Re-connecting people and organizations through human-centered design


Bits of what I’m learning along the way

Service Design Global Conference 2015 Reflections


This year I attended the Global Conference of the Service Design Network. I'm writing this post to share some of the content that most excited me, specifically the presenations on government, labor, ecosystems, and spectators. If you want to see all the keynotes and many of the presentations and workshops, SDN posted them here.


Citizens are in a lifelong relationship with government. That's one reason why I believe in creating better front-line experiences with government—be it civilian-police relations, interactions at the DMV, or the experience of voting. So I was surprised and delighted by the presentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The current state of the VA experience is so confusing, ineffecient, and frustrating that I was shocked to find them at the conference at all. They do a disservice to many who've been through hell. As a result, the VA gets wielded as a political weapon against incumbent politicians.

So they set out to reform themselves using human-centered design and agile development. Last week on U.S. Veterans Day, they launched the minimum viable product of Time will tell whether they fulfill their mission, but the presentation by designer Sarah Brooks and bureaucrat Julia Kim shows they're on the right track. I'm thrilled to see my government creating experiences that are easier, more enjoyable, and more effective to use.

Labor Relations

The ever-provocative Cameron Tonkinwise commented on the future of work. His presentation (not recorded) struck me as important philosophically. We must consider the employee experience, not just the customer experience. This quote I paraphrased in this tweet during Cameron's talk still resonates with me:

I think Marx described a major problem facing many businesses when he described the worker's alienation. It's wrong to treat people like machines. How might we create profitable businesses that treat all their employees with full dignity and respect?


J. Scott King of Frog Design led a workshop on ecosystem mapping. It was useful for aligning the values of all stakeholders. His slides contain instructions that anyone could follow in facilitating such a workshop.

Spectator Sports

The lead designer of the spectator experience for the 2012 Olympics in London, Alex Nesbitt, narrated his adventures in overcoming challenges to delight and engage fans as never before.