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What is service design and how can it help you?

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Following the recent conclusion of the P*DA, Christina Melander, one of the jurors, recounts some of the jury experience highlights and the biggest takeaway from this design competition.

I was absolutely honoured when I was asked to be part of the President*s Design Award (P*DA) 2018 jury. Through my work as programme director at the Danish Design Centre and overseeing the Danish Design Award, I have been following Singapore design and its impressive development for years. Further, I’m thrilled to be part of the jury the year when the competition is re-launched with a greater emphasis on the impact of design.

In the case of P*DA, we speak of impact in terms of enabling economic transformation, raising the quality of life, advancing the Singapore brand and culture, connecting communities, and making ground-breaking achievements in the field of design.

The author of this piece, Christine Melander. Christine was a juror for the 2018 P*DA

THOUGHTS ON BALANCING GREAT DESIGN AND IMPACT

However, impact is not necessarily an easy thing to validate. As part of the P*DA evaluation process this year, Design Singapore Council partnered the SUTD-MIT International Design Centre, which was given the task of looking deeper into different aspects of impact and value creation for each of the P*DA shortlisted design solutions. (SUTD refers to the Singapore University of Technology and Design.) In my opinion, the impact reports were extremely valuable to the judging process – not that the impact reports were allowed to direct the jurors’ opinions, but in terms of having some context and to add to a serious discussion. 

THE CHALLENGE OF JUDGING SERVICE DESIGN

Service design is a field experiencing great growth. During P*DA 2018, we witnessed a lot of great new service solutions. However, in many cases, the design was to some degree invisible. The result of a service design could be a new service to improve social living of single senior citizens–manifested in a couple of plastic tables and chairs on the ground floor of an apartment building, or a basic guide on staying strong and confident when loved ones are facing life-threatening diseases.

Service design, of course, needs to be judged on the same criteria as industrial design, experience design, user-interface design etc., but the process of reviewing aesthetics and form-giving regarding service design resulted in some very interesting, but also very important, discussions among the jurors.

Among the service design projects I judged, I was very moved by Who Cares? Transforming The Caregiving Experience. This project provided a response to the future of caregiving in Singapore, or anywhere for that matter. During the judging, we were presented with some of the research work, including a video showing the situation of a wife being at home with her husband suffering from dementia, and having to cope with him being violent from time to time, while being afraid and sad. Such videos of user situations were quite simple, but extremely effective in underlining a huge problem.

The design team created a number of concepts, products, services, tools, spaces and campaigns around how to empower and take better care of the caregivers, as well as to build a strong ecosystem around the growing segment of people who have family members that need care.

THE TENT FOR THE HOMELESS AND MORE

Another project that stood out was the Weatherhyde tent. Happily, there are many examples of tent solutions for homeless people. Depressingly enough, the demand is rising due to poverty, an influx of refugees and climate catastrophes. However, the Weatherhyde is probably one of the best designed tents I have seen, and definitely worthy of a design award. I’m very grateful that the designers of Billion Bricks submitted this tent to the P*DA.

I don’t know which is the best aspect to highlight: the design principle of “Never design poorly for the poor”, how the team was inspired by the materials of jackets for extreme weather conditions, the fact that the tent has reversible skin for summer and winter use, how a new stitching method was developed to ensure that the tent remains watertight under extreme weather conditions, or that an opaque skin protects the privacy of women and children when the tent is lit from within.

And then there is the innovative business model, which empowers their users as customers, not beneFIciaries. Flexible payment terms allow users to purchase their own tents – homes, in actuality – instead of having to wait for aid. In many ways this is a high-performance tent, which is also purchased by non-homeless people who need a great tent with great functionalities, for example, on hiking trips. So, an additional benefit is that the Weatherhyde is not stigmatising homeless people, because basically this serves many needs.

Now, more than ever, there’s an increased understanding of design being much more than furniture, fashion and lifestyle products. This is an opportunity for design. In order to utilise the economic, social, and cultural effect of design, we need to change our communication from what design is, to how design creates impact and makes differences. Design awards like the P*DA and the Danish Design Award are excellent tools for that. I am a very big fan of all the P*DA Designs of the Year – individually and also as a group. They collectively manifest the power, but also variety of design, from Singapore in 2018.

This story was first published on the October issue of Home & Decor.