Design education to focus more on the design of services

The Royal Society of Arts is calling for design education to focus more on the design of services and move away from what it says is an emphasis on product and industrial design.


“An RSA paper released today, Social Animals: Tomorrow’s Designers in Today’s World, says students need to gain a broader range of communication and research skills to help them work within public services.

It outlines six challenges for design educators, among them the suggestion that students should be taught how to be ‘problem finders’ as well as problem solvers, to help find new ways of delivering public services.

RSA head of design Emily Campbell says, ‘We are currently seeing huge opportunities arising in service innovation, which stems from all the time trying to get public service providers to invest in service design.’

She adds, ‘Generally speaking design schools are not preparing for that at the moment.’

The paper, which was authored by Sophia Parker and emerged from this year’s RSA Design Directions award competition, also looks at how redesigning prison visits could benefit inmates and their families and reduce reoffending rates.

It suggests strategies such as creating a system of visiting ‘pods’ to offer enhanced privacy, and introducing virtual prison visits through a secure Internet connection.

Campbell says, ‘Recently announced plans for new prisons holding 1500 offenders each to be built in the next decade provide Government with a real opportunity to “build in” recognition of the importance of design in modelling and prototyping facilities.

‘There is an ongoing debate about the role designers could have in improving health and education services. Here is an opportunity to bring those skills to the prison environment, which provides us all with an essential public service.’”

This is a crucial topic that is at the heart of my research question (pictured above).  I am happy to see my undergraduate experience of product design courses not embracing service design echoed in this call for change in design education.