Summary

The principles of the Scottish Approach to designing services. Find out how to design collaboratively, inclusively and with empathy.


These principles are the basis of the Scottish Approach to designing services. They help make sure that all users — including staff and service providers — can be part of the design process and together create services that work.

  • collaborative — design services together with users, the service team and other public service providers
  • inclusive — design for everyone regardless of perspective, experience or ability
  • empathic — design with an understanding of what others see, feel and experience

Why we should collaborate

Working together, rather than in isolation, is fundamental to all 3 principles. Collaboration helps:

  • understand the problem from different perspectives
  • make sense of what research is telling you from different perspectives
  • design solutions that work for users, staff and service providers
  • minimise bias, for example, unfair influence, prejudice or exclusion

How to collaborate

Collaboration involves working together with the wide range of people who have experiences or knowledge of the service you’re designing. For example, service users, service providers and the people designing the service.

Collaborating requires working as a team and making sure the right people are involved at the right time. This involves both understanding who the right people are and ensuring that they’re able to contribute meaningfully.

More information is available in our guide on designing collaboratively.

Find out more about collaborating in digital projects in Ellen De Vries’s online book Collaborate.

Why we should take an inclusive approach

Designing inclusively means you:

  • put users at the centre of your service from the start of the design process
  • design for as many peopleÕs needs and abilities as possible
  • do not assume there is any idea of ‘normal’
  • recognise that needs shift with time and circumstance, such as changes in eyesight due to ageing
  • create processes, tools and methods so everyone is able to contribute their perspective to the research and design of services
  • consider the broad benefits from creating specific solutions

How to design inclusively

An inclusive approach focuses on making products and services easier to use for everyone. In many cases designing inclusively can have a broader benefit. For example, captions for videos are needed by users who are hard of hearing. They’re also useful for people with English as a second language, parents with a lively child or users in noisy environments.

You can make your services inclusive by:

  • making it easier for users to be part of the design process
  • improving the use of language to help users understand or use public services
  • making services accessible to anyone with a disability

Why we should design with empathy

When you’re designing a service do not assume that all your users will use it in the same way, or that they’ll use it in the way you would. Designing with empathy helps you design for others, rather than for yourself.

Designing with empathy means:

  • creating a culture that puts users at the heart of the design process by listening, considering and respecting the experiences of others
  • understanding how a service makes people feel and how it affects their lives
  • accepting what you see and hear then applying this to decisions you or your team make

Designing with empathy is not just about how you engage and communicate with your users. It’s also about how you treat your colleagues, project partners and anyone else involved.

How to design with empathy

You can build empathy in your delivery team by:

  • developing the understanding of users through user research and making sure team members are exposed to this
  • involving users in the whole design process, from planning to delivery
  • communicating users’ and service providers’ lived experiences of the service