Tag Archives: lior smith

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!

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Lecture at LCC on my work

Today I gave a lecture at the London College of Communication on my work. Three masters cohorts attended the lecture, including the two cohorts of the Service Design Innovation MDes led by Omar Vulpinari. Quite a few lecturers, including the LCC Dean of Design, attended too.

Here is the slideshare of the presentation I gave. The talk lasted an hour, with half an hour of discussion afterwards.

Students working with government
The students are doing a project with Lambeth Council about digital inclusion. They are working to engage the 10% of residents who do not use the internet or digital devices. Because of this project, they are already starting to be familiar with the barriers/constraints that design in government presents: privacy issues and limitations of clunky expensive council IT systems.

They asked how to get round these problems, and I was so glad they asked: it validates the experiences I’ve had, when they describe similar problems to what I’ve come up against.

I suggested they write to express the problems if they can’t solve them, so that the articulation may help others who also face the same problem. This is something that I also strive to do – at the moment, I mostly talk to others and in public about the problems, but I hope to have more time for blogging in the next few months!

I also recommended that they try out the approach of suggesting a proposition for the future rather than for right now, or asking the civil servants to imagine a scenario without the privacy and IT issues. If they can propose a future scenario, it can open up a conversation about what can be done in the interim to get to that future solution.

Who wants to work in government?
At the end of the talk, I asked who wants to work in government. A lot of them already wanted to work in government as a result of the project with the council, but about 5 more wanted to work in government following the talk. For me that’s a big success – I was extremely honest (you know me!) about the tough realities of working in government (the pace, the sometimes creatively stifling culture) – yet I must have described the social mission well enough to inspire more designers to want to join.

This is a picture of the students. The ones with their hands up want to work in government innovation. That’s pretty much all of them! I’m thrilled!


One of the lecturers also turned out to have worked in Merton Council on transformation projects, and she said that she backed everything I said. I was very happy to have described design in government in a way that appealed to both designers and ex-council people.

Because we had five minutes at the end, I asked the students to write down three things to create a short manifesto for change for themselves. They came back with beautiful principles personal to them. Change manifestos are inspirational for me – I hope that some students find it a useful practice for them, too.

LCC students, if you’re reading this, please link us to your pictures, tweets and any other media you have from the event by commenting on this blogpost. That way, we can share learning around this topic in one place.

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Service Design on one page

I’m starting a new job. Going into a new workplace, I have to explain what service design is to lots of people. To get myself into gear, I challenged myself to explain service design on one page. Here it is.


I had a re-read of This Is Service Design Thinking. It made me remember why I got into service design in the first place. Service design is the best description for the approach I was using before I had heard of service design. Continue reading

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Practicing Painting

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A few years ago, Rory Dodd of Designersblock recommended Josef Albers’ Interaction of Colour to me for practicing how colours work together. Finally I got round to buying it last year, and to actually bucking up enough courage to let myself paint badly last month.

Because, you see, while I am happy on InDesign, and even quite happy drawing with pen, I haven’t been able to befriend a paintbrush. Not ever. Charcoal, oil pastels, chalk – all fine. But brushes allude me.

I enjoyed painting with gouache once at school, and my gouache set is encouragingly named ‘Designer’s Gouache’. So that’s what I’ve started with.

The above studies were taken from Albers’ book. I know I’ve got a way to go, but it’s a start. The middle colours are the same shades, but look different because of their backgrounds.

After some hours of intense concentration, I read that Albers recommends using coloured paper so that you don’t have to spend hours mixing paint colours. Gah… I’m glad I tried with gouache anyway, I enjoyed the challenge.

The experience was an exercise in pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Being able to let oneself make mistakes and practicing patience with oneself is a useful attitude that enables positive risk taking and learning in new areas. It’s a little bit courageous. I hope that by practicing doing this myself, I will be more empathetic and encouraging when I lead other people outside of their comfort zones creatively at work.
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What is designerly about service design?


Today at Central Saint Martins I took part in a debate about whether we need specialisms in design. I argued for the movement: I am a service designer, and you need specialist service design skills to be an effective service designer. Continue reading

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Service Design @ Designersblock 2014


Service Design @ Designersblock 2014 was on the 19th September during the London Design Festival.

This was the first ever major service design event at any London Design Festival. Previously, service design had not been well represented at the Festival. As a growing industry, it was high time that the service design community got more involved with the well-established Festival.

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You’re Doing All The Right Things

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I’m currently job seeking (as you might have heard before). Whenever people ask where I’m looking, and I describe what I’m doing, I consistently hear the phrase ‘You’re doing all the right things’.

This is comforting and frustrating at the same time. If I’m doing all the right things, why has it been two months with no paid work?

In those instances of frustration, I remind myself that it’s just a case of a Lior-shaped hole opening up in a service design agency somewhere – it’s a waiting game.

These are the things I’m doing that everyone else seems to think is a good approach:

Meeting people I’ve met before
I’ve already got a great network of contacts spanning product design, service design, social enterprises, critical design, and the positive psychology community. I’ve been getting back in touch with people I have met over the last few years, and meeting up and discussing their current challenges. I make it clear that I’m after work, and in the meantime, I signpost them to people and ideas that could help them in their work. I love to help connect up people – it brings me pleasure to help others on their journey – and I hope that in the future, some of those people might return the favour and connect me up with others – other people that have a job for someone like me.

Meeting new people at networking events
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Anything that’s free and interesting, I’m there. I’ve been to talks about robots, healthcare, radical democracy, social enterprises, and lots more. I meet a few people at every single event, and I always have plenty of quirky business cards on me. I go to an average of three talks a week.

I’ve been expanding my contacts network to activists recently, particularly those that want to redesign democracy. It’s noble and worthy cause which will take quite some time to realise. I’m interested in the role of designers in government.

Learning about new issues
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I’ve taken an interest in open data and democracy and have attended multiple events on those issues. I’ve taken the opportunity to learn about these things with the extra time I’ve got. When I get back into work, I will be more informed about potential projects that come up.

This picture is of a talk by Roman Krznaric, a ‘cultural thinker’. I went because I am interested in how we as designers can use positive psychology theory to our advantage. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he is designing an Experience Museum with Service Design students at the RCA. Service design is growing! You never know where you might meet someone who could help you. I even met someone that redesigns public services in my yoga class.

Running a project that involves speaking to lots of people
I’m initiating more service design representation at the London Design Week 2014. This had lead me into situations where I talk to people that I might not have spoken to otherwise, and opens up opportunities for others. I hope it demonstrates my initiative. Currently I may have some opportunities up my sleeve that would interest you if you’re working as a service designer – please get in touch to find out more.

I can’t sit still and this project saves me from self-absorbed madness. I don’t like being all about self promotion – I want to create something of value to others.

Strengthening skills
Last time I didn’t have work, I made sure to get some graphic design commissions on a freelance basis. This meant that I could strengthen my graphics skills. I’m happy with my graphics skills at the moment – they’re at an appropriate level.

What I don’t know as much about is business strategy and coding. Knowing about both these things would help me communicate better with business people and coders. I’ve enrolled on a 10-day coding bootcamp with Skillcrush and I’ve bought Business Model Generation. I’m also reading This Is Service Design Thinking to refine how I articulate service design.

Asking for advice from many people
You know what they say already – you’re doing all the right things!

I’ve sought advice about how to pitch what I can do – some people like the tag ‘junior’ and some don’t. Also I have asked if there is anything I should be doing in order to get into a better position for work. The answer depends on the person: digital people tell me I should learn to code, business people tell me I should learn about business, service designers under other labels tell me to call myself a user experience designer.

Today I got a character assessment reflected back at me: can hold my own, work independently, personable, and bets I can be slightly scary. Humble and wise to point out areas I don’t have experience in and to look for work to learn. The scary bit made me laugh – while I have been told that I ‘step up’ to another level when I get challenged, it’s only my family and close friends that really know that I can be formidable!

Not spending acres of time on job applications
The more time you spend on job applications, the less time you spend meeting people and getting attention from a variety of places. Job applications are gambles with your time; with so much competition out there, it’s unlikely that you will get a job based on your application. There’s various figures out there about how many jobs are actually advertised: the consensus is that most jobs are not advertised, and found through networks instead.

Instead, I invest time in contacting specific people and organising meetings. Every so often I get told to apply to the company that my contact is working for. That kind of application – where they have already informally interviewed you – is much more likely to work. I’m afraid I don’t have any hard figures about that one, but it seems to be true from my personal experience.

Working from cafes rather than at home
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Working from cafes makes researching, emailing and job applications feel like a job in itself. Yes I am buying coffee almost every day, which is not obviously money savvy for unemployed people, but in doing so I am buying the feeling of being at work. This helps me get a balance: it stops me from working when I get home, so I keep limits on what I do. I’m a jobless workaholic: I’ll create work for myself in the absence of work.

The alternative is to be at home all day, not be around people, and go crazy in my room. And it’s much cheaper than renting a studio, and I get to go on a coffee tour of London.

The other benefit of going out is that I frequently see people I know or meet new people when I’m out and about.

Lots of online self promotion
I have an events newsletter with a bit of news, I have this blog, and I live tweet like crazy at most of the events. That way I keep in people’s minds and hopefully when a job comes up, they let me know.

I’m vocal about what I want. I re-examine my ‘offer’ as an employee occasionally, and update my LinkedIn profile accordingly.

Enjoy things in the meantime
I don’t need to wake up super early and I completely control where I am, when. I control how much I spend time on various activities. So I make more time for my family, and allow myself pleasure in reading on occasion. I have flexibility to travel outside of London during the week. I can do things that make me happy without having to fit around a workplace’s time requirements.

I have to remind myself that I can spend more time not working, because I often have 12 hour days in meetings, events and research! I often don’t take an hour’s lunch break either…

So yes, I am using this time to learn how to not be a workaholic, as well as learn about new topics and skills, meet tons of wonderful people, explore London, have a think and shout about it.

PS if you think you have a job for me, or are also looking for new work and want to discuss strategies, or just want to introduce yourself, just say hi!


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Want to help me develop one of these personal data ideas?

So, I have submitted quite a few ideas for a personal data design challenge hosted by Sense Worldwide. Apparently I don’t own the ideas any more because I submitted them.* Most of these ideas would make the world a more interconnected place where we make more conscious decisions about our actions. Apart from the cat idea. That one’s a wildcard.

I won $1000 for the first idea and for having submitted so many ideas (almost one in every category), and I’m getting paid to be part of a hackathon to develop these ideas. I can’t believe it! I’m so excited! Bring it on!!

My Purchases
Consumer need
I have shared my birthday wish list on Facebook before, but two people ended up buying me the same book.

Digitally share my birthday wish list with a group of friends. They can then tag the gift if they are buying it so that nobody else buys it. They can also be directed to buy it online.

When almost all the gifts are tagged, items from similar wish lists are shown. This could be integrated with Amazon who have good data already on similar tastes in purchases. Continue reading

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Patrick Dunleavy on Measuring Productivity In Government

Prof. Patrick Dunleavy from LSE spoke at the Social Market Foundation think tank about productivity in government: what productivity is, how it’s measured in government, and how to increase it.

Prof Dunleavy said that the way to greater productivity is:
– Co-production with citizens
– Digitising services to give power back to citizens about their own health etc.
– Continuously incrementally developing and adapting services (iteration) rather than restructuring in a big bang Continue reading

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Making Happiness a Design Issue

I’ve just discovered that you can upload links to publications on LinkedIn! So here’s one I made earlier.

Making Happiness A Design Issue

I wrote this as my dissertation for my BA at Goldsmiths. I still very much stand by the sentiments I had at the time of writing it. After a period of deep questioning the point of design – the point of any creation, any intervention, any change – I decided that it is worth acting to make the world a better place for the people around you. For me, the world would be better if we were all happier.

This publication details psychologists’ findings about how, why and when people are happier, and it seeks to offer opportunities for designers to make changes that will support other people in their personal quests for joy and well-being.

Published January 2012. Check out the bookbinding process here.

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