Luis Tosta | Unsplash

Luis Tosta | Unsplash

In part one of this post, I introduced Service Design and Design Thinking as structured approaches to identifying and solving problems. But neither discipline can have a real impact if they don't form part of organisational policy. Solutions simply cannot scale if they don’t have a place within organisational strategy, and without that place, there is little chance that Service Design will become the new normal. Things are hotting up for us in the Lab. The Bromford 2point0 programme is well underway, and Insight & Innovation are being asked to play a key role in the programme delivery. We have a growing pipeline of exploration areas, tests, and design challenges, but in order to be sure that we are working on the right things, we must have a clear idea of how the work we are doing feeds into the 2point0 programme strategy. This is where the golden thread comes in.

We need golden threads in the design process. If we can’t see how our work fits into the wider strategy we might just be adding clutter.
— Me

The Bromford 2point0 program is comprised of 6 overarching projects and 31 service areas (not teams) spread across those projects. Two weeks ago, I facilitated a workshop in which we looked at our Insight & Innovation pipeline in order to revisit the problem definition, rationalise work packages where appropriate, and link each piece of work to both a service area and one of the 6 overarching projects. Immediately in my mind, things started to become clearer. A thread had started to emerge between each piece of work in the pipeline and the specific part of the 2point0 programme to which it was contributing.

In my previous posts, I’ve blogged about the customer interviews that I am currently leading on. On a macro level, since the workshop two weeks ago I am clear on how these interviews fit in to the wider programme of work, but on a micro level when it comes to making sense of the research, I’m also going to introduce a thread which will help ensure that design decisions that we make can be tracked back to actual conversations with customers. Essentially that means that we will be able to track back through each decision point, idea, insight and conversation; proving the point that design is about more than aesthetics along the way.

Back in 2013 I attended a workshop hosted by Frog designer and author of Creative Clarity,  Jon Kolko. The workshop was a breakout session Jon was hosting at the Service Design Global Conference in Cardiff, and it opened my eyes. The topic of the workshop was design synthesis, which is essentially the process of making sense of research and turning it into something which is structured and useful to the design process; it’s the alchemy of turning data into insight.  

In human centred design every design decision should be based on an insight.
— Me again

Jon introduced me to the concept of structuring this sense-making process, introducing a thread to the synthesis which allows each idea to be tracked back to an insight and each insight to be tracked back to an interview or piece of desktop research. By pulling observations out of an interview and coding them to the interview number, sorting those observations into themes and coding those, then using themes to generate insights and coding those, it’s essentially possible to link an insight back to a line number in an interview transcript (or conversation point). This also works when creating personas. It’s possible to link each persona to the interviews which influenced it.

These golden threads add a level of accountability to the design process and are important in helping us communicate the value of design. By working transparently and exposing the golden thread in our design documentation and handoff reports, it's possible to highlight how we’ve moved from our scrappy sketch notes and post-its to a deliverable solution, highlighting a clear connection to the latter from the former. There is, however, a balance to be struck. Ultimately the most important factor for designers is to demonstrate value through outcomes. I remember Lee Sankey asking the Service Design Global Conference back in 2013 - “Is service design more in love with the process than the outcomes?” It’s a point also reinforced by Louise Downe at the 2017 conference in her tweet calling for designers to show the outcome, not the process. I agree with what both Lee and Louise were getting at. But I can't help think that when appropriate, if we as designers can be open about the work that goes into delivering an outcome, and can throw carefully directed light on the process that got us there, I’m sure that normalising design within our organisations could be a lot closer than we might think.

Design has purpose.

Design has process.

Design has structure.

Design has accountability.