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Designed Things


It's easy to believe that the thing a design team makes is, in fact, the "design". However, the thing that the team makes is simply a physical expression of the nuanced, well-informed, and carefully constructed design ideas that the team has formed through the process of Discovery and Design. In other words, it's exciting to create new things from the research you have enacted, and to test that thing with participants, and launch it into the world, but that thing must adhere to needs found in Discovery and be constrained by the Opportunities found during Synthesis.

This is an process illustration of turning Insights into Opportunities.* Here, the illustration is further developed by using tangrams to show how each opportunity can be developed into multiple iterations.

Whatever the Opportunities your team identified, in the public sector, you will most likely design a product, service, system, or a pantheon of those items. This product, service, or system is the expression of your design ideas. Drawing from your design ideas, defining what the item you will design, or what items to design in what order, is a crucial decision. To help you parse your options, this section provides a broad outline of the ways in which products, services, and systems differ. It also highlights a few of the points at which products and services specifically are dependent upon each other and where and how the two might intertwine.

The National Archives provides some useful guidelines for differentiating between product and service from the viewpoint of the participant (or client, in their wording). They say that:

One way to think of [products and services] is from the clients’ point of view. When a client asks “what can you make for me?” they are asking about products; when a client asks “what can you do for me?” they are asking about services. While a product is something that can be measured and counted, a service is less concrete and is the result of the application of skills and expertise towards an identified need. - National Archives

As you read through this section, consider your Opportunities through the lens of product versus service versus system. Do some of them speak to being expressed as one of these designed things? Might some of their possible designed outcomes be a combination? Is it still unclear for some?


National Archives
Find the original National Archives article that is quoted above via this link.