We’re two years old! Time for a long overdue update. Our mission is to drive positive impact for businesses and organisations here in Ireland and abroad, through people-centred service design. Here’s how we’ve been getting on!

February 2020, over Costa Rica after meeting IDP20 design students.

The Time is Now 

Since 2018 we have been working to build our network in Ireland, and to advance awareness of the immediate opportunity that service design represents to our local economy. Service design is all about putting user’s and customer’s needs at the centre of innovation, and to deliver better services through consideration of staff, behind-the-scenes systems, constraints and constant optimisation. While this may seem like a common sense approach, much is often missed in more traditional processes. In January, reaction was very positive to our article, “It’s Irelands time for Service Design” which covers this opportunity for the Irish economy, as experienced elsewhere in the world.

The discussion which followed recognised the clear connection between Ireland’s economic success, and the significant potential productivity gain to be made in the provision and optimisation of services. Separately, many were surprised to learn how much service design talent we are creating in Ireland, and how much of that talent we’ve sent abroad. This was the subject of a followup article in June

Back for Business 

We were delighted, early in 2020, to be accepted onto the “Back for Business” programme, an initiative to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among returned emigrants or those planning to return to live in Ireland in the near future. The initiative, funded by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme, offers incredible networking opportunities, fantastic mentorship, and precisely the kind of encouragement and support homecoming entrepreneurs need. 

Our thanks to the team at Back for Business, to our cohort colleagues, and most of all to Áine Denn, who provided wonderful support, encouragement, and when required, a push in the right direction. 

CITYxCITY

Context Studio  started 2020 in Brussels, conducting research with the enterprise and SME partners attending the Connected Smart Cities and Communities conference. Since then, we’ve helped the Open & Agile Smart Cities network (OASC) to plan the rollout of a new, fully online festival, the “CITYxCITY” festival for 2021. Our contribution included research, planning, the facilitation of co-creation sessions across the team, and strategy for how the festival will fit in a suite of services being developed by OASC under the CITYxCITY banner. 

Visit www.citybycity.com to register for the CITYxCITY festival.

Another of these services which we’re really proud of is the “CITYxCITY” catalogue, the product of over a years research, prototyping, and intense collaboration. More on this soon, but it will be the first online repository of solutions for cities, which is developed by cities, for cities – a neutral marketplace for deployed and replicable solutions across a global network of cities and communities. 

International Projects

We’ve continued our work with Innofounder Graduate, in collaboration with the Danish Design Centre, and we now lead Design Mentorship efforts on this, the graduate startup incubator of the Danish Innovation Fund. 

Kicking off the Innofounder Graduate bootcamp for Cohort 6, March 2020.

Our long association with Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design has continued – we were in Costa Rica in early 2020 for the incredible experience of kicking off the first ever Interaction Design Programme to be delivered outside of Denmark. We met with a fantastic group of designers from all over the world, and delivered a programme of “Team Building” content to get the group off to a great start. Design in the Costa Rican rainforest was a wonderful contrast to the remainder of the year, when such exotic locations were far from reach. Find out more about the fantastic work this year’s IDP have been doing here.

February 2020 – with IDP20 at Las Cruces Biological Station, Costa Rica, as they embarked on a year of learning in the new world of life-centred design.

Our continuing work overseas includes collaborations with The Lunar Works & Tynos Consulting, on an exciting project for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the UK – more on that at a later date. We’ve also completed a project with global healthcare and emergency response provider, Falck, based in Copenhagen. 

Our Work here in Ireland

Closer to home we’ve been working with Dublin City Council (DCC Beta Projects, Smart Dublin), Trinity College Dublin (Tangent, Connect Centre) and the UX Design Institute. We are delighted to be part of the visiting faculty for the MA Service Design at NCAD, now in its second year. We were also pleased to be selected as associate panel members for Centre for Design, the National Design Innovation Hub at the Institute of Technology Carlow

“Paying it Forward” to the Design Community

We’ve continued to contribute with the Ireland Chapter of Service Design Network, and have been contributing to the development of the global Service Design Network accreditation offering for practitioners, trainers, and organisations. 

Additional to this, and continuing a long relationship with the global Interaction Design Association (IxDA) our own John Lynch was honoured this year to be invited to co-chair the annual ‘IxDA Student Design Charette’, which will culminate at next year’s Interaction21 conference and is sponsored by TTC Labs. Already a talented group of finalists are busy working with their panel of global mentors to tackle the brief of “Our Data and Global Wellbeing”.

2020 – the year that almost wasn’t! 

In a year when, let’s be honest, lots of things we take for granted got turned upside down – it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. The crisis began with the cancellation of some projects, and our immediate withdrawal from the lovely space we’d taken at The Fumbally Exchange. We had a close shave with the dreaded COVID via a workshop overseas, and the instant shift to online interaction posed challenges for delivery of our work and conduct of our all-important research. 

“In Ireland, and around the world, services have been the front line of defence.”

In Ireland, and around the world, services have been the front line of defence. From the health service, to the delivery of testing, from digital COVID tracker apps, to the logistics services that got supplies to where they were needed. Even restaurants and bars have needed to redesign their services this year in order to survive. It has seemed as though the world began redesigning services overnight, embracing prototyping, and rapidly iterating solutions. Services are where the real value can be found. 

We’ve worked hard to define new working methods for the online world, and we’re grateful to clients, partners and collaborators who have worked with us throughout this year. Thankfully, it’s been a success, with strong year-on-year growth at a time when that should not be taken for granted. We’ve been proud to end out our year with a Christmas donation to Focus Ireland via the campaign by the wonderful people at Each & Other, a tiny token of our gratitude to the city and country where we live and work. 

Starting the company in the first week of December was not a conscious choice, but the date, being close to the end of the year, has provided a rather happy outcome. Now, as each year ends and Context Studio grows a year older, we can ask “Have we driven positive impact for businesses and organisations here in Ireland and abroad?”.

As we close out a challenging 2020 and look forward to a better 2021, it is comforting to think that we’re on the right track. 

We wish all our friends and colleagues, clients and partners a peaceful holiday season and the very best for 2021.