Civil Service Live

9 March 2009 saw Civil Service Live move to Gateshead, where the power of design to help deliver better public services was showcased for thousands of delegates. london1

Four public sector managers shared their experiences of using design and how it has helped them reinvigorate their services.

  • Malcolm Page Deputy Chief Executive, One North East outlined how his regional development agency had been encouraging the use of design across the private and public sectors. He believes it can help in terms of productivity, wealth creation and in safeguarding of jobs.
  • Sunderland City Council's George R. Brash spoke about a worklessness project that put service designers live|work together with public sector managers to help ‘hard to reach’ people get back to work.
  • Tim White, Director of Regeneration, Middlesbrough Council always thought of designers as ‘people who design fancier kettles or better looking irons’. Working with the Design Council on Urban Farming project for Dott 07 (Designs of the times) he quickly learnt that they are much more than that.
  • Jim Edwardson Chair of the North East Regional Forum on Ageing and self professed ‘convert to the power of design’ spoke about his experience of using design on a Dott 07 (Designs of the time) project, Alzheimer100, which looked at how design can improve the daily life of people with dementia and of their carers.
  • Claire Byers is the Director of Public Affairs at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. When she joined, returning visitor and visitor recommendations figures were lower than desired. Working with service design agency live|work and consulting with frontline staff and visitors they identified that the user experience is the key to achieving their targets.

This event is evidently a very big step towards civil servants recognising that service design is vital for overcoming the challenges they face. I would have liked to heard more about the response from the audience. Do these managers intend to embrace service design again in the future? Some of these projects are over two years old...what message is this sending to the world about how fast service design is developing as a discipline and a skill set?

Livework in Icon's Top 20

The New Pioneers: Ben Reason is one of the top 20 most influential designers. 252

Ben Reason, founder of live|work is listed in the top 20 most influential designers who are shaping the future, in this months issue of The Icon:

Ben Reason’s raw material is systems. The initiator of ‘service design’ company live|work, Reason is putting the increasingly influential idea of generic ‘design thinking’ into practice, using it to try and solve social problems.

Reason set up the studio with two industrial designers to solve social issues by hacking into defunct services and re-organising them, linking them with others, or building them afresh. The studio represents the expansion of design into a new area, but although it’s a relatively new approach, it’s truer to the more traditional idea of design than many practices working today – to improve the way we live.

So far the studio has initiated a project in Sunderland to help get locals on incapacity benefit back to work. They built a 280 strong network connecting local employers with specialist carers such as mental health and drug rehabilitation organisations. Among the 800 helped was a former heroin addict, who thanks to a chat between his carers and some local employers is now a trained forklift truck driver. Another project was with Streetcar, a pay-as-you-go car-sharing service in London. While the idea was already in operation, it was down to the service designers to turn it into a desirable product and make it successful.

Service design has taken a back seat to capitalism – but as our systems continue to dissolve into Pynchonian chaos, service design will be needed to make sense of the sprawl and link it up. ‘We want to get involved with things on a national scale,’ says Reason. ‘There are lots of things that are wrong and they don’t have to be. A bit of design in organisations like the NHS is needed.’

Interview by Anna Baites The Icon 20/20 Issue 071 May 2009

Congratulations to Ben and everyone who lives and works with him!!

I would like to understand exactly what the phrase "Pynchonian chaos" means? Any theories?

Why Britain needs a revolution in Service Design

Trish Lorenz, design journalist and former service design consultant with Virgin Atlantic, tells the Design Council the benefits of service design are becoming clearer as the economic climate worsens; the need for businesses to place retaining and delighting customers at the top of their agenda has never been more urgent. Readers are introduced to the term of service design via the story of a trip to the cinema.


This is an excellent article, although I was a little disappointed to read about IDEO's Keep the Change project again. This project seems to have been the favourite example for the past three years.

Although, something we don't read about too often in this context - bad service design! Lorenz also give us some examples of service design there is a interesting title. Tell me about your service disasters...

Service Thinking

Livework's perspective on Service Thinking is creating infectious enthusiasm. Ralf Beuker, Nick Marsh,David Armano and Experientia have all highlighted Liveworks latest article - which discusses Service Thinking.

"The future demands fresh perspectives. Service Thinking provides just that."

The focus of the article is on people, networks and sustainability.


"Consider three pressing issues: healthcare, the environment, and finance. They are all vital to the quality of our lives. Yet in all three areas we have reached the limits of industrial thinking. In the future, the solutions lie with a service approach.

The goal of Service Thinking and Service Design is to maximise the potential of services and to create shared value for organisations and their customers. This value is measured in the personal, social and environmental capital created by great services. At live|work we call this value Service Equity. And this, we believe, is the future."