So you want to be a service design fringe festival (SDFF)?

Katie Baggs
Apr 19, 2018 · 5 min read

We asked last week at a two day intensive Design Sprint. Our aim: to create the SDFF 2018.

Maybe you are a 2015, 2016, or 2017 reveller, maybe you’re a host, maybe you’re potential partner, a student with ideas, whoever you are, we want to get this festival on the road.

Our goal over the two days was to find opportunities for re-design of what is already an established format, as well as to critically analyse the current format and push the boundaries of what a service design fringe festival should be about.

2017 has been a bit bumpy. We want to make things better for 2018. We want your experience as partner, as host, as a sponsor, as festival reveller to be the best it can be this year.

We asked questions in our sprint.

  • How might we best give a platform for emerging talent of service designers?
  • How might we create meaningful partnerships?
  • How might we articulate our brand better and more openly?
  • How might we achieve greater consistency in events?
  • How might we create equal-access opportunities, making the industry more diverse?
  • How might we promote critical discourse of how to design more inclusive services?

These are just some of the hard questions we asked.

We spoke to experts in the service design community.

First up, Pip Jamieson (Diversity Advocate) of The Dots who spoke with us about the crucial need for discussion around having a diverse design team and a workforce that is inclusive of people with different communication needs. Pip believes that “there is a massive trend for innovators and change makers- meeting fledgling entrepreneurs to actually face challenges we have in the world”, and for that we need people who think differently.

We also spoke to Lauren Currie OBE (who is the founder of #UPFRONT) who think there is “far too little critique within the industry but also externally as well. We are good at high-fiving ourselves as an industry, but how we progress and how we get better is to critique.” We think that the festival should provide this.

We believe we should have conversations that are on the Fringe. Lauren asks “how do we tackle the fact that service design is mainly white? How do we tackle the fact that the majority of service design companies are mainly in London? 95% of the service design agencies are run by men. I’m not sure about leaders in service design, but I think it’s a similar figure. How are we critiquing ourselves? Ageing is a real-world problem. How are we tackling this issue? How are we tackling the way we work? 9–5 thing doesn’t work. Lauren is a new parent -how can the service design industry trailblaze how families and parents can work?”

We are sure there are lots of challenges you want to tackle and we want to know. Thankyou Lauren and Baby Atlas for joining us on the call.

Speaking with Lauren Currie OBE, critically challenging the festival model and mentoring us

What does good look like?

Service Design is no longer new or unknown, which is really great news and we are proud to say that we think we had a part in this. So, we’ve stood back and we asked ourselves- what does it actually mean to be a Fringe Festival?

Maybe the festival will keep getting bigger? Maybe it’s in multiple cities. Which ones would it be in and who would the partners be? We said we want to face real world challenges, but what does a real world challenge look like? What are the current challenge that comes up for the community?


Service Design is about people. The most important quality is that the festival stays fringe- we want to talk about issues that won’t always be visible in the service design community. We want to involve all the sides and all the colours of the rainbow that is humanity.

We understand that different the stakeholders have specific investments but we want to provide a discussion free of those barriers. This way we can provide a possibility for the community to develop and thrive. From a service design perspective this is of greatest value to us. This way we can engage as many sides as possible- creating a neutral ground for people to talk about SD.

What do you think are the issues that need addressing within the industry? Service design is about finding a way to connect with what makes your human experience. What do you think is missing in yours?

Tell us…

What we decided on our sprint;

SDFF has always had a strong inclusion policy but we really want to put it into practice this year, and practice.

We want to move away from focusing on the toolkits and methods to talking about the challenges we actually face in society.

We believe that inclusion and diversity is not only a science but an art, which we are all getting better at practising. Therefore in our first step to embedding inclusion and diversity as a core SDFF value, we have chosen to have guiding principles as opposed to rules. We hope that these principles will shape:

  • Our team and organisational culture
  • How we treat and interact with each other
  • How we recruit members of our team and
  • How we chose festival partners and speakers
  • How we make decisions
  • The teams, partners, speakers, suppliers and attendees festival experience

In making an inclusive festival, we will:

1. Create equal-access opportunities, making the industry more diverse

2. Promote critical discourse of how to design more inclusive services

Interested in being a partner?

We want to create true partnerships, and want you to help us define these goals to meet your needs, and are open to setting ambitious new goals to help bring together sub-communities that you want to reach.

Want to get involved?

Katie Baggs

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Graphic & Media Interactive Design