Service Design in Canada – Finding a Voice

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There is no doubt that Service Design is growing in Canada. The yearly conference that the Canadian chapter of the Service Design Network organization continues to grow in importance and magnitude. Following are some reflections on the 2018 Conference, SDN Converge, which took place in Toronto in December 2018.

In December 2018, over 350 people from the Canadian Service Design community come together to celebrate a growing industry, share insights and practices, and share dialogue among thought leaders, practitioners, and new members alike. The event comprised a range of participants from across Canada, including

  • 52% from the private sector
  • 33% from the public sector, and
  • 15% from academic circles

True to the nature of service design, the breakdown of the audience encompassed many different backgrounds and viewpoints, showing a maturity in content and conversation, with aspirations to continue bringing in new voices and perspectives.

The true benefit of bringing together Canada’s Service Design community was not in the presentations or workshops, although those were insightful and provided clarity around a growing discipline.

The true benefit, I think, was in a nascent Canadian industry coming together and starting to express its collective voice.

…a nascent Canadian industry coming together and starting to express its collective voice

This was only the second annual gathering of the Canadian SDN chapter, an assembly of a discipline that is quickly gaining both impact and acclaim in Canada. While still not up to speed with our European counterparts in locales such as the UK or Scandinavia, by all accounts the Service Design community appears to be growing and gaining a real sense of influence in Canada.

As active members of this community, many of The Moment’s Innovation Designers were on site at #Converge to participate in the dialogue and share our insights. Here are some thoughts from a few of the participating Momenteers:

Greg Judelman, Co-Founder:

It’s exciting to be a part of this growing movement in Canada. In catching up with friends, colleagues, and clients at the conference it’s clear that there is a continuous and accelerating evolution of Service Design awareness and practice in our organizations. Now is an exciting moment for the field as the craft is maturing at the intersection of Service Design and organizational change. There is increasing demand and opportunity for us to make better services and positive change in our organizations and communities. Looking forward to participating in this continuous evolution of our practice… and to catching up again with people at the conference next year!

Simon Mhanna, Innovation Designer:

It’s an exciting time to be involved in the growing Service Design scene in Toronto and Canada overall. One can’t help but appreciate the clear departure from earlier conversations around Service Design where the understanding of the practice was still challenging to where the conversations are today. The conference fostered a clear interest and focus on measuring and articulating the value of Service Design and its impact. This interest is an early signal of maturity in the field. It is definitely a more rewarding feeling for practitioners to move beyond introducing and selling Service Design, to actually having the opportunity to do some work. As for the clients in the room – their curiosity and enthusiasm were quite apparent.

Julie Sommerfreund, Innovation Designer:

I really felt that SDN Converge promoted a true sense of community. I was especially impressed to see a dramatic increase in public sector employees from last year – over 50% – attending the conference. There are some great things going on in the public sector + Service Design at the moment, and I was happy to see a number of public representatives participate. When the BC Service Design team shared their story of decreasing form error rates to below 1% – and the entire audience applauded them – that was a moment of inspiration. Not only was it an impressive feat, but it really felt like we were a community of colleagues supporting each others’ journeys for better outcomes in people and in society.

The Service Design community as a whole has also seen profound growth. In the room, you had people who were competitors in the market, yet there was still a sense of fostering shared desires to increase the use of Service Design tools in society. Coming together with everyone in one place, to talk about our shared passion and commitment to Service Design, really brought that feeling of connected community together.

Mark Kuznicki, Co-Founder:

SDN Converge really showed me that the notion of design thinking is growing up. The Service Design community is the best vehicle right now for actively promoting and engaging Human Centered Design in real applications that include digital, but are also beyond digital. Service Design is also starting to serve as a channel for people to discover other kinds of design practice such as foresight, organizational design, systemic design, and others. I think it’s a great community for The Moment to participate in, contribute to, to invest in – because it’s aligned with our purpose.

As for the conference itself, I said to a newbie at the beginning of the day: you’re going to have a great day. Nothing is better than spending a day with people who fundamentally care about others; people who have that emotional intelligence and skill; people who have a compassion for the human dimension of life. The SDN organizing committee did a great job organizing the event. It was clear that they cared about each moment and thoughtfulness went into every touchpoint.

It was both humbling and heartening to be in a room with people who are working to make the world a better place

Tiffany Elliot, Marketing Manager:

As The Moment’s voice in marketing, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we talk about our services and the impact they have on our clients. It was inspiring to see a community full of individuals who believe in the practice of Service and Human Centered Design, and who are committed to making things better – in the public sector, in the private sector, for people in large banks, and for the homeless population. It was both humbling and heartening to be in a room with people who are working to make the world a better place (truly!). Service Design as a practice seems to attract people with positive, empathetic thinking and this was very evident as I met and mingled with people from different locations and backgrounds throughout the day. This was the first service design conference I have attended, and what struck me most was the attention and detail that went into planning the event itself. It really demonstrated the impact that Service Design, as a practice, has on the organizations it touches: Service Design enables us to think about the human, within the whole.


The gathering and hosting of Canada’s Service Design community is a sign of a maturing industry. Service Design, and design thinking – specifically in Canada – are growing up. At #Converge, we saw an industry full of thoughtful, compassionate humans who are working to make the world a better place, in private, nonprofit, and public positions. The practice of Service Design is clearly maturing, and the work is becoming increasingly respected within wider organizational contexts.

We are proud to be part of this burgeoning community and will continue to support its growth in the best way we know how: by participating in thoughtful dialogue, championing the practice, and always continuing to advocate for the humans at the centre of it all.