Getting Started with Policy Co-design

We have recently completed the Innovation for Culture project alongside British Council Mexico and Cultura Jalisco with the aim of exploring future policy options and opportunities for the state of Jalisco using a co-design approach. We used various forms of participation along the way, including stakeholder and policy mapping, expert interviews, multiple activities with a 25 person citizen advisory group, and a community survey. The project lasted 6 months and resulted in a set of policy recommendations and a Playbook summarising our approach and key learnings. 

Pages from the Policy Co-Design Playbook (bilingual in Spanish and English)

When we started the project, we were overwhelmed by all of the different approaches out there in terms of opening up the policymaking process at its early, strategic stages. In the UK and Australia, organisations like Nesta,…

How to not become (too) cynical

As design researchers at STBY we are dealing with lots of complex issues and data. We are diving into root causes, problem areas and, luckily, also opportunities for change of issues that sometimes threaten us in our own existence (climate change!). When dealing with so many problems for months in a row, it is easy to start feeling down. How to not become cynical seems a challenge sometimes. But being cynical is not necessarily a bad thing. A healthy dose of cynicism can actually become a call to action, an incentive to fight for a good cause. But we have to choose our battles wisely, because there are things we can change, and things we cannot. 

Being realistic about the limits of what we can do, helps us to keep some peace of mind. However, we do want to be a piece of the puzzle, and we think we definitely can. Something we can contribute to as design researchers is knowledge creation,…

‘New’ Tools for Surveying in Design Research

While we tend to sway toward more qualitative methods at STBY, we have been increasingly doing more mixed-methods research. This includes incorporating a lot more surveys into our research process. New tools are making it easier to design mixed-methods studies where qualitative and quantitative can both shine in complementarity. Below is a reflection on three surveying tools we have been using recently, how we have used them, and some pros and cons of each. 


Though not marketed as a Survey builder, dscout allows researchers to conduct diary studies at scale with ease and efficiency. Participants in these studies (called Scouts) complete a number of tasks throughout a fixed period of time. The nature of these tasks can range from completing simple multiple choice questions, to recording small selfie videos. We have used dscout for a few projects now, and it has made…

Zooming out of User Journeys: Timelining in Design Research

During a recent team ‘Inspiration Session’ I trawled the backlogs of our team ‘SlackTack’ channel, where we share all things inspiring, thought provoking and (somewhat) relevant to our Design Research practice. I stumbled upon a link I shared at the beginning of Lockdown 1 to a platform called

The platform brings together so much of what I love: timelines, history and interactive websites. It’s essentially an interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015. Pulling historical events from Wikipedia, the timeline self-updates daily with new recorded events. It was a huge source of inspiration in terms of using timelines in Design Research and made me reflect on how and why we have used timelining across various projects at STBY. 

Maps of Time in Design Research

As I argue in our book Explorers:

Where do you live on Dollar Street?

Are you bamboozled by the daily pandemic statistics of your country? Or have you even tuned out? These numbers are designed to be super clear, and help us understand the current spread of COVID-19 around us. They are supposed to influence our behaviour in the right way. Understanding the facts and drawing consequences from them is however hard when these facts have to compete with our own knowledge, gained from personal experience.

It may seem obvious that finding and understanding the facts is even more crucial when you are a researcher. Good education and solid experience can teach you what research methodology to use, and how to avoid pitfalls in research. But also existing knowledge of a researcher about a topic can still push the research in a direction that sits comfortably within the researcher’s current understanding of the world. How capable are you to step away…

Reflections on ‘Embracing Change’

STBY is actively taking part in the Service Design Network and was therefore keen to virtually attend last year’s Service Design Global Conference (SDGC) in October 2020. The theme of the conference was ‘Embracing Change’, which was approached through different perspectives; from change in organisations, change in people’s attitudes and change through service design. Attending conferences allows us to reflect on our own work as design researchers and to get inspired by the work of others. The theme of the conference ‘Embracing Change’ is a core aspect we consider in our work at STBY when approaching key issues in contemporary society, technology and business. We see that many organisations including our clients engage with design researchers to help them transform from being internally focused to interacting more collaboratively and sustainably with the …

How to shift a system through design

To change a system is a long term effort. It can only happen gradually, over time. With our research for What Design Can Do design challenges, we contribute to system change. As for all WDCD design challenges, STBY plays a key role in taking a systemic approach to system change. We are the global research partner of WDCD, and provide a solid academic background as well as extensive global experience in doing design research for system change. For the No Waste Challenge we were responsible for building on existing knowledge and creating new knowledge, all to support the design field to move forwards to sustainability. 

Based on our experiences with the foundational research and the co-creation of design briefs for four challenges (among them are three climate action challenges), it is time to share some thoughts on how to work on system change through design: 


Understanding new forms of care in times of an pandemic

Early 2020, the Covid-19 global pandemic quickly spread and affected the lives of billions around the globe, including the members of the Reach Network. We felt a strong need to come together as a community to collectively understand the changes in our societies at this unique moment in time. As a group of design researchers and anthropologists, we quickly realised that we could make use of our professional research skills to contribute to the on-going learning about new forms of care. 

From hearing the news and sharing personal stories about the increasing worries of COVID-19 at both local and global levels we had also seen the development of new forms of care. As a devoted design research community we wanted to understand and explore these new manifestations as a potential force of change in our societies whose weaknesses and inequalities had been exposed even more …

Studying digital product families

Interested in how to do user research on how people use digital product families? At STBY we learnt a few lessons, and think there are increasing opportunities for design researchers and service designers for studying project families in the digital world, so we would like to share some of our reflections. 

The idea of a product family is not a new one 

In the world of manufacturing, companies have long used the idea of a family of products to satisfy customer needs by introducing variety while taking advantage of mass production efficiency (Pine, 1993). In product design, a product family refers to a range of products that offers similar functionalities with small variations of size or certain features, how these variants can be manufactured/assembled with the same components is often the key of design when it comes to cost efficiency (Jiao et al, 2007). For example,…

Beyond Human Centred Design

COVID19 has given the world the time to rest, and the opportunity for us to rethink the way we live. It has also revealed how inseparable we are with the natural world. Not only because we as humans rely on the resources that it provides, but also because of increasing human-wildlife collisions due to overpopulation, urban development, climate change and so on. While looking at all these interrelated issues, we all know that human beings are just one of the stakeholders in a bigger picture. Working in the field of human-centred design, what kinds of questions must we ask ourselves in light of these trends? Which disciplines can inform the way that we think about, and design for, interactions between humans and the natural ecosystems in which we are embedded?

“The earth is more than just a home, it’s a living planet and we are part of it.”  -James Lovelock

We have recently been…

Emerging new rituals at STBY

In times of uncertainty people have a greater need for rituals, anthropologists have long observed. Covid-19 drastically changed the way we live and work around the world, and obviously also at STBY. The way we collaborate and communicate has entirely shifted online. Like many others, we experience that this can be tough and challenging at times, but found new ways of coping with this new reality: by creating  new rituals for the STBY team. 

Watching short films every Wednesday morning  

An advantage of having two studios in two different countries is that we already had an online  infrastructure and routine for online communication. The team in London and Amsterdam did have online calls to discuss project work and catching up on a regular basis, but since Covid-19 we found a new routine of informally checking in with each other each morning. A new ritual…

Our latest publication: Explorers

Lockdown has been tough in many ways, but it has also allowed us to put our heads down and pull together our latest publication, Explorers: Thoughts on Mapping in Design Research.

As a somewhat bleak winter looms, this project has been a source of fun, intrigue and light (it’s neon orange) for us at STBY. Like many who work in service design and design research, maps bring us a lot of joy. Over the past few months we have been researching and writing about mapping: what it means in design research and service design, how other disciplines approach mapping, and where peers are pushing boundaries. We have by no means doing this alone; generous contributors from around the globe have been exploring the topic with us and many of their mapping projects and thoughts are also featured. With maps of smells, elephant journeys, the Taiwan COVID-19 response, and forests of the future (plus many…

How to not become (too) cynical

As design researchers at STBY we are dealing with lots of complex issues and data. We are diving into root causes, problem areas and, luckily, also…

Where do you live on Dollar Street?

Are you bamboozled by the daily pandemic statistics of your country? Or have you even tuned out? These numbers are designed to be super clear, and…

Beyond Human Centred Design

COVID19 has given the world the time to rest, and the opportunity for us to rethink the way we live. It has also revealed how inseparable we are with…

Let’s Talk Maps and Mapping

Interested in mapping services, ecosystems, stakeholders and beyond? Join us as we explore how other disciplines approach mapping and what we can take away as design researchers and service designers.

The Subspecies of Design Researcher

As a design research agency, STBY has worked with design researchers of many shapes and sizes. While the role of ‘design researcher’ becomes more common and recognised as a formal position in many different types of organisations, it’s worth reflecting on how we all work and the unique skills and attitudes needed in different settings.