Navigating the Service Design Landscape in Vancouver, B.C.

Tamsin Smith
Sep 7, 2016 · 3 min read

I’ve found myself become a ‘Go-to’ person for advice on Service Design in Vancouver.

Here are some tips for people moving to the West Coast of Canada (specifically Vancouver), graduating, or seeking to make connections and build projects in Service Design, Customer Experience and Innovation. I offer a personal perspective:

The bad news: the reality is that there isn’t a big currency in strategy or an appetite for radical innovation in this city. I’ve had to travel a lot.

Of course this is all relative to where you have come from. For me London, UK presented many more opportunities so direct comparison isn’t fair. Folks from Toronto, L.A., San Francisco and Scandinavia — the terrain here is tougher ground to land progressive opportunities and sweet budgets. Yes this is the compromise of life in this beautiful sea, mountain, fresh air city.

The good news: On the bright side it leaves room to shape opportunities and build something for yourself. You may have to tweak your value proposition as educator, customer experience, user experience or digital strategy. Be bold, brave, patient and persistent. You will find the way!

A quick definition:
Service Design: identifying the root cause of a problem, applying a user-centered design mindset and process to innovate systems and improve multi-channel solutions. This applies both within an organization (employee experience, roles, tools and behaviors) and to the partners and customers they serve (meeting expectations, needs, tasks and behaviours through good touch-point design).
User Experince Design is applying user-centered design to improve digital strategy and interface solutions.

Tips to get started. Here are a list of some resources and organizations that I’ve worked with, have established Service Design conversations and contacts with. They are more likely to ‘get it!’ :

Harmonesse (speak to me!)
Open Road
Engine Digital


Public Sector:
Vancouver City Council
BC Government
BC Hydro
BC Assessment
Crown corporations generally

Social Innovation:
In With Forward
Radius SFU
Emily Carr Health Design Lab
City Studio

TELUS — Product and Strategy team
TELUS — Digital team

Van City
Coast Capital Savings


Tech satellite offices:

Tech Start-up’s/ Mid size:

Innovation boulevard
Interface Health

Thnk Leadership School
Red Academy
Brain Station
UBC Sauder school of business
Emily Carr Health design

Coworking spaces
There are about 10 coworking spaces. Always sweet to land a remote contract and work out of a space with other independents. Join me!
Here are a few:
Creative Coworkers
The Hive
For running workshops check: This Open Space

Networks and Conferences
Social Innovation Generation
Vancouver Futures
HXD Healthcare Experience Design
Creative Mornings
TED (yes it is in Vancouver!)
Interface health
Internet marketing, Squamish

Neighbouring towns
Portland , Seattle and San Francisco have a wealth of opportunities and more progressive innovation budgets.

I welcome any updates, please comment below?

Go explore and good luck!

Tamsin Smith

Written by

Founder Service Design Consultancy & Earth Centered Design global community

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