Design story: Conor Reddick Service Designer, Innovation Lab, Department of Finance

For BDW18 we are doing a series of design stories with different design week contributors, this week we had a chat with Conor Reddick Service Designer at the Innovation Lab in the Department of Finance

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I joined the Lab nearly a year ago, coming in to do service design after three years working as a chemical engineer. I started out working life with a blue chip pharmaceutical manufacturer where I mostly worked on process automation. I then joined a small spin out company from Queen University, Belfast who were hoping to take some ground-breaking research from lab scale to commercial scale. I stayed there for two years, helping them achieve commercialisation and realising some significant ‘world firsts’ along the way. I was drawn to design in the public sector because it allowed me to be involved in some exciting projects across a variety of different sectors. My experience in engineering and desire to solve problems lends itself well to the role.

Can you tell us what the Innovation Lab does and what its role is within Northern Ireland?

The Innovation Lab aims to help solve some of the biggest and complex problems the public sector currently faces. The Lab has worked predominantly on healthcare projects, as well as justice, education, environmental, and transport projects. Design is one of three core methodologies used by the Lab, with behavioural science and system dynamics modelling also available to help solve problems.

What does design mean to you?

When I started in the Lab, I thought of design as being a practice owned by people who more traditionally had design in their job title (e.g. graphic designers) and less about people who practice the design process. It’s very much about a person’s experience with design that shapes their definition and I rarely thought of what I did as an engineer as design. I think this is a challenge for people in service design and related fields to overcome, as people outside of our field maybe don’t fully comprehend what can be achieved through design. Maybe we need a new word? Different words? Or no word at all!

Design to me means when something is offered to the end user, the solution has been well thought out. It has been designed with the end user’s unmet needs right at the core of the solution.

Finally what do you hope for the future of design in Belfast?

Design in Belfast has a unique opportunity. Our thread of design is relatively unknown, with few practitioners based in the city. Those that are practicing design are setting the bar really high, which is fantastic! So, my personal hope would be that organisations who could benefit from design become aware of some of the great support they can benefit from right on their doorstep. It goes without saying that organisations who take a design approach to business are generally more successful, so a design-centric Belfast is a prosperous Belfast.