Why protecting people from online harm needs to be informed by user-centred design

an illustration of a woman looking at a laptop with an alert sign on it
an illustration of a woman looking at a laptop with an alert sign on it

After a year when many people’s lives were lived online more than ever before, and with that trend only set to continue, the issue of online safety has never been more important.

This is an introduction to the issues surrounding Safety Tech and how user-centred design is crucial in helping this growing sector to safeguard people online.

What is ‘Safety Tech’?

Perhaps you’re more used to hearing about ‘cybersecurity’, which is focused on protecting . Whereas ‘cyber safety’ — or what’s increasingly being referred to as Safety Tech — is focused on protecting .

Put simply, the Safety Tech industry produces products and services designed to block harmful content and prevent online harassment, abuse…

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact to date around the world. As part of my daily work in supporting organisations to deliver good services and trustee positions I hold, I’ve had to oversee contingency planning for care services moving to remote delivery in less than 2 days, charities figuring out how to deliver in home services to young people online who don’t have digital access and hear from my team at Snook about the challenging situation our clients are finding themselves in to keep people safe with staff sickness up by a third.

Conversely, through these challenging times, it’s also…

Girl skateboarding, Snook illustration by Isabella Bunnell

We’re hiring at Snook — not just a few roles — lots of them. We’re looking to grow our team in a number of areas because we’ve got a big challenge on our hands.

Why is Snook here?

We’re on a mission to design a world where people and planet thrive. We think deep and look wide to transform the systems that shape our world. That means everything, everywhere — from exploring healthcare’s digital future to tearing down barriers to accessible transport. Bit by bit, we’re making our world more human — so everyone can thrive.

We believe that when our world is built…

I’m publishing these excerpts of talks I’ve given so they’re accessible to people I share design introductions with. They cover some basic principles, key moments in the history of design and the value of user-centred design for organisations.

It’s only a few of my favourite examples and narratives of explaining how consciously designing to meet user needs came from.

Design isn’t always universally understood.

The first time we went to the bank to set up Snook in 2009, back in our humble setting of Glasgow, we were asked what we do.

Do you design clothes?


Image from Mauro Rego who has the best #goodservices photo game

Finally, a critical book in Service Design that comes back to the materiality of services. For too long we fetishised methods and focused on the how not the what of services.

I have been vocal in the past on the challenge of the discipline focusing on to design services with a lack of quality texts in good looks like. Whilst no one person can claim to deliver the absolute closing word on what makes a good service, Lou Downe has given it a shot and had the courage to put it into print. …

We’re launching a design festival — join us.

To celebrate the two year anniversary of DOTI, this October we’re hosting DOTI Fest in London. It will be a day of talks, conversations and bright ideas.

We want to explore how design can make the world more human — and you’re invited to join the conversation.

Why did we start DOTI?

For me, service design has always been a collaborative sport.

In 2017, I looked around at service design events and found lots of talks on process and tools. That’s not to put that down — there is a time and place for this. However, I…

Snook was founded 10 years ago this December, and as we start to look back over nearly a decade of great work, it’s time for us to think about where we want to be in the future.

We’re stronger now than ever before. We have a full portfolio of work for the year, doing the things we love best — working on some of the most significant Scottish and UK Government programmes around.

Over the years we’ve grown a team of over thirty in Scotland and London and recently, we have brought in more support roles to make it easier…

As you may have seen, I announced some exciting news this week. It’s big news, mega news in fact and the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.

I talked in our release from a company perspective, and I meant all of it. Snook was and is in a really good place with no to change because of cashflow or problems, but this was more about the consultancy model needing transformation. .

However, I wanted to provide a personal perspective on the decision I’ve taken and what it’s really like to run a company like Snook as it has grown.

Ten years ago to the day I graduated from my degree in Product Design at Glasgow School of Art.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of the school and the course, and since leaving myself, I’ve had the pleasure of working with their graduates to help us in designing a world that’s more human. Which is why it means so much to me to be recognised by the institution I honed my craft in.

Today I was given an honorary doctorate from the Glasgow School of Art. For ten years I’ve contributed to the field building of Service Design in…

Service design has had a meteoric rise over the past decade. The discipline has helped us to make services more accessible, usable and inclusive. It has, in turn, made services more efficient and less costly to deliver.

This success has been widely recognised, and service design is increasingly being accepted as a key way to improve user experience, especially in the context of digital design.

It should come as no surprise that co-design techniques have underpinned community and neighbourhood development for decades — Stanley King started work on this in the 1970s — but it’s time for these techniques to…

Sarah Drummond

Founder @wearesnook @dearestscotland @cycle_hack @mypolice | Service Designer + Boss | GOOD Magazine’s Top 100 influencers 2016|Google Democracy Fellowship 2011

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