The future is in the ‘how’ instead of the ‘what’


It is not technology but a true understanding of human need that determines which companies will succeed in the future, argues service designer Alex Nisbett from Livework London.

“I don’t think there can ever be too many service designers. There are more than enough challenges which they can help solve”, says Alex Nisbett, a service designer at a London-based service design agency Livework. Livework offers service design consulting for both the public and private sector, creating solutions for organizations and companies to enhance the user-experience of their services and products, which increases value for the service user and provider alike.

Currently Livework is employed by the UK government to improve the way young people become aware of, receive and use their National Insurance numbers, as well as Scandinavian Nordea, helping a team in Savings & Wealth Offerings to develop their own service design skills and processes. Livework is also supporting the Finnish KONE in developing and delivering better services to its customers. Nisbett sees that it is no longer the products themselves that make companies valuable in today’s competitive market, but also the experience of using them. “People are more interested in how the product or service is used and what happens when it doesn’t work: how a person is treated whenever they need support.”

There is a high demand for strategic design

With fourteen years of experience in service design, Livework has become an established player in the field of service design. Whereas many companies see service design as something mainly digital, Livework puts emphasis on strategic thinking and human interaction. “We focus rather on the how than on the what”, says Nisbett. This has paid off and made Livework stand out among competitors. Livework was recently contacted by a big Finnish company that had been on the lookout for a service design agency to support the development of their services. The company turned to Livework because they felt that many of the companies they had contacted were too focused on creating digital solutions rather than re-evaluating the services from a strategic point of view.

Nisbett believes that Livework’s appeal as a service design agency is based not just on long experience but also the comprehensive track-record achieved through it: new clients want to see references that they can identify themselves with. “What companies are looking for is proof of cases where we have solved challenges similar to the ones they are facing. They also want to see numbers: how much has been saved or earned through the implementation of service design. The third factor is the effort put into the process. We put a lot of time and thinking into planning as well as delivery, and make the best out of our multi-disciplined, multi-cultural team”, Nisbett says.

Nisbett himself has a background in graphic design and his colleagues come from many different schools and countries. The service designer thinks that versatile backgrounds are essential in service design because they allow the designers to bring in many different perspectives and strategic viewpoints.

Design capability needs to be built within companies

The designer believes that in the next 10 to 15 years there will still be demand for external service design consultancies but at the same time service design will become a integral part of organisations’ ‘business as usual’ operations. Nisbett sees this development as a part of the changing self-perception of designers. “Years ago, we all wanted to work at a creative agency rather than internally for a big company. Now it seems that the tables have turned. Creating design capability from within, is an appealing option that many young designers are willing to grab.”

Photo: Aurora Airaskorpi