Design of services or designing for service? The application of design methodology in public service settings

Article by Kirsty Strokosch and Stephen P. Osborne: “The design of public services has traditionally been conducted by managers who aim to improve efficiency. In recent years though, human-centred design has been used increasingly to improve the experience of public service users, citizens and public service staff (Trischler and Scott, 2016). Design also encourages collaboration and creativity to understand problems and develop solutions (Wetter-Edman et al., 2014). This can include user research to understand current experiences and/or testing prototypes through quick repeated cycles of re-design.

To date, there has been little primary research on the application of design approaches in public service settings (Hermus, et al., 2020). Our article just published in Policy & PoliticsDesign of services or designing for service? The application of design methodology in public service settings, seeks to fill that gap.

It considers two cases in the United Kingdom: Social Security services in Scotland and Local Authority services in England. The research explores the application of design, asking three important questions: what is being designed, how is service design being practised and what are its implications?…

The research also offers three important implications for practice:

  1. Service design should be applied pragmatically. A one-size-fits-all design approach is not appropriate for public services. We need to think about the type of service, who is using it and its aims.
  2. Services should be understood in their entirety with a holistic view of both the front-end components and the back-end operational processes.  However, the complex social and institutional factors that shape service experience also need to be considered.
  3. Design needs flexibility to enable creativity. Part of this involves reducing bureaucratic work practices and a commitment from senior managers to make available the time, resources and space for creativity, testing and iteration. There needs to be space to learn and improve…(More)“.