Crisis and risk are the most current issues in service design. Which is oriented towards the relational, inclusive and participatory project

Milanese (and non-Milanese) service designers meet once a year during Rethink! , the service design festival conceived by Rafaela Scognamiglio and produced and promoted by Poli.Design - Politecnico di Milano. In 2022 it happened during Design Week and the main theme of the 'service design stories' was: facing the risk in the service society.

Giulio Quaggiotto , head strategic innovation of the United Nations, opened the event with a conversation with Stefano Maffei, Professor of Advanced Product-Service System Design.

Topics touched? Fear, crisis, uncertainty, risk. And how to deal with them with design tools that involve co-designed solutions and shared narratives of values and goals.

Innovation and risk management are project themes

The pandemic crisis has left an interesting legacy: we are changing. Not in a macroscopic or explosive way as some hoped or predicted, but still in a significant way.

The first to notice this in the design field are the service designers, or those who deal with finding efficient solutions around ordinary or exceptional problems of community living.

There are service designers also within the United Nations and, as it is easy to imagine, they deal with innovation. That is, to break new ground in terms of problem solving and, above all, of urban, social and environmental design processes.

Relational design vs traditional methods

Giulio Quaggiotto therefore deals with systems of complexes. Such as a country, a conflict, a developing nation. But also the future of cities like London, or the pandemic crisis.

And it is precisely this last accelerating force that has led us to consider service design in a pragmatic way in an area that is increasingly close to relational design and systemic design.

Because it has been realized that an approach abductive, that is able to welcome informal solutions proposed by the people directly involved in a problem, is an effective and unexpectedly rational and efficient tool .

Risk management requires creativity and listening

It is not easy to convince institutions or big companies to adopt listening as a design method. Because it is unpredictable, it works on the empirical basis of experience and requires careful fine tuning.

Furthermore, the solutions must be designed to be flexible and adaptable: every community has different needs and it is the project that has to adapt, not vice versa. But the benefits are huge. Because a design capacity based on sharing a collective narrative is activated, which therefore has the quality of being totally bottom / up and, consequently, able to offer solutions that emerge from people's direct experiences.

As if to say that the dialogue between the players involved in a system coincides with the discovery of a common narrative and the facilitation of a pragmatic and realistic planning. In addition to being decisive and, often, simple and cheaper.

The problem is within us, not outside

Why is it precisely the risk that activates and accelerates the most innovative processes of systemic design? Giulio Quaggiotto explains it well: "When we talk about complexity we often refer to the outside world, to the fact that, especially in these times, changes are increasingly frequent and connected with each other, often with negative consequences (from the climate crisis to conflicts)".

But, explains Quaggiotto, in reality it is an internal condition, a sense of inadequacy and anxiety that derives from the fact that we feel increasingly powerless in the face of global crises.

We feel powerless, and the tools we have traditionally relied on to understand and act seem less and less effective.

"Consequently, there is the need to develop new forms of thought to interact with reality that take us out of the impasse and create a constant flow of new options to 'do' even in conditions of great uncertainty.

This transition is not easy because the organizations we belong to often require certainty artifacts (dashboards and five-year plans) based on linear predictability models."

Stefano Maffei: "More and more services around the product"

And it is precisely on this topic that Stefano Maffei talked with Giulio Quaggiotta, once again underlining the need to build more and more services around the product, any product.

"The system is complex and full of variables. technology is not a solution, rather it is a tool through which to seek solutions to complex and rapidly changing problems.

It is not easy to build effective models but it must be done to activate intervention strategies on the subject of services, policies, social systems".

All images are taken from the Guardians of Beauty photographic exhibition, presented by the Conservation and Restoration Center La Venaria Reale and the Mauritian Order Foundation and can be visited at the Stupinigi Hunting Lodge, Nichelino (TO) from June 15 to September 18, 2022.

Through the evocative and silent photos of Silvano Pupella, the exhibition tells about preventive conservation and the encounter between different professionals - restorers, diagnosticians and art historians - who dialogue in order to observe and protect cultural heritage.