nominated as one of Nesta's New Radicals for the Nightriders pilot I designed and launched. You can watch a video of the pilot here. 

  • Nothing much happens as a result of being on a list of radical people but being in a newspaper makes talking about what I do easier.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 20.54.10

My first week at Hyper Island was spent facilitating foundation weeks for twenty part time MA students.

  • Nothing is more impactful l than face to face interaction and silence is powerful.





I talked about starting things and how to use the design process to make things happen at "How to innovate Your Future" at The Carnegie Club in St. Andrews University.

  • We are still conforming to business students wearing suits and art school students wearing ripped jeans.



I attended the Service Design Network's 7th global annual conference in Stockholm. I was chuffed to be invited to the members day and hang out with some of the most brilliant, inspiring people I know.

  • Friendships are very important to me. I want to work with people I genuinely like. These events strengthen existing friendships and make new ones but don't open up the community to people who are different from the organisers and the attendees.IMG_2537I was on a panel with some fellow service designers answering some tough questions from the audience.
  • Students all over the world are asking the same questions. We (me) need to make it easier for people to understand how to learn how to work this way.


The one and only Adam Lawrence invited me to help him facilitate a 600 person thumb war. Excellent.

  • You can make a room full of hundreds of people feel like a small house party.


I spent four days in Paris with my friend Vincenzo Di Maria teaching service design to fashion marketing students from the business school INSEEC.

  • Teaching is extremely difficult when your students don't want to learn. We mustn't forget there are more people in Europe who want to work for Coco Chanel than those who want to tackle social problems.



I ran a workshop for undergraduates at Paris School of Art. You can read about it here.

  • Traditional education providers are hungry for new ways of doing things.



I was interviewed for Carola Verschoor's up and coming book about Design and Research that will be published by BIS Publishers of Amsterdam , The Netherlands.

  • The sheer skill that goes into crafting and asking the right questions in the right way must never be underestimated. Carola is very good at this.

I spent time talking to potential students about why they should go to art school in Dundee, Scotland.

  • Career fairs are very strange places and need re-designed. Good things always come from spending time with people you've not seen for years.



I was interviewed by Digital Arts Magazine about my work at Hyper Island.

  • There are many people trying to deliver design education differently.

I created this poster to explain the differences between various design disciplines and the internet really liked it. The tweets are still rollin' in!

  • Definitions are boring but necessary for those who are learning. Metaphors really help people outside of the bubble you work in understand what you are going on about.


I designed and delivered a workshop with these two great chaps at FutureEverything. We talked about how you reimagine very familiar experiences.

  • You don't always need to have a strategy. Sometimes just doing something with good people is enough.



I delivered Hyper Island way week on a real island called Karlskrona.

  • Your environment really does matter. I was on an island, in the rain, near lighthouses. This had a big impact.



The students gave me a red balloon to carry all the way back to England. I only got as far as airport security but the airport staff definitely smiled.


I delivered a working shop with the brilliant Chris Ball at Digitas LBI around experience design principles; where they come from, why they are important and how to build them.

  • A team of strangers can create a fairly solid insight to design upon in a very short space of time.




I designed and delivered an event for Hyper Island alumni in London so we could talk about the new Experience Design programme.

  • I'm really excited by networks of people. Particularly global networks.




I spoke at a National Housing Federation event focused on design leadership.

  • I don't know much about housing. My design experience is valuable for people in this space.




I spoke at Management Today's Inspiring Womens conference in Edinburgh about the successes and setbacks of running a start up.

  • More often than not you don't need funding you need paying customers. When a government funded body tells you to download a business plan and fill it in don't do it.


I spoke at Talk UX Manchester about why I believe designers need to up their game. You can read what the audience thought here. 

  • There are many people who come home from work every day feeling they haven't made a positive contribution to the world. Again. It's up to us (me) to show support you; leaders, founders and CEO's to create the systems, space and structures for creativity to flourish.


I spent the day teaching sixty undergraduate design students. We designed our future and wrote letter to the future of Scotland. You can read about it here.

  • It's much easier to write a letter to your country when you are asked to do it then and there. It's one of those things people tend to overthink. Thinking about the future is scary for each of us. It's up to us (me) to make that easier and to support each other in designing the life we want to live.


I designed and delivered a workshop about creative learning with the fabulous trio Hazel White, Mike Press and Gillian Easson. You can read about it here.



I spoke on a panel at Mortimer Spinks technology event about equality.

  • Some people are just dicks and it's good practice to learn how to deal with this whilst being stared at. To combat this I am buying this badge.


Dearest Scotland reached it's kickstarter campaign.

  • A kickstarter campaign is a shit tonne of work. Thank you to Sarah and Cat for their hard work and resilience. Sometimes you meet people and they tell you they like your idea but then don't email you back. Then they copy you. In the long run that's a good thing.



We opened Hyper Island's door to nineteen Experience Design Students. You can meet them over here. I have learned so much it's a whole other blog post. More on that coming soon. All I know is this was a day I will never forget.



I wrote a book chapter in Cory Lebson's UX Careers Handbook about Service Design, this will be published early 2016 by CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group).

  • There is a need for very practical advice on what all these different design disciplines look like in industry in terms of careers.

I spoke on a panel at St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland. You can read about it here.

  • It's still common to be the only women in a room. Often the 'technology' conversation at events is dominated by the digital start up narrative. I don't think this is particularly helpful.


I ran a session at Digital Shoreditch about the future of learning. You can read about it here. 

  • I'd have got a lot more out of it if I had prioritised time to go to other sessions. Just turning up and delivering ain't for me.


I spoke at UX Scotland - the conference for the UX, Service Design and Digital Communities in Scotland and the north of england.

  • Every event you go to you meet one special person. You mustn't leave until you find that person. They are always there. For me, this time, her name was Jane Austin. 
  • More often than not presenters are either great speakers with not much to say or awful speakers with amazing stuff to say. The world needs to get better at finding strong speakers with meaningful content to share. I reckon there are more people with meaningful content out there than there are strong speakers. How do you share your content?


I wrote an article for NET Magazine about Designers and social change.

  • I am on a mission to talk about this way of working in spaces where it's not talked about. Web and tech magazine being the one step on that journey. I really enjoy writing about things I believe in. The writing is always much better when you really care about what you are writing about.


I spoke at Cycle Hack Manchester and applauded the work of the Snook team over the Cycle Hack weekend.

  • Really powerful things happen when you have an idea and give it away. Rubber chickens are precious but are often stolen.


I ran a workshop for NUX Leeds on the basics of service design. You can read more about the content and participant feedback here. 

  • The music you play in a workshop has a big impact on the energy in the room. There are a tonne of digital agencies out there who still don't really talk to customers. There's work to be done.


I spoke at She Says Manchester (on a roof in the sunshine!) about doing good and working hard.

  • Speaking on a stage outside is something I'm not used to. Such things don't happen in Glasgow. I'd highly recommend it. As Louise MacDonald once said to me, there is something about being able to see the sky.


I designed and delivered a module for The Queen's Young Leaders Programme which supports exceptional young people from across the commonwealth. My module was focused on how to build the networks and relationships you need.

  • Video is a great way to share knowledge when you can't be in the same room as someone. ScreenFlow is  a good way to do this. I want to help others build the networks of people they need around them. If you need help with this talk to me.

I started a 100 Day Project focused on starting a conversation around feminism. You can read about the 100 Equivalism questions and join in over here.

  • Doing something every day for 100 days is hard. Feminism is very complex.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 23.34.40


I delivered a talk at Hyper Island on how to build communities around your ideas.

  • There is a need for more resources in this space. I'm now working on a digital resource around this topic so if you'd like to know more talk to me.



Lucy Stewart and I co-wrote a chapter in this book about service design and Scotland's public sector. You can buy it here.

  • Microsoft Word is capable of reducing me to tears. It's important to tell stories to new audiences. This is how ideas spread.


I wrote an article for NET magazine about networking; don't connect, make your net work for you. People liked it.

  • This forced me to articulate some things I've been thinking about for a while. Saying yes to a talk or writing a thing often forces you to get stuff out of your head and onto paper.



I put a job ad out to find the new CEO of Know Sugar. Watch this space. You too Jamie!

  • I had the choice to run Know Sugar and I chose not to. I'm finding this decision tricky to honour and respect. This tells me I need to practice giving ideas away and handing them over so here goes.


I was nominated for Young Digital Leader Award for Service Designer of the year. 

  • Service Design Award categories never used to exist. This is a good sign that the process is becoming more known and accepted.

Daniel Harvey and I put together this proposal for SXSW

  • SXSW is on my list of global events that I want to experience. Thank you to everyone who voted for us. I really don't like things that count on public vote. Feels too much like the person with the most friends wins.

I spent the day at the Outbox Incubator. Wow. You can read about it here.

  • The story of how Anne-Marie had an idea to hire a massive house and fill it with girls who code and help them is brilliant. She reminded me how important it is to do, make and ship. I think this model is really transferable. I want to create a version of this for women in their 40's plus. What do you think?


I designed and delivered an event with the team at Made by Many exploring the future of design education. You can read about it here.

  • Design education really matters to a lot of people. It's my (our) responsibility to galvanise this energy. I'm spending time with various design agencies in this space and I think it's high time they (we) all got in a room and talked about what's really not working and how we can work better as a one network. What do you think?



I joined up with my friend Chris Arnold to talk to his industrial design students at Auburn University in Alabama, USA about how to use the internet to get your work noticed.

  • Skype is a bit shit and Google Hangout is much better. I must never underestimate the comedic value of a Glaswegian accent during moments of technical difficulty.



I was featured in ELLE magazine alongside FKA Twigs and Miley. It has been suggested I get in touch with Maisie Williams to create Game of Services.

  • My masters thesis was focused on making service design make sense to everyone who needs it. I wrote a book called Making Service Sense which people wanted to buy ( I then lost the digital files and got distracted by Sarah Drummond but that's another blog post). Google tells me ELLE is the world's best selling fashion magazine. This matters to me because it is a step towards bringing design into peoples consciousness and vocabulary; design that is not about what things look like but how things work.

Never mind Miley. It's Mhairi Black I'm proud to be in the company of.



I met one of my heroes; David Kelley is the founder of IDEO and Stanford's D. School. And yes the moustache was that good in real life.


What's next...

So the future is looking good.

I'm running a four day Experience Design Lab in London in November. You can buy tickets here. My second crew of students arrive in January (there's still time to apply to study with me at Hyper Island). I'm teaching, writing and speaking for all sorts of people in all sorts of places (if you'd like to talk about teaching, writing or speaking talk to me). I'm working on Equivalism, Know Sugar and Nightriders.

Next month, I'm running a workshop at Service Design Network event in NYC and I'm speaking at Webdagene in Norway. 

So my question to you is: what are you working on and how can I help you? If I can't help you I'll find someone who can.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my birthday. Best get back to it. 

100 days later

For the past 100 days we’ve been asking questions to stimulate conversation around the topic of feminism - you can read why over here and what I'd learned half way through over here. More on that coming soon. For now, I'd like to ask you to answer these questions to help us understand any impact this small project has had and any value it has created and to get a better sense of where it should go next.

Thank you for taking part and sharing your ideas. This project wouldn’t have continued without you.

It will take about 10 minutes... GO

St. Gallens Symposium in Switzerland

I have just spent three wonderfully sunny days at the St Gallen Symposium in Switzerland. I was delighted to be invited to share a panel with Alice Bentinck, co-founder of Entrepreneur First, Miku Hirano from Japan, CEO of Cinnamon and Gulnaz Khusainova from Russia, CEO of Easysize. The panel was chaired by Peter Day from the BBC, and the topic we were challenged to explore was female entrepreneurship around the theme of ‘proudly small’. This is a theme that has been on my mind since the launch of Small is Beautiful and I think it's a very interesting and important area to focus on. I must begin with a disclaimer that the label of entrepreneurship being female or male makes me uncomfortable. We never read about the latter do we? In this article I’d like to share the questions I was asked by Peter, and the audience, as well as my answers to hopefully paint a vivid picture for those of you who couldn’t be there. I hope it's interesting or useful to you...


What made you start your business? 

I like this question because I think it helps people realise that not everyone who starts a business grew up thinking of themselves as the next Richard Branson. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes and business owners are driven by a whole host of different things. I wanted to use the design process to tackle social problems, I always imagined I would work at one of the service design agencies in London (there weren’t any in Scotland) so I interned at ThinkPublic, the only social design agency doing this kind of work in the UK at the that time. If I’m really honest I didn’t have a good experience, I also didn’t like London very much. Meanwhile, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the expectation that Scottish design graduates move to London - what a shame. Whilst running a workshop for Thinkpublic I met Sarah, who was studying at GSA and after various chance encounters, tweets, and a Cassie orchestrated coffee we decided Scotland wasn’t big enough for the both of us. We were going to join forces and do some work together.

We never set out calling ourselves entrepreneurs (we still don’t) or on a mission to start a business. We were full of energy, determination and ideas. Our first idea was a project called that we gained funding for, but we needed a bank account and a company name to access the funding - and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Business is not black and white, there are many shades of grey in-between. You might want to build a digital product, raise finance and sell out. You might want to figure out how to turn your hobby of making flower arrangements into something that pays you. No idea is too small nor too big.

I started by business because it felt like the right thing to do. I felt like I didn’t have any other choice. It’s that simple. I wrote about this topic 'Coming clean on doing what you love" over here  too.


Do you have a mentor? 

There’s not one person I would single out as my mentor. I’m very lucky that I have a whole host of people who I lean on for practical advice and emotional support. I also have a very close and supportive family - this is something I am becoming more and more grateful for.

I am good at asking for help. If I don’t know something, I seek out someone who does know and ask them to help me. Nine times out of ten they do and if they can’t they find somebody who can. I try very hard to do the same when people ask me for help.

At Hyper Island, we spend a lot of time thinking about lifelong learning and what that means. Alvin Toffler says: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. This is absolutely true. I believe everyone should have a mentor and be a mentee their whole life - no matter who you are or what you do. What this word ‘mentor’ means is up to you and the person you are learning with. Get rid of any assumptions about what that relationship has to be and make it work for both of you. I started a reverse mentoring programme with Leslie Evans, a Directorate at The Scottish Government. This was inspired by my desire to challenge the idea that older people should mentor young people. We turned it on it’s head. I built a circle of critical friends who support and challenge Snook and I’m now the proud accountability partner of Scott Sherwood.

You are a role model. We all are. Somebody somewhere wants to be you. How amazing is that? Oh, and of course I got asked if I have more female mentors than male. I’ve never thought about it before and now that I have there is no pattern of gender - only a pattern of empathy, enthusiasm, generosity and expertise.

Would your business be different if it were run by a man? 

Seriously? F*** off. The fact I repeatedly get asked this question shines a light on the depth of the ‘equality problem’ we are tackling, better than I ever could. Firstly, the male chairman would not ask a man this question, and secondly, how on earth does one answer the question? It’s absurd. I don’t know what it would be like to run my business as another person never mind another sex.


What is your experience of the ‘glass ceiling’ in the public sector?

My experience of the public sector is one of being an external agency and working from the outside in. Yes, it is dominated by men but Scotland’s public sector is home to some extraordinary female leaders. Louise MacDonald, Karyn McCluskey, Nicola Sturgeon, Sue Bruce, Jackie Killean and Justine Curran to name a few. All of these women I have had the pleasure of meeting and/or working with and I’m grateful for their support, the work they do, and I continue to cheer them on from afar.

Of course, like many nations our public sector is a system designed and led by men. There’s no denying that - there is a ‘glass ceiling’. I often hear Glasgow’s public sector described as being ‘run by an old boys network’ and I definitely did experience that. But I also experienced prejudice from women, mainly in the form of judgement. How do I deal with this? I try to be as open and honest as I can be, and tell the truth as I see it. I call people out and name names. Yes, it’s hard and uncomfortable but I encourage you to do the same.

How do you overcome sexism? 

This is a tricky one as sexism is complicated. It takes many different shapes and forms, and context is king. I’m a huge fan of the @everydaysexism ( ) project and the way it has shone a light on the scale of the problem for both sexes.

I think solving sexism often boils down to confronting, not the ‘don’t you dare say that’ glare, ok maybe sometimes, but what I’m thinking is the kind of confronting that educates the misinformed. Tell the person that they are being sexist, and they might just listen. Also, call upon your fellow human beings to support you! That’s a call to arms to each and every one of us - if you see it, say something. No matter who you are, where you are or what gender you are.


Where do you learn confidence? 

We all want to be confident, don’t we? I get asked this question time and time again and yes I can tell stories from my childhood about how my relationship with my mum encouraged confidence from a young age but really I think the most important stories to tell are about enthusiasm and belief. My belief in the design process and the value of design is unwavering. Similarly, my enthusiasm is genuine and continues to grow and explode with every project and idea I meet. Mark McGuinness introduced me to the idea that enthusiasm is actually better than confidence. Those seeking confidence should replace the word itself with enthusiasm and see what happens. Why? Firstly, confidence is about you – enthusiasm is about your subject. Secondly, confidence is about you (again) and can be quite serious whereas enthusiasm is about others and can be lighter, more fun.

When do I use being a woman to my advantage? 

Again, seriously? Men do not get asked this question. This question reminded me of Amy Poehler's campaign #askhermore . The Parks and Recreation star launched a campaign to put an end to the anodyne and repetitive questions women are asked on the red carpet. The Twitter page for her group Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, which aims to inspire young women, suggested alternative questions to replace the usual ones about fashion and beauty.

"The #RedCarpet is open and we want the media to #AskHerMore! Let's go beyond 'who are you wearing?' and ask better questions! #GoldenGlobes"

What's it like to move from running your own business to having a boss?

Wow. This is the big question isn't it :) So much to say and I'm learning so much. I'm 10 months into this transition and this question is one I try to reflect on often. I will write a separate post...

Myths I’d like to address

Working every 24 hours a day seven days a week is cool

It’s not cool to work 24 hours a day, nor is it cool to work seven days a week. Most ‘entrepreneurs’ are in a very privileged position of being invited to share their ideas, stories and opinions with others, I take this very seriously. That’s why it makes me angry that a huge proportion of the stories focus on aggression and burn out and so few focus on the emotional journey, and exploring how this way of working can become more conducive to a high quality of life.


In some circles, the individual who eats the least, sleeps the least, works the hardest and is the most talented, is the most successful, I disagree. For me, the most successful individual is the one who leaves early to spend time with their friends or family. They can do this because they understand their working day is done, and they have the mental and physically ability to switch off.

I really wish this conversation could have lasted longer as it felt like we were just getting started when time was up! It was fantastic to hear the experiences of the other panellists and I highly recommend that you follow each of them online and explore the work they do. From our countries around the globe each of us have taken a unique path to where we are now, we all have different experiences of entrepreneurship, different ideas about where the problems are and proposals for how things could be better. This is a brilliant reflection of a truth I often need to remind myself; there is no right or wrong way to build ideas - what counts is that you start.

I’d like to say thank you to Rolf and the team at St. Gallen’s Symposium for inviting me to share my story and be part of this conversation. I'd also like to say thank you to my team mate Tash and the rest of my team at Hyper Island for making it possible for me to take the time out to take part in this event.


Know Sugar Start Up Needs YOU

Know Sugar is the world’s first change agent for sugar. 

It is an idea currently at cross roads and I'm looking for a co-founder to take our idea to the next level.

We’ve done the ground work by creating a refined concept, we’ve proved the need and the market and now it’s time for you to turn this idea into a business. Incase you missed it I shared the top 10 things I learned building the prototype over here. 

Download the details of this opportunity here. I can't wait to talk to you!