The conference’s theme was BUILDING BRIDGES. A theme whose’s aspiration is to design a world that emphasizes more on human-centered, co-creative and value-driven approaches by building bridges between communities, organizations, politics, etc.

The conference opening started with a brief introduction to Toronto’s origins and the invitation to get up, high-five the person next to us and start building bridges between each other. A great way to kick-off the 2-day conference!

Our first speaker was Jesse Wente from CBC Radio, who talked about the importance of storytelling and how it is the language of culture. Storytelling is key to how we understand and interact with the world and also how we identify ourselves and others. He encouraged us to avoid gaps in stories and to design an inclusive and diverse space, which is the way of nature.

At this point, it’s interesting to mention that Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. And the high range of nationalities and ethnic diversity makes Toronto the best host choice for this year’s conference and theme!

The conference continued with the presentation of Dr. Josina Vink, from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, about her Ph.D. work called In/Visible. Her work resulted from her frustration of not seeing good healthcare service design concepts sticking around in the long term. She explained that it’s necessary to pay more attention to the invisible social structure influencing our service systems. If we also map out the bottom of the iceberg and focus on underlying aspects like norms, rules, and roles, we will most likely achieve the change we are targeting.

Matt Ratto from the University of Toronto introduced Critical Making as a supplement to Design Thinking. Design Thinking is great to contextualize design, speak about design with different stakeholders and teach people about a more human-centered design process. However, the tools often remain very symbolic and leave out the complexity of the real world. Critical Making doesn’t focus on solving the problem but aims to unpack and redefine it. It centers more on the process and the learnings during hands-on activities, in which alternative worlds are created and incorporated digital technologies open up and extend critical social reflection.

Also, Annemarie Lesage, from HEC Montréal, talked about the power of using tangible elements. Tangible pieces like legos and playmobile are great tools to start the ideation phase in Design Thinking workshops. It inspires to go beyond the images of the object and it encourages participants to move the elements and keep building. Not to mention that non-designers will feel more comfortable with tangible objects than with pen and paper. By using tangibles, the overall result of ideas will probably be higher in originality and divergence than by using sketches and post-it notes.

Keynote speaker Zita Cobb, from Fogo Island and Shorefast, talked about the inspiring story of Fogo Island’s community. A community that has been able to hold onto its roots and still stay relevant in the contemporary world. The Fogo Islanders found a lovely way of connecting their traditions and culture with contemporary design and architecture to create authentic and meaningful spaces. Moreover, they also created an economic nutrition label for everything the community offers for sale to show where exactly the money goes. This way, they want to generate consciousness that will positively impact people and the planet. Let’s see if they can roll that out and make it the new normal!

How to achieve a positive impact on the planet was a crucial topic in many presentions. Keynote speaker Tom Szaky from TerraCycle talked about his goal of changing the idea of waste, rather than trying to manage it. Recycling is important, but stopping the production of disposable waste is key. Therefore, we have to give products a purpose and create a circular system. He mentioned some of the brands that came up with very simple and good sustainable solutions and finally introduced LOOP, his company’s new waste reduction program. LOOP is a platform that enables consumer product companies to shift to a durable supply chain. Besides implementing reusable containers, it will also be able to take a look at the consumer’s behavior, keeping track of orders, returns, time and expiring dates. He reminded us that before solving a problem, we first have to think about why the problem exists.

I’ve also had the opportunity to participate in two different workshops.

“Designed Intelligence” was facilitated by Anna Skrypnychenko and Connor Upton from Fjord. The aim was to break down AI from being an intimidating subject and increase the resilience of AI-powered services.

We used techniques to reframe AI in human terms and thought about how AI sees, hears, reads, touches, recommends and creates. After all, we are multisensorial beings and should, therefore, also explore the AI perceptions that could help us. We also learned that to trust AI we have to design collaborative systems that show the same qualities we admire in teammates. In general, a very interesting workshop and a great way of bridging the gap between AI and design!

The second workshop I joined was “Oh Boy! I’m in Trouble… Your Rescue Guide for Facilitating a Workshop on a Topic that is Considered Taboo”, led by Laura Lorenzo from Service Design Portugal. A completely different topic than the first workshop, but both had a similar goal: to build trust. Before facilitating a workshop based on a taboo, it’s important to evaluate how off-limits the topic is. We learned which aspects could help us to create the perfect ambiance for our sessions, and how we can manage the group and ourselves. The key is always to remember our role as a facilitator and not show power over the participants. It’s also very important to keep track of our own emotions and create an environment of respect and tolerance.

It’s been a very insightful couple of days! All the presentations were very interesting and thought-provoking. I picked up many impressions and also had the chance to connect with great people. I returned to Hamburg very inspired and ready to share and implement the learnings into my work.

Next years’ Service Design Global Conference will take place in Copenhagen, so mark your calendar if you don’t want to miss the latest news and insights of service design. See you there!

Mariana will also share her experience personally next Thursday.


(Presentation in English)

Thursday, November 21st, 2019 | 5-6 p.m. | Schopenstehl 15, Hamburg

If you want to be there, RSVP please.

Mariana Yzusqui Profile image

Mariana Yzusqui

Industrial Design

Born in Lima and raised in a bicultural family, Mariana found her way to Germany to study industrial design and to embrace new opportunities and experiences as well as spreading her positive vibes.

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