Snook: Moving to Transformational Design


We asked Lauren Currie (@Redjotter) from Snook (@wearesnook) a design company based in Glasgow, UK, to share some insights into their practices and views on the current drives of change in design.

1. Tell us about Snook’s design practice and describe why you do what you do.
Snook are the Scottish service designers making social change happen in public sector organisations from the police to universities. We work with frontline staff to embed service design in their organization. We use service design to make experiences better. Since Snook formed in 2009 we have been leading the provision of service design application to projects in Scotland at a National Level. As a team of five and a pool of networked associates, we deliver work for clients such as STV, Barnardos, Edinburgh Festivals and the Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government. Snook are delivering their own service, MyPolice: an online feedback tool that gives you a new way to talk to your local police force. We have piloted this service with a force in Scotland and will roll it out across the UK this year.

Snook are co-design artists, our team have advanced skills in drawing people, scenes and emotions on the spot that really helps conversations and ideas flow. The key ingredient is imagination; when people talk to us about what services could be like, we make their thoughts real.

Society is realising how important it is to involve people in decisions that affect them, we use a non-logical process to make this happen. It’s fairly difficult to express in words but very easy to express in action. 

We use design to make things better. Why? We believe in developing a point of view and we value how Service Design brings to the surface the points of view of people who don’t normally have a voice.

We believe that the results of Service Design can create a better society and improve the services we all use every day. Snook’s particular passion is for public service design. Snook loves working with people to improve the things that determine the quality of their life – Education, Health, Welfare and Social Care – and giving people the opportunity to take more control over these services, or at the very least ensure the services are suited to the needs and reality of their lives.

Believe it or not, Snook aren’t doing anything new or radical we are just connecting things together in a new way. Intuition, audacity and empathy enable us to do this. We believe if society is to meet the challenges it faces, people have to think better of themselves – people have very little idea what they are capable of. 

We are changing this by using design to shift mindsets so each and every one of us look around ourselves at the small parts of society and consider how it could be better – how it could be more meaningful, engaging and useful. We use design to make a statement about what we want the world to be like.

Snook’s motto is “transforming people” this means giving them responsibility and empowering people in new ways. Co-design and Co-production is the ultimate relationship between designers and the public. This form of design involves every single stakeholder in the design process. If you asked us to design a local bakery to strengthen neighbourhood relationships, we would involve the bakers, the cake eaters, the delivery boy, the shop owner… everybody joins in. It’s good fun.

Snook transform the way public services are delivered in Scotland in four ways:

  1. Embedding design in the public sector
  2. Educating service providers and students in service design
  3. Co-creating solutions
  4. Doing it in Scotland

2. What do you think are the current drivers of change in design practices at Snook?
Snook is driven by making design happen inside organisations. As opposed to design happening from the outside in, embedding design enables organisations to truly innovate the way they do things. At Snook, we like to think of this as design becoming part of an organisation’s DNA. This is about moving away from design being applied to specific issues and problems and moving towards designers seeing an organisation and it’s complexities holistically. 

Snook’s design practice is also driven by our ambition to create a DIY Scottish Re-enlightenment. The Scottish Enlightenment was a period in 18th century, characterised by an optimistic belief in the ability of humanity to effect changes for the better in society and nature, guided only by reason. Snook want to re-create this but in a way that the people do it themselves – a county where citizens can find the solutions to their problems in each other, transforming the way public services are designed and delivered.

3. What excites you about design at the moment?
We are really excited about snookin‘ the Scottish Government. The Permanent Secretary of our government has expressed a commitment to creating a more creative government and we believe design has a big role to play in that. We have had a fantastic opportunity to showcase this role in working with civil servants to re-design the Post-16 Learner Journey. You can read more about the project on our Design For Gov website . This project is more than just an experiment and deeper than ‘creativity’ it’s about reshaping a government system.

4. What do you think the future practices of design will look like and why?
We have a strong vision for what Snook’s future will look like – Snook are widely recognised for their expertise in service design and engagement. However, service design is only one subset of innovation and Snook’s offerings.

In the public sector, design provides organisations with a practical way of ‘doing’ innovation that must happen alongside strategic leadership to enable services to change and transform.

For the next 5 years Snook’s intend to work in a systemic way that will enable some of the practices and innovations we have developed to be embedded, tested and scaled in communities across Scotland. Working with central government, local government and public service organisations, we will continue to not only improve services but transform them. We will continue working with organisations and their users to affect internal culture and external service provision as well as developing co-produced and open business models for new products and ventures.

This is not about incremental change and service design but about systems change and transformation. Snook will visibly work at different parts of the system to have the most social impact possible. This work will happen via a platform structure made up of a core team, a network of associates and specialists. 

We know from experience that the transformation of services and communities can’t and won’t happen without the engagement, participation and shift in outlook from the people that inhabit, serve and use them. Alongside our work in services and systems, Snook will also invest in developing a learning platform. A place where cultural change and a new mindset can be hosted, informed, practiced and inspired. Whichever part of the system you focus on, Snook knows how it links together, and whilst they might be operating in one area for an intensive period of time, another team of Snooksters will be harvesting and fertilising the ground in another sector, preparing to adopt and adapt.

This is a decisive moment. Snook have a momentum for innovation and a commitment to solve problems that matter.

One Trackback

  1. By SNOOK - Service Design for Social Change, we are based in Glasgow, inspiring social innovation in Scotland and beyond Snook on Design Transitions - Snook | Snook 25 Apr ’12 at 9:56 am

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