You don’t need to fit into the entrepreneur stereotype. 

The only photo I have from the referenced event – this is Olivia.

A couple of years ago, I went to a Before I Die meeting, organised by the brilliant lovely Olivia.

A lady called Sam was talking about a sober morning rave she’s started called Morning Gloryville. It sounded bonkers to me – who’d get up at 5am to party before work? – but a lot of fun. What struck me even more than her idea, and her wonderfully colourful artistic hippy dress sense, was the way she spoke.

She was all over the place. Her answers to questions were roundabout and indirect. She was endearing – you couldn’t help but like her – but I couldn’t see how she was making a success of her business. She didn’t talk like I’ve come to expect entrepreneurs to talk. In my head, I dismissed her. I didn’t think she could be successful with the way she articulated herself. She was fully aware of her limitations and talked about the importance of having supportive people around her with the necessary skills… but even then, because she didn’t fit my expectations, I didn’t quite believe in her. 

Fast forward two years, and I find myself in a position of being a ‘creative director’ type, with the responsibilities that come with founding a business, but without the lingo and some of the traditional skills and attitudes of business founders. 

I realised that despite not fitting into what founders are ‘meant’ to be like, I’m still bloody doing it anyway. I’m making it up through trial and error – with a lot of thought, and support from the awesome people around me. 

In fact, it’s BECAUSE I’m not a ‘normal’ entrepreneur that I can be part of making something extraordinary happen. 

In meetings where I’d ask others for help to make up for the skills and knowledge I don’t have, I realised that I was drawing on Sam for inspiration. She wasn’t the traditional entrepreneur type, but she was making it happen anyway. If Sam can make Morning Gloryville happen without traditional business-speak, I can make the Service Design Fringe Festival happen just as I am. 

In fact, I’ve already made it happen three times!

It gets bigger every year, and I’m constantly working on my skills and self-belief in order to keep up with the scale. 

I was holding myself to what I thought an entrepreneur ought to be like – and I judgementally held Sam to that idea, too. But the proof of success is the events that we run. People love it, they keep coming back, and there’s demand for international expansion. 

As I am, I am good enough. 

Of course, I actively seek out learning opportunities and I reflect on how I can do things better on an ongoing basis. I want to grow as a person. My self acceptance doesn’t mean I don’t nurture myself – believing that I am good enough as I am today doesn’t mean I don’t believe that growth is vital.

If you’re self-doubting, I recommend you go to Morning Gloryville to fully understand the truly special vibe that successful Sam has created, despite of or maybe because of her off-the-wall way of communicating. 

Unselfconscious fun!

I went for the first time recently – and there’s no way I’m not going to go back! Maybe I’ve loosened up a bit 🙂

Last I heard, Sam decided she wanted to meet the Pope… and she actually made it happen. Nothing is impossible. 

Dear reader, please don’t overlook yourself because you don’t fit into how you think you’re ‘meant’ to be. If you have a vision, and if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to learning and hard work to make that vision happen, you can do it. You might not have all the skills today to do what you envision, but with time, effort, and support, it’s possible. Go you! 

Leave a comment

Filed under My current work, Service Design Events

We are in a male paradigm. What would a female work paradigm look like?

For International Women’s Day a few weeks ago, I went to a women in business event organised by Wandsworth Council. Maria Kempinski (on the left in that photo) who founded the Jongleurs comedy club said in passing ‘we are in a male paradigm’ in terms of the working world we inhabit, and expressed that we as women ought to change this by celebrating our strengths rather than feeling we have to act like men.

People didn’t really pick up on her saying this – probably because she was so full of inspiring thoughts beyond this! – but I found it helpful to think about.

The world of professional work has been created and used almost exclusively by men for hundreds of years. We as women have been trying to fit in to it – when we could change the systems for our own benefit.

Watch this film to find out how working hours affect the gender pay gap:

The ‘work is a male paradigm’ thought has had a lasting impact on me. The world of work is a construct – man made – and so it has the potential to be challenged and redesigned. It’s so normal to us that it can be almost impossible to recognise the situation we’re in. It’s worth reminding ourselves that unspoken ongoing difficulties we have may be because the system we’re in is at fault, especially if we see that others are going through the same difficulties. 

I’d love to use the festival I run as an opportunity to innovate how workplaces can *be* in terms of equality, creativity, and collaboration. Perhaps the festival team and the community can demonstrate what an innovative female paradigm could look like. I don’t know what all the constructs are that need to be challenged, but perhaps some are: working hours, what is valued and worth paying for, relationship styles, org structures/hierarchy style, physical spaces, and the boundary between work and personal life. I’d love to learn from others that have thought about this and implemented revolutionary ways of working.

My sometimes poor health has forced me to be open about what I need as a colleague, and I’m progressively improving on not being ashamed of it. In the past, I’ve held an attitude that I ought to get well in order to work; that was unhealthy for me: humans are not work machines. I’m not sure if this idea genuinely stemmed from the male paradigm – perhaps it’s from the industrial age – but it’s said that women are supposedly more in touch with emotions. (Sweeping generalisations make me uncomfortable.) Can a female work paradigm help develop attitudes towards prioritising health and making adequate room for emotions? Might a female work paradigm be emotionally healthier for all, not just for women?

I urge you, dear reader, to consider what the world of work would be like if it was created by women.

What could the world of work be like in 50 years, with working hours set to work for women?
What management systems (if any) and values will work be based on?
What would the world be like if there was no gender pay gap, and equally accessible work constructs for all?
Might extreme examples of a female paradigm workplace help in eventually creating a balanced workplace for all genders?
Incidentally, what might an all-transgender workplace look like, if all the workplace constructs were challenged and changed to suit transpeople’s needs?

I’m excited by this line of questioning, but not very informed. Please send me any examples you’ve seen of female work paradigms, and revolutionary workplace ideas. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Design Inspiration, Ideas

Inclusion at Work

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about inclusion at work.

Last year at the festival I run, I saw only 5 BME people out of the roughly 1000 festival attendees, though we did alright for all other racial backgrounds. Along with the Trump election, this shocked me into gear – I realised that the festival needs to go out of its way to become more accessible. That’s the only way to be truly inclusive for the BME community.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Ideas, Service Design Events

Why I’ll only ever work up to 4 days a week on any one project

Thanks ju5ti from Flickr.

I read ‘Why Time Management is Ruining Our Lives’ through The Week (a magazine covering an unbiased round up of the week’s news). It reassures me that it’s ok that I’m doing things my way, even when other people don’t approve.

I don’t sign up to any project for more than 4 days a week.
I’ve only ever been an ’employee’ for brief stints. Since graduating, I’ve been contracting.

I had a bar job in a theatre which I initially held down at the same time as contracting, in case I had a dry spell in contract work. I had to work part time as a contractor in order to keep the bar job. Eventually I got enough work to be able to quit that theatre bar job. This is quite a typical story for creative graduates – though it can often take a lot longer than a year or two to be able to financially rely on creative work.

But by the time I could quit the bar job, I was happy to continue working part time on contracts, and I didn’t want to pour all of myself into full time work.

What happens on the days I’m not working on a contract?
Starting out this way meant I had to spend lots of time building my brand and network at the beginning of my career. It worked out well to work on a project for three or four days, and spend a day or two investing in the future.

As time went on, and I got work more easily, I ended up using that day or two to make cool stuff happen. That cool stuff has turned into the Service Design Fringe Festival. Having time not working on projects creates a void that will eventually be filled.

Sometimes, if I’m exhausted from working on a very energy-consuming project, I’ll take day 5 as an extra day off. My days ‘off’ can be a bit like the kind of work I was doing at university: practicing drawing, going to a gallery, reading, and writing.

What I got up to one Thursday.

Which day is ‘off’? And why?
Lots of people take their day ‘off’ on Fridays to create long weekends. That doesn’t work so well for me.

I take my day ‘off’ on Thursdays. By breaking my work week into two chunks, I come back on Friday refreshed, rather than looking at my watch, waiting for the week to end. Additionally, I find that nothing much is booked on Thursdays typically in organisations, so it’s not too disruptive.

Having this day ‘off’ means I can bring much more energy to the project than if I didn’t have it. It makes me perform better during all the time that I am working.

I keep my Thursdays constant – whatever the project I’m on, I know that I can book an extracurricular coffee with anyone well in advance on any Thursday without it being inconvenient for the project I’m on.

London & tech culture can be crazy-making.
We’re always on. Amazing technology keeps us working 24/7. London contains many of the workaholics of the world, feeding into a culture where we’re expected to be perfect extra-human work performing whizz machines. I find that having the attitude to work part time keeps my work time boundaried, so I can stay sane; this is particularly important in order to maintain a balance in London.

This pattern of working is good for the soul.
Or whatever you’d rather call it – creative energy, or sense of self. I am not my job.

I have tried working full time on occasion and I found I got so attached to the work, that my identity merged with it too closely. I became too dependant on the job. It didn’t feel like there was any life outside of the job. It’s easy to get stuck in ways of thinking, and take on the fears from the organisation around you by osmosis, if you aren’t regularly faced with alternative ways of thinking and being.

Maybe this person was stuck in a way of thinking, that made them refuse to try something new?

By having space apart from one job, I can retreat into myself in order to be able to hear my own voice (which can be difficult when it’s drowned out by an organisation you’re part of), and expose myself to a variety of sources of inspiration, which I think of as ‘filling the well’.

I’m often cast as the source of inspiration and positive energy in a project – the one that will enthuse and excite people about service design and the project. Leading in this way can be draining if the positive energy is not returned by the people around me. Putting heart and soul into work means that I need more time off to replenish my energy.

When I come back to work, I come back with fresh alternative perspectives, fresh eyes, and extra contacts. This makes the work better.

Notes I wrote down about a contract, in a flash of clarity on a Thursday.

I know it’s a privilege.
I don’t think everyone should do this or that everyone can do this. I’m fortunate that I can earn enough money in 4 days rather than 5 days a week to get by. I’m fortunate that I have the confidence and ideas and determination to come up with useful things that fill the void I create on purpose.

I’m writing this post because I’ve seen people react badly to me doing this.
“You have Thursdays OFF?” – implying that I can’t be serious about the work to be done if I’m not full time.
“I can’t do that.” – said sadly, with guilt, perhaps because having a day off would seem too obscenely pleasurable and self indulgent.
“I know you don’t work on Thursdays, but can you come in/answer the phone?” – because it’s not common, colleagues have a fundamental expectation that my Thursdays are up for grabs if I can be persuaded. Sometimes I give in because I care about the projects I do, but I find that not having a complete mental break disadvantages me later.
“You’re not around enough. You’re not visible.” – valuing presenteeism is old fashioned. I’d rather be measured by the impact I create. Also, we need to do something about this attitude if we are to make the workplace fairer for caregivers.

I feel more ok to be me when I see that other people are doing things I’m doing. I hope by sharing this, I can help validate others who have chosen a similar work pattern. I don’t hear enough people being open about choosing to working part time and talking about the benefits of it.

Semi-retired people and caregivers have to work part time – but I have the choice to work part time. And this is a valid choice, even if it’s not mainstream (yet!)

And if you need any more inspiration, here’s Stefan Sagmeister’s talk about how he takes off one year out of every seven.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ideas, My current work

Tax Return: the freelance designer’s nightmare

Literally. I have had nightmares about my tax return through the years. We’re in January, and you’ve only got 21 days left to complete your tax return. Cue panicked weekend meeting scheduling with friends of friends who are accountants and can help you out.

Not this year, for me. I’ve finally graduated to having an accountant. No more tax return panic for me. I’ve done four years of self-assessed tax returns now. It was one of the most stressful parts of being a freelance designer, for me. So, here are some notes for creatives who have just become freelance. (I’m not a finance person so take what I say with a pinch of salt – this is just a starter for ten from a designer’s point of view.)

How I feel when I’m avoiding doing my tax return.


You’ve put in time at design school, and you’re getting work as a designer. You are awesome. You’re living the dream! Maybe with a bit less cash than you imagined you’d have, but still. You get to do cool projects occasionally at least. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Ideas

Lior’s 2016

Hi all! I haven’t had much time to write on here this year, so here’s an update of what I’ve been busy with. Much has changed this year for me. The top three developments: Rainmaker, the service design fringe festival, and feeling like a grown-up.

1. I joined Rainmaker.


I joined in January as the first service design hire at Rainmaker, and now there are quite a few of us. I introduced Rainmakers to service design, and it fits perfectly with what Rainmaker does. Rainmaker is a digital transformation consultancy, working mainly with government clients.

Unlike some pure service design agencies, Rainmaker has a huge wealth of experience in ‘delivery’ – a word that business/government people use to mean getting stuff done despite obstacles. Making service design activity happen can be problematic because it’s often unfamiliar in the organisation we’re doing it in. ‘Delivery managers’ know how internal politics work, so they help remove ‘blockers’ (business-speak for obstacles). This expertise makes all the difference in a service design project.

I’m pretty happy with this arrangement. I play to my strengths more. I’m part of making a more effective change in this sort of team set up.

With Rainmaker, I’ve worked at the Food Standards Agency; Business, Innovation and Skills (now Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy); and HS2. The big-picture design research project at HS2 laid the foundations for a whole ream of further projects that Rainmaker is still working on. 9 months on, HS2 and Rainmakers at HS2 are still using a toolkit I made happen in collaboration with the client-consultant team. Not bad for an intense week of work at the end of a 10-week design research project. (Ok, ok, I’m thrilled and flattered that I ended up doing something useful!)

I’ve never felt more supported at work than at Rainmaker. They are flexible and concerned when I am unwell, take me seriously if I flag an issue, receptive and collaborative when I have ideas, and wholeheartedly endorse my own enterprise, the service design fringe festival.

2. The Service Design Fringe Festival is really flying.


The 2016 festival was double the size of the 2015 festival – double the attendees, and double the events. We had 30 events over 11 days, with almost 1000 attendees in total. We had spaces in the Oxo Tower with other events going on all around London.

For the first time, the festival attracted significant funding, allowing me to hire a few part time pros on contracts for a few weeks to organise the festival together, and I could cover my own time too. We attracted 50 volunteers, though we didn’t have the capacity to work with them all this time. We upped our game in terms of quality: we invested in the website, maps, social media, and event space setting. We even have a bank account now. We got attention: I was interviewed by Design Week on my birthday, and we were in the top 3 recommendations from Plan over the course of LDF. Lots of people said nice things about us, with visitors scoring events 8.6 out of 10 on average. I don’t have anything to compare that to, but I’ve got a feeling it’s a pretty darn good rating.


We learnt a great deal from running the festival this year. The new scale brought unprecedented challenges. We anticipate that 2017 will be bigger yet, so we are working now on developing how we do things. (Please give me a shout if you know someone who’d be good as a sponsorship manager for the festival!)

My post-uni plan for years was: work for a few years, do an MA, then launch a consultancy off the back of the MA. What’s happened instead: work for a few years, learn more from working than current MAs know how to teach, occasionally lecture on MAs, launch a design festival, help build a service design practice within a consultancy. Turns out I didn’t need an MA to make cool stuff happen.

I feel so privileged to be working on something that I believe in, in a style that I enjoy. I work with people I like, I play to my strengths, I get to have ideas and make them happen, and goodness, I actually earn my living from this! However, I work so hard that I get ill, so that’s the issue to work on for 2017.


3. I feel like an adult.
I’ve learnt a bit about managing people through the festival – and my style is what I could have predicted it to be: encouraging people to trust their own instincts, which works because I hire the right people in the first place. And only adults are managers, right?!

Another thing that made me feel like a grown up was my proactive reaction to this year’s global political shifts: I asked myself, ‘what is within my power to change?’ I promptly wrote an inclusion policy/manifesto/thing for the festival, which I hope to develop and test with the 2017 festival team. In addition, I have been writing and speaking more publicly about my experiences of discrimination. I hope that by being more open about my experiences, people that don’t experience discrimination may act with more empathy than before, and people that do experience discrimination feel understood. The personal is political.

At my core, I strive to be non-judgemental; act with empathy; listen and playfully collaborate; be authentically me; and know that change is possible, one minuscule change at a time. I bring this attitude to my work and it runs through my personal life, too. I feel like an adult now because I know who I am, and I make time for what I value.

This bit of paper is pinned on my wall. To do this, you also need to know what you value.

Dear reader, I hope you have had a good year, or at least you are able to pick out the good things that happened for you this year. Despite personal & health problems, and global politics not going the direction I’d like, 2016 has been a good year for making new friends and work satisfaction for me. Big thank you to Rainmakers (esp. Matt, Jan, Tom B, Ilan, & Cotters), HS2ers (J2, you were the best), and the festival team (Katie, Harry, Xime, Culainn, Claire, Sean & Emily, Sophia, Phoebe & Jim – what stars you are). Happy new year!

Leave a comment

Filed under My current work, Rainmaker, Service Design Events

Why I’m doing the Service Design Fringe Festival

InfestationcozaThis is what LDF events look like. Image from Infestation website.

The London Design Festival is where designers come to party and to launch their new work each year. People get excited about what others in their network have been working on over the past year, and support each other by going to launch parties. There’s free booze and opportunities to meet your design heroes every night during LDF if you know where to go, and you’re constantly surrounded by beauty. It’s a hugely exciting, buzzy thing to be part of.

When I got into service design, I was really sad to leave the festival behind for a bit. I couldn’t understand why service design wasn’t part of LDF. Why was LDF only showing product and furniture design? There’s so much more to design than just those disciplines, especially in this creative melting pot of London.

In 2014, by chance, I bumped into someone who used to work for LDF at a gallery. I knew him from having volunteered for the festival as a student. I started complaining about service design not being part of LDF, and he agreed that a change should be made… and gave me his new card: he’d become the director of 100% Design (a big important commercial design show).

After that, I HAD to do something. I met up with a few people I knew, who encouraged me and helped with the practicalities. We had a big service design event at Designersblock in 2014, and then 15 events across London in 2015, and this year, we’re planning about 20 even better events.

We’re not affiliated with the London Design Festival: we’re ‘fringe’ in that we’re happening outside the bounds of LDF. It kind of works well because service design is still ‘fringe’ as a discipline right now.

Apart from having a great party, the festival aims to tackle some teething problems of the emerging service design industry. Three big ones:

  • Not enough people have heard of service design.
  • It is difficult to get a job as a junior service designer.
  • There’s not enough sharing of best practice in a safe critical environment – something we very much need to enable positive useful growth of the discipline.

So, here is what the service design fringe festival aims to do…


Increase RECOGNITION of service design

  • Put service design in front of the public, so that service design becomes a thing the public has heard of, so that we don’t have to keep explaining ourselves to clients and friends.
  • Link the service design industry to the wider design scene, so that service design will be recognised by other designers.

Nobody asked me what a furniture designer was when I was doing that – because they have heard of furniture designers before. They weren’t surprised that furniture was designed. One day it will be a given that services are designed, and I won’t have to have that conversation any more.

Consumers are increasingly interested in services – we’re moving towards a service economy. We need more service designers, and people that know how to design other stuff often make great service designers. Product designers could benefit hugely from using service design in their work to consider the system around the physical objects they conceive. So, let’s help connect all kinds of designers to service design. 


Increase EMPLOYMENT of service designers

  • Demonstrate the value of service design to potential employers and clients, so that more jobs are created for service designers.
  • Connect service designers to potential employers and clients.
  • Support the creation of career paths within service design.

I struggled to get enough freelance work in 2014. There weren’t enough contracts to go round. There weren’t enough opportunities for junior service designers to work with a senior service designer to learn. There are many junior service designers, but the jobs on offer need experienced service designers – of which there aren’t terribly many. But how can a junior service designer become a senior service designer without experience? We need to figure out how to develop career pathways in service design.

My LinkedIn inbox always has an unread message from a recruiter in it now, which is an exciting development. Service design was too young three years ago for recruiters. However, recruiters still have a way to go in understanding service design skills in order to match people to the right jobs. Also, lots of people hire service designers then have no idea what to do with them. If we can help people understand how to work with service designers better, service design work will be more effective.

There’s plenty of networking opportunities during the festival. I know anecdotally that someone got a job last year because she came to the festival. We want to start measuring that properly this year.


Increase CRITIQUE & therefore VALUE of service design work

  • Encourage an attitude of helping each other improve practice as an industry. Less competition, more collaboration.
  • Connect service designers to others’ good examples of best practice.
  • Create an environment for discussions that push what service design can be, and therefore increase its value as a discipline.

A few years ago, I was working for service design agencies and itching to share my work to other people – but it wasn’t allowed, because there was so much competition to get service design work from clients. Now, there’s plenty of work to go round – so we can finally be more open with our methods and examples. At the festival, we don’t want just the shiny bare minimum information; we want to hear the difficult knotty bits – the weak bits of service design – in order to collaboratively improve it. 

The festival can be a hotspot for critical discourse based on practitioners’ lived experiences of working as service designers. What is said about service design can be very different from the reality of working in the industry. Together, we can work out best practice on working in different kinds of contexts. By sharing our ideas and experiences and knowledge, we will vastly strengthen service design as a discipline. 


If more service designers are put to work (because it’s recognised and people are connected to each other), more delightful customer experiences are going to be created in the world.

The experiences will be more delightful still as the industry shares best practice and critiques itself, increasing the value of service designed effects.

The change that we want to see can only happen if we all get involved. Please come to the festival – share your experience, ask questions (even the ones that seem basic and ‘stupid’), and point out the elephants in the room. Everyone is welcome – whether you’re a service designer, a client, another kind of designer, or a curious member of the public. Everyone’s ideas can help make service design better.

1 Comment

Filed under My current work, Service Design Events

Luddites Won’t Let Me Skype In: HS2 IT User Research Project


Yesterday at the cross-government user research meetup, Jeremy Foot (HS2) and I gave a talk about the project we did at the beginning of the year.

Tom Brown and I came in to HS2 as consultants from Rainmaker; we led a user research project about how HS2 staff use technology. We found out about the nature of their work, and who they have to communicate with and how.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under My current work, Rainmaker

Rainmakers map their work on to service design process diagram

I’ve been at Rainmaker for three months now. Rainmaker is a consultancy that works primarily with government clients. They put a big emphasis on helping clients understand their user needs. I’m their first service designer associate.

The first project I did with Rainmaker was at HS2; I worked with a colleague Tom Brown who picked up user research skills very naturally and *gets* service design. I’ve just started a contract at BIS.

Tom and I gave a talk yesterday about service design and user research, and used the project at HS2 as an example. (More on the HS2 project another time.)

The feedback we got from the presentation was very positive: Rainmaker values align closely with service design principles, and there is an appetite for the service design mindset to be spread across Rainmaker projects.


Where does your work fit in to, or support, this process?

We asked Rainmakers to map how their individual skills and activities mapped on to a diagram of the service design process.



Delivery Managers, event organisers and CEOs mapped their activities in their own ways. They marked on with hearts where they particularly enjoyed the process.



I found this interesting as an exercise because it enabled non-service designers to begin to see their work through the lens of a service design process. It also enabled me as a new member of Rainmaker to better understand the skills and approaches of others, which can help me know how to work with them better.


We could do a similar exercise when a new project team is formed. We could ask for people to mark stars on skills they feel particularly good at, as well as hearts to show what they enjoy, and this could help us know how to best share out the work according to their skills, approach and interest.


Thanks to all the Rainmakers that participated!

Leave a comment

Filed under My current work, Rainmaker

Nana’s cards


My grandma is an artist. She lives in a thatched cottage in Surrey with a garden that goes all around the house, with white wrought iron gates. My dad and his siblings grew up there. Nana has a room with her paints in it. The cupboards are painted and the tablecloth has a flower pattern on it. There is a window that looks out on to the garden. On the desk in an alcove are huge piles of thick paper with her artwork. She’s very picky – if she doesn’t like a painting, she cuts out sections of the bits that work and sends them as postcards.

Nana sends a card when you call her. She’s the most avid card sender that I know. She’s learning how to email but she still loves cards. She sends cards out faster than she can paint.


When I started exploring painting about a year ago, she was excited and asked me to paint her some cards on commission. She asked for some more for Christmas. These cards are my Christmas present for her.

I’m not showing you these cards to show off my illustration skills. I’m showing them to share with you that I am working on these skills, and to discuss why it’s important to me that I’m doing this. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under My current work