Service design advent calendar, take 3

“Il faut cultiver son jardin.”
‘Candide’ by Voltaire, 1759

About 100 years ago (give or take) I studied French at la Sorbonne in Paris (aka the good old days). Included in that were a number of works by 18th century French philosophers, and Andy’s day 1 ‘service design as garden’ metaphor brought back memories of the quote above.

‘You must cultivate your garden.’

The full title of the oeuvre was ‘Candide, ou l’Optimisme’. Voltaire’s (much debated) hypothesis was that we do not live in the best of all possible of worlds as stipulated by German philosopher Leibniz, so any mindless optimism was misguided. You needed to get practical and get on with it. Just cultivate your garden.

The other big philosopher thrown at us was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in 1762 produced a marvelous piece called “Du Contrat Social”, the social contract. It outlines the ‘relationship as agreement’ between citizens and the state, society and commerce, stressing the sovereignty of the people.

Rousseau had a melioristic approach (from Latin ‘melior’, better), which interestingly is shared by folks like Hans Rosling, fellow Swede and amazing in using data to prove how the world has & could become better from a development perspective.

Yes, this is all going somewhere…

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

This is further echoed and developed by Max Roser (another meliorist) who wrote in “Our World in Data” (and all three statements are true at the same time) that

“The world is much better. The world is awful. The world can be much better.”

So our advent calendar journey (it’s always a journey with these service designers isn’t it) takes us from four seasons and two questions, to the one Big Question.

Which we should all ask ourselves and that I’m really happy that Geke van Dijk chose to articulate in her contribution.

How do we cultivate that Big Garden?

And what is the systemic change and re-negotiations of our broader social contract that goes with that…? You can leave your comments on how to solve that below… I’m hoping to attempt ‘climate design’ of the Very Big Bank where I am currently enduring my days, any help much appreciated…

Join us for a sketchy weekend, and hope you enjoyed your Friday.




An eclectic collection of service design doing and thinking

Recommended from Medium

Tentang Game & Gamification

Problems I had collaborating on projects with other designers

Use a Donate Button to Accept Recurring Donations on Wix

How to conduct research, through design

Designing a Seamless, New-Age Educational Experience — end to end: An UI/UX Case Study

YoungInnovations Weekly Blog #234 — COVID-19 Transparency Portal, YI Sessions, OC4IDS and NPBMIS…

Usability Evaluation and Site Redesign: Happy Hopping?

How we ran a first click test for different screen sizes

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Niclas Ljungberg

Niclas Ljungberg

Norse knowledge nomad, curious problem solver, philosopher & story teller, explorer of blank pages & patterns, hybrid strategist & service/business designer.

More from Medium

Service design advent calendar, St. Nicholas day

Designing for the expert user — your colleagues

Enterprise UX — Shred #24

Weeknotes SE02E25/26/27/28

Image is of a close up of a red Christmas bauble hanging on a Christmas tree. Christmas lights are in the background