Brave New Worlds: Transitions in Design Practice

Joyce Yee, Emma Jefferies, Lauren Tan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper describes transitions currently happening in design practices engaged in service innovation, service design and service futures. It is the result of an empirical research investigation into how design practice is changing and offers insights into four key transitions that have emerged arising from the research. The research imperative is to understand how the roles of design and designers are responding to shifting societal, economic, political and ecological needs. The research investigation involved interviewing and drawing insights from three different communities. In total we interviewed 25 design agencies, five organisations embedding design and 12 design academics. Nine out of the 25 are service design companies, ten are working in the related field of strategy and design innovation and the rest are in other related design disciplines. Although service design companies only form a third of the case studies, it is important that service design looks outside its (blurry) professional boundaries to inform how their own practices can remain relevant to our times. The originality and richness of the research investigation lies in investigating transitions happening in innovative practices that are diverse in terms of disciplines, geography and their approaches, in order to capture how design is changing within different contexts. This research is significant in that it highlights four key transitions happening in both developed markets as well as in emerging markets. These transitions are: 1) The expansion of the designer’s role to include new positions as facilitators, educators/capability builders and entrepreneurs. 2) More prominent collaborations by designers with end-users, other designers and professionals from other disciplines. 3) The diversification of business models of a design practice away from a consultancy model. 4) The expectation and requirement of designers to externalise and demonstrate value quickly, clearly and convincingly. The case studies have been compiled into a book, Design Transitions, recently published in 2013. The focus of this paper is to articulate these four transitions in more depth and explore their implications for service design practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
EventServDes 2014 - Lancaster, UK
Duration: 1 Apr 2014 → …


ConferenceServDes 2014
Period1/04/14 → …


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