How to be a more resilient service designer

by on 23 February 2019 in design

Last week, I turned to Twitter for help. I needed some tips on how to cope with some of the stress I was facing at work. I guessed that the challenges I was facing were pretty common to those faced by service designers. I got an amazing response, and I recommend you take a look at the entire thread, but I’ve tried to condense the tips into this blog post.

Buddy up

  • It’s a team effort
  • You will lose the will to live if you’re the only one driving change
  • Work with someone who is able to support and advocate for what you’re doing
  • It doesn’t have to be another service designer (someone with similar agile, user-centred, silo busting mindset)
  • Share the load of firefighting

Talk to others outside of work

  • Talk it over with people who aren’t involved
  • Go to meet-ups like OneTeamGov
  • Network on social media
  • Get a mentor

Build relationships

  • Go in as an explorer, rather then an expert
  • Focus on building networks not breaking down silos
  • Try to see things from other people’s point of view
  • Find a balance between organisational goals and user needs
  • Learn about the personalities and values of the other stakeholders

Remember it’s a long game

  • Change needs time
  • Be patient
  • Trust the process
  • Learn to spot opportunities
  • Think strategically about where to plant seeds and where they might grow best
  • Remember that others are trying to reach their own goals

Visualise your problems

  • Map out your stakeholders and priorities
  • Frame the big challenges by breaking them down into smaller problems and attach rough odds of success
  • Knowing how hard a problem is makes it less stressful to fail
  • Focus on smaller projects or task you can finish
  • Make sure your maps are accessibile to everyone
  • Go easy on jargon

Switch off

  • Don’t stare at the wall/screen trying to design solution
  • Go for a walk
  • Change your environment
  • Take a lunch or coffee break
  • Listen to music
  • Take up surfing or yoga
  • This can give you time to arrange your thoughts without realising it

Zoom out

  • Remind yourself of the context and purpose of the service
  • Remind yourself of the outcomes you want for the people using the service
  • Try not to attach your self-worth to the immediate feedback you get

Keep going

  • Trust yourself
  • Celebrate all the wins, no matter how small
  • Recognise that it’s hard
  • Recognise that it takes emotional investment and mental strength
  • Keep reminding folk of the duty of doing the right thing

Further reading


Thanks to everyone who helped (apologies if I forgot anyone).