Service Design Days 2022

With no expectations, an open mind, a broad smile - and perhaps a little bit of nerves - we left for Service Design Days 2022. While some team members had attended in previous years, we had no idea what to expect or how interesting Service Design would even be for us.

As soon as Service Design Days 2022 - let’s call it SDD22 in short - kicked off, we were positively surprised to learn that we actually encounter service design on a daily basis in a lot of things that we do. This immediately sparked our enthusiasm and interest even more!

Now, before we even begin to talk about the content, we have to mention the organisation of this conference.

From the warm and friendly welcome by the conference volunteers to the program and the way the masterclasses are assigned, all the way to the food and beverages and the way the program is structured, every little detail was taken care of in the very best way. Of course, it can be expected from a conference that talks about service design, but we feel that the conference’s organisation deserves a special shoutout.



Discovering Service Design

Our schedule was tight on both days and included:

  1. A kick-off with several keynote speakers
  2. Case & expert talks to immerse ourselves into the topics even more
  3. As icing on the cake, a masterclass to really apply what you learn here

Let’s go over some of our key takeaways of the conference.


Service design as part of the bigger picture

All sessions on the first day, or at least the ones we attended, are linked by the overarching idea that service design cannot live on its own, and we should keep in mind the bigger picture as we shape services.

Starting strong with Keynote Speaker Josina Vink who did a presentation on A critical look at shaping social systems. She talked about how design is done everywhere and all the time, and about how invisible systems can kill good service design. When creating an automated business process, you have to keep an eye on the bigger picture. After all, if your service is not used or found, you can design it as well as you want but it will never reach its purpose.

The day continued with Greg Bernarda’s keynote Why 21st century leaders need to think beyond business. The main message here was even more focused on seeing the bigger picture. Service design doesn’t stand alone. We have to understand that customers, employees, technology, etc. are all part of a larger ecosystem and they’re all interwoven to create a whole. Just looking at one aspect is not enough to become a leader in today’s world.


We then attended the case talk of Carol Tang, lead design futurist at LEGO-Group, the case talk of Jon Rodriguez, Service Design Director at Philips, and the case talk of Joel Freedman, Delia Di Filippantonio and Aleksandra Kozawska.

Carol Tang spoke about Designing futures through play. You’d think this is only possible in a company as the LEGO-group but you can apply this in any sector. It allows us to step outside of our comfort zone and put on another pair of glasses and see the problem we’re facing through the eyes of another version of yourselves. We did an exercise during this talk where we needed to think of ourselves in the future. A lot of people saw themselves in the third person, you see yourself as a character in a story. To be able to implement creativity you need to see yourself in first person in any situation and think how the issue at hand would affect you. Combine that with these pillars: actively engaged, joyful, socially interactive, iterative, meaningful input, and you’re set for success.

Jon Rodriguez addressed Service Design: how did we get here? In his case talk, he gave tips on how to become successful at service design. It’s important to keep in mind the whole process from A-Z, make sure everyone involved knows what their job is, and to keep the client central to your design. Our biggest takeaway was that a central design language system can help to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Our final case talk from Joel Freedman, Delia Di Filippantonio and Aleksandra Kozawska was about Using space to design for earth. It takes the idea of an outside-in approach to the next level by looking at space to understand how it can help us solve issues on earth. Not only that, though, they also spoke about the environmental impact of sending rockets and satellites to space without having a way to remove inactive satellites.


Finally, we closed day 1 with a masterclass each.

Jon Rodriguez, Iris Roijakkers and Piera Mattioli gave a Masterclass on Navigating complexity in organisational transformation. They used their own experiences at Philips to provide a framework of tools that can be used to implement a transformation in a complex multinational organisation.

Some of our key takeaways included:

  • We need to focus on making sustainable change, we can’t keep competing for better, faster and cheaper
  • We need to avoid falling into old patterns
  • We need to focus on finding the right people for our team
  • We need to find our superpower

Josina Vink lead the Masterclass on Shaping social structures. We need to understand that social structures are the patterns that guide how we interact and live in society. However, we are often not aware of them so we unconsciously reproduce hidden patterns. We have to become aware of social structures if we want to shape them towards a more desirable future.

Some of our key takeaways included:

  • There are way more social structures than we think, and we are often not conscious of them

  • Even something as simple as dressing for an occasion is a social structure

  • We need to build awareness of social structures so we can become conscious of them

  • When we try to influence them to shape the future, we should also be mindful of the consequences of what we are trying to do

Be mindful of ethical practices and social constructs

Building onto our final Masterclass of Day 1, the sessions of the second day (or at least the ones we’ve attended) can be framed within the idea that all services are designed from a certain perspective and we should be mindful of the ethical and social constructs that influence how we design them. We often don’t even realise just how much unconscious bias we include when we design something, so it is critical to challenge ourselves on this.

The second day, we first saw Bart Schutz and his keynote Ethical everything; how to prevent unethical practices. We were made aware that our brain automates everything in order to make our lives easier. However, it also automates unethical behaviour without us being aware of this. It’s interesting to consider how we can use service design to change this.


Then, we moved on to the case talk of Ich Gichuki, Design Lead at, the case talk of Anne Beate Hovind, Urban Developer at Future Library, and finally the case talk of Marco Tamburlini and Angelica Fontana, respectively General Manager and Service and Systems Designer at Sketchin.

Ich Gichuki gave a case talk on Designing for millions of underserved and hard-to-reach population. He framed three case studies from and explained how edge case design can help to see how we need to support less encountered users. For example, something as simple as a magnifying glass icon to indicate a search field can seem to be a standard in our eyes, but people in other countries might never click it because they don’t know what it means. We need to think different if we want to support these underserved communities, find out what they need and learn what they understand.

Anne Beate Hovind spoke about Stretching our time horizon - a future beyond our own lives. She talked about how both linear thinking and explorative thinking benefits us, you need the one to be able to reach the other. Her talk was inspiring because she tried to convey how she’s building her legacy in a way that it will be carried on long after she’s gone. Our biggest takeaway from this talk was that, as consultants, we need allies within the company we are working for to believe in our ideas and to fight for us, to have people that align with our ideas and that will carry on what we’ve started once we move on to another project.

Marco Tamburlini and Angelica Fontana presented their case talk Pirate tales from the MBOs' barricades. They argued that we need to stop looking at the short-term results and numbers in business but rather look towards the long run. When we talk about the users and people, we can shift from a product-centred short-term view to a user/human-centric long-term one.


Finally, we closed the second day with a Masterclass from Burcu Arsoy and Vaida Pakulyte on Decision making unravelled. We make tons of decisions every day, and with our current societal challenges we often need to make long-term decisions. As such, how we make decisions is becoming increasingly important.

Some of our key takeaways included:

  • We need to understand that the first piece of information we are presented with anchors itself into our minds and we will remember it as we make our decision

  • We make decisions based on the information we have available so any uncovered information will not be included in our decision-making process

  • We perceive how someone frames information when they present it to us which influences our decision

  • Without us even knowing it, these elements influence any decision we make so we need to be mindful of the information we have available, the information that was anchored into our minds, and the information that was framed by others

Closing thoughts

We were not entirely sure how relevant a Service Design conference would be in relation to our work. What we have found, though, is that service design shapes a lot of processes around us. Not only in business but also in society as a whole. The practices that we were taught can be applied to everything we do. In our own projects, it’s also beneficial to look at the bigger picture and to understand which outside constructs influence our work. By stepping out of our own field for a couple of days, we were able to take a lot of interesting perspectives with us that we can now apply to our own work.