Word of the week for Service Designers

Language is a very crucial part of designing services. That's why I wanted to share this newly discovered word with you. I think it captures the way many of us think in terms of systems, processes and services. Autopoiesis literally means "auto (self)-creation" and expresses a fundamental dialectic between structure and function. The term was originally introduced by Chilean biologists in 1973.


"An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network.

[…] the space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described by using dimensions that define another space. When we refer to our interactions with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system on the space of our manipulations and make a description of this projection."

The term autopoiesis was originally presented as a system description that was said to define and explain the nature of living systems.  An autopoietic system implies that not only it has the capacity to acquire knowledge, but also that knowledge itself, understood as effective action, determines the viability and, indeed, the very existence of the subject.

Good isn't it?

Thank you to SianeP for highlighting I had autopoieses on my mind yesterday!

'People' or 'service users'

Encouraging officers to use plain language and communicate effectively with their residents, the Local Government Asssociation (LGA) has produced a list of 200 words and phrases currently used by councils, that make very little sense to most people. The LGA recognises that words sometimes used by public sector bodies make their services inaccessible, as people fail to understand their relevance. In turn, this reduces their chances of getting the right assistance at the earliest opportunity.


It is therefore essential that all matters are explained to people in plain, simple and clear English. This is even more important today, given that Britain is so multicultural, with many people accessing public body services without English as their first language.

For example, you should avoid using:

  • best practice
  • service users
  • outsourced
  • multi-agency

And in their place, encourage the use of:

  • best way
  • people
  • privatised
  • many groups

Whilst this observation has been made by the LGA, it is of course just as applicable to Registered Providers. The use of plain language benefits all those concerned, as it:

  • breaks barriers between professionals in the public sector and local people
  • eliminates meaningless language
  • is far more effective, and can result in fewer calls and/or letters from people due to misunderstanding or confusion, resulting in less pressure being put on the professionals
  • can help reduce the drain on finances for queries that could otherwise have been resolved through using plain, simple language in the first place

Communicating with your customers should be easy: it is about having a common understanding of what is being communicated.  If the message is not getting across, then what is the point?  Use plain language!"

Full list of 200 words which the local government association says should not be used by councils.

This list is long overdue. I wonder what the same list would look like for designers? What word would be at the top of the list?

(Via. 'Try using plain english')