Defining and analysing roles of designers as a way to develop
design capability in Migri

After working at Inland for half a year, I am finalising my MA thesis in Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture, while reflecting back on my months as a service design intern.

During my time at Inland, I worked as a service designer in Migri projects. Design in public sector and in governmental organisations has a certain level of complexity. Compared to working as a consultant for the public sector, an in-house position at Inland offered challenges, possibilities and a perspective that would have been otherwise impossible for me to attain. Working within Migri, I was able to obtain a deeper understanding of the working practices and the organisation as a whole, and most importantly how designing better services for immigrants is possible.

Design approaches are increasingly used for public sector development and innovation. However, the complex and rigid nature of public sector organisations creates a different set of challenges in comparison to private sector. Organisations often lack resources, awareness and structures that enable proper implementation of design. These three aspects related to organisation’s acceptance, understanding and ability to use design in their operations, is commonly referred to as organisation’s design capability (Malmberg, 2017). Designers and their design competence are part of an organisation’s design resources and thus one aspect of their design capability. In-house designers affect directly how design is used and perceived in the organisation. This suggests that the content and positioning of their roles in projects and in the organisation has the potential to affect organisation’s design capability itself. My hypothesis is that defining and developing the roles of designers is one way to help develop Migri’s design capability.

From the beginning I had an interest in different ways of working and how the role of a designer changes, not only between projects but also within a project. This is where I found my thesis topic. In my thesis, I take a look into the roles of in-house service designers in Migri and examine how they help build design capability in the organisation. I take apart the roles I experienced and observed, and compile a personal yet holistic view on what it means to be a designer in Migri. I also discuss how the responsibilities and tasks of a designer change according to other roles and capabilities available. For me roles of designers act as a lens to understand how Migri applies design in their operations. I hope my work will provide a glimpse into the working practices, design process and established roles of service designers in the context.

While acknowledging that my perspective is subjective and context-specific, I believe in the value of reflecting on the impact of roles when it comes to design in the public sector. What are the described and actualised roles? Is there value in defining roles? Can this bring forward better job descriptions? Better tools for communicating the value of design? Ultimately even better application and implementation of design? And in the end, what can the end-user and the organisation gain from all this?

Reference

Malmberg, L. (2017). Building Design Capability in the Public Sector : Expanding the Horizons of Development (PhD dissertation). Linköping. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3384/diss.diva-134167