Society & Purpose – Design & Develop

Module 2. Project 3. Week 11.

This week I will be questioning, how can service design answer certain challenges?

I will also be exploring how collaborating with experts outside of the design discipline can help to transform the project outcome.

The design development stage is not solely owned by trained designers but can be shared with other groups to solve the problem. This weeks case study will show that this is the case for many service design projects.

As I develop my selected brief I will be exploring how I could collaborate to bring a solution to my outcome.


Co-Founders of The Age of No Retirement and The Common Room; Jonathan Collie & George Lee

George, with a background in design strategy and communication, and Jonathan with expertise in health and service design, have formed an interdisciplinary team of researchers, designers and innovators to tackle issues related to the ageing population, ageism in society and the potential of intergenerational communities.

George actually started off as a psychologist and found that radical change can be achieved more effectively with the power of design. Founder of high-end design agency This is Real Art, she realised with age she wanted to do something with more impact for good. She launched, Commonland, a creative studio that focused on solving social issues with design-thinking.

Jonathan with a background in working as a medical professional in the NHS always had a desire to work in the creative industry, found himself working on service design projects that solved problems in the healthcare industry. He found working in a strategic clinic and corporate background where you had to know the answers was a large transition when in the design world “knowing too much is the enemy of discovery”.

They both had the belief that everyone should have equal opportunities, no matter who we are and what our age is. That is the passion and inspiration that led them to form The Age of No Retirement and run their recent project The Common Room It is a matter of bringing everyone together and collecting everyone’s wisdom to make a better space.

The Common Room projects aim is to create physical spaces across the UK, and even internationally, that brings people together to create an active environment.

“Design is what links creativity and innovation. It shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers. Design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end.” — The Cox Review of Creativity in Business, 2005.

They base their service design around the double-diamond design process. This is such a critical process that many designers. Broken down:

Stage 1: Discover [divergent]

The start of a project is a period of discovery, gathering inspiration and insights, identifying user needs and developing initial ideas. The first quarter of the double diamond model covers the start of the project. Designers try to look at the world in a fresh way, noticing new things and seeking inspiration. They gather insights, developing an opinion about what they see, deciding what is new and interesting, and what will inspire new ideas. Specific methods include: market research, user research, workshops managing and planning and design research groups (and other forms of ethnographic research).

Stage 2: Define [convergent]

The second quarter represents the definition phase, in which designers try to make sense of all the possibilities identified in the Discover phase. Which matters most? Which should we act on first? The goal here is to develop a clear creative brief that frames the fundamental design challenge to the organisation. Key methods during the Define phase are: project development, project management and project sign-off.

Stage 3: Develop [divergent]

The third quarter marks a period of development where solutions are created, prototyped, tested and iterated. This process, of trial and error, helps designers to improve and refine their ideas. Key activities and objectives during the Develop phase are: brainstorming, prototyping, multi-disciplinary working, visual management, development methods and testing.

Stage 4: Deliver [convergent]

The final quarter of the double diamond model is the Deliver phase, where the resulting product or service is finalised and launched. The key activities and objectives during this stage are: final testing, approval and launch, targets, evaluation and different forms of feedback.

Ideas around co-design and collaborative design processes are critical to developing relevant and appropriate design solutions. Co-design is about being fearless, brave, it is about being open to changing your own prejudices. To being able to LISTEN. This is hard and we all need to practice this. If we don’t listen, then we will never hear something new Ideas around co-design and collaborative design processes are critical to developing relevant and appropriate design solutions. 


How can intercultural insights and differences contribute to the design development of a project?

By collaborating with experts in the area of a subject relating directly to the subject of the problem at hand, we can develop a strong viable solution.

Coming together with a shared passion to solve the same mission, with a mindset from different disciplines, you are tackling a problem from so many different angles. Bringing different skills and knowledge from all the necessary subjects. Designers are not expected to have knowledge in the healthcare profession, politics, or science. We can pair our skills with someone with those solutions and together they are combined to form a wider skillset.


Select one of the design challenges posted on last week’s Ideas Wall and generate a solution that will provoke change. Please note, since we are exploring the role that intercultural design thinking can play on a specific design outcome, the design challenge cannot be your own.

You will need to collaborate with the originator of your chosen challenge, but the key task is to generate exciting and thoughtful ideas that can then be evaluated by the originator.

Think broadly about the relevant media you may wish to deploy when answering the design challenge, e.g. social media, public installation, viral, product or other digital or technology innovation.

After the Covid-19 crisis, this weeks challenge has been changed to allow us to select our own brief if we chose that this is easier during this time. However, I felt that I had a lack of inspiration for my own brief and thought selecting a new brief will actually allow me to look into a subject that I would never do otherwise. 

With a range of briefs being shared on the ideas wall, I wasn’t too sure on what to pick as there were so many options. In a tutorial with tutor, Richard and peer, J Fidler, we were discussing our own briefs and thought a good solution would be to directly swap. This way we could both use each other for meetings and questions without feeling guilty as we knew we would both needing each other equally. 

He had a range of briefs relating to his native, LA, California. This is somewhere I know little about and have never been. This gives me such a clear canvas to investigate with fresh eyes. As Jonathan Collie said, “knowing too much is the enemy of discovery”. 

One of J’s ideas that really did stand out for me was the following:

Aura Arborealis – Different kind of big sky country

Probably not unique to Los Angeles as this might be an issue for many cities but while not unique it is also specific to Los Angeles – the lack of trees is becoming increasingly problematic. There are the palm trees of Los Angeles, but they do little or none of what a tree could or should do. The palm trees don’t provide much shade and therefore do not help with rising temperatures, they provide no food or material, and they do little to absorb carbon.

Even if they did, there are too few of them to have any meaningful impact. All cities, and especially Los Angeles, should increase the planting of trees if there is to be any hope of survival. The palm trees are currently dying off due to parasites and stresses caused by heat and lack of water, is this a good time to look at opportunities to replace them and introduce other species to make Los Angeles a more livable and healthy city?

There is a real crisis in La with there being a lack of trees and those that are still there are dying from extreme heat, drought and parasites. So what are the facts:

  • 38% trees dead in Southern California– totalling 27 MILLION [1]
  • Removing and replacing dead trees could cost as much as $37 BILLION [1]


J said that he believes, “our future is either going to be borderline apocalyptic or the city is going to smell the forest”.


There are large things we are doing around the world to help this movement, such as carbon offsetting. Companies such as Offset Earth, work to reforest using money that people donate. Offest Earth has monthly subscriptions that you can sign up to in relation to how much travelling you do on average. This money is then spent on planting trees at the sites around the world. One of their main sites is the one pictured here in Madagascar. You can see the difference that has been made because of the work that they do!

With this project however, J wanted to focus on the small changes that we could be making. Charity begins at home. Let us look inwardly at what we can do ourselves that are more realistic challenges for us to complete. There is a statement that has been presented that if the whole of the UK boiled the correct amount of water when making a cup of tea, we could use the energy saved to power the whole of the nation for over 6 months. Small changes like this makes the difference.

What spaces will be or should be used in LA for planting trees in such a diverse and busy city full of buildings and highways?

So what solutions are there to help the LA tree crisis?

  • Encourage small change:
    • Give seeds packets in the post with a message to promote they scatter tree seeds in their green spaces
    • Teach people how to nurture and care for the trees they have on their properties
    • Encourage people to get a rain tank installed – this could also collect their used water from their house to then help dry plants and greenery. 
    • Motivate people to make these small changes with a strong campaign.
  • Public spaces:
    • There could be initiatives in public gardens that ask you to grab a handful of tree seeds and scatter them where they would like trees to grow. Inspiring people to make changes to care for plants.
  • High rises and dense building environment without space for greenery:
    • Impose new buildings or renovations consider vertical and rooftop gardens with trees that grow from the sides of buildings. 
    • Removing carbon from the air – in a futuristic idea, buildings could be designed to suck in carbon dioxide from the air and work as trees.

For this project, I could collaborate with anyone from climate scientists to architects. 

J’s initial response to my thoughts was positive. It sparked new ideas and more specific references that I could research.

“Hi Sasha.

Based on your initial thoughts, and some of of the things we had talked about, here are some more specific links:

  • The New York Highline, an elevated disused railway spur, now a park-like space.
    I might look at using former freeway overpasses, or just former freeway space in LA like this in the future.

IMG_2736A great example of my idea of planting in public spaces is Greenaid-Seedbomb. This is something that not only makes our spaces greener but it promotes the idea of providing to the world around us with nutrients and care. This small act of kindness reminds us of what we can do at home to improve our green spaces.



I even began thinking about VR and how I could collaborate to transform the city centre or even a shopping mall to create a virtual experience of what that space would look like if it was left and reclaimed by nature. If nature took the land back and grew trees around buildings and vines through shop windows. A postapocalyptic scene of how powerful nature can be.

Challenge Outcome – Final Idea. ‘Lending Land’

The High Line is an example of the world reclaiming itself. A hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design. This is built on a rail line that was set for demolition but reclaimed by the community to be used as a green space.

I am really interested in the idea of using empty spaces for good. Unused and derelict buildings, land, demolition sites, abandoned buildings. With the link that J also gave me about using land that is currently not being used, it helped spark a few new ideas. [2]


This article [3] by the LA Times talks about how much land there is currently owned by the city that is sitting derelict. There is so much that the state does not even have a clear record. My theory is that we could somehow get in touch with the council to see if we could borrow land for good. 

In a campaign to, ‘lend land’ I could collaborate with agricultural scientists and even architects to use empty land, abandoned buildings, even those waiting for demolision and transform them into the plant pots of the city. Even using rooftops of buildings owned by the city. (Such as the sketch above shows, how taking up little areas around the city can slowly add up). Planting agriculture that removes the most carbon dioxide from the air in the shortest space of time, this would also need to be plants that are quick growing.

As we would be ‘borrowing’ the land, if the land was to be sold or needed for a different use by the city, these plants could be dug up and moved to a new ‘plot’. What the best plant for this would be I do not know, but there are a range that could be possibilities. Tulsi, peepal, neem, palm tree, fern tree, Peepal Tree, Neem Tree [4]. Saying that these would need to be best suited for the exact location of LA. This is where agricultural scientists would come into it and help determine the best option.  

How could this be achieved? It would have to be a charitable scheme run on donations. These donations would go towards the purchasing of the plants themselves, the building or digging up of land to make plots suitable for growing, the man-hours to do this work. This is all relying of the hope that the city accepts the initative and is accomodating with some of its land. 

This could even be extended to include people with private land that is currently not in use to be ‘lended’ to be used for the initative, until it is then needed again. 


This week I have gone out of my comfort zone to work on a brief written by someone other than myself. This has been extremely exciting, although I feel a lot of pressure to produce a brilliant outcome to make J proud of the idea I have come up with. 

I’ve had the chance to theorise a lot of wild and speculative ideas. Most ideas would be completely impossible without extereme development and collaboration. However, that is what this week has really been about. Realising the opportunities that are there once you realise you can collaborate to make those ideas a reality quite easily. 

I have developed an idea that is quite far fetched but I believe it solves the problem well! I am sure next week I will be taking this idea further to see how I could develop and promote it.




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