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Design & Strategy

The Service Design Mindset

A case study on practicing service design mindset to build a community embracing genuine connection and knowledge share


Don't have time to read? No problem!

Here's the snapshot on the project.







Service Design

2 Years+

All Service Design Enthusiasts 

I co-founded the Service Design Network NY Chapter

01 The Background

This is my personal passion project. I started it because I was unable to find Service Design communities to carry conversations on Service Design practices which I believe can be applied to work and personal life of all shapes and forms. 

02 The Approach

After doing rigorous research, I decided to use the insights I gathered to prototype events and recruit people in the community to support this effort. The learnings from this process eventually carries on to build a bigger vision! 

03 The Outcome

There are many good things came out from this project. Not only we have a growing and strong community in NYC, we also have been recognized in the global community for producing excellent events. I also have a team of 10 core volunteers with me to carry on this journey!!

04 The Lesson

Having the design thinking mindset is crucial to launch a good product or service. More importantly, having good people is your most valuable asset! It's important to keep your peers motivated, engaged, and appreciated, so that you can continue to produce good results!

Full Case Study

Got time to deep dive? 

7 min read

The Background


Anchor 1

This is a personal passion project where I built a space for the community to share and learn from each other on how Service Design mindset and techniques can be applied to our professional work and personal life. 

The journey of building the community consists of using all kinds of design tools, from user research (i.e. literally recruiting people to interview), to rapid prototyping (i.e. event engagement format), and to the constant iterations (i.e. communication, volunteer management, and etc). This case study will show you how to apply Design Thinking mindset into all touch points of your Service Design journey!  

So how did this project start?

In 2017, I was very active in various design community gatherings. While I enjoyed attending most of the events, I noticed there was a lack of conversation on Service Design which is an idea or rather practice I picked up while studying broad at Copenhagen in 2016. 

As I continued my search, I soon realized that among the 53 global chapters in Service Design Network, New York was absent. Puzzled and slightly shocked, I thought to myself, if there's no existing community in New York just yet, why don't I start one? 

Like any startup stories you might have read, all the stories began with a pain point. And my pain point of not finding space and people to exchange ideas on Service Design led to my how-might-we statement here —

How might we have a space for people (like me) who are interested in talking about Service Design in New York City so that they can learn and exchange ideas on how to apply Service Design methodologies in place needed? 

The Approach


Anchor 2

If you ever worked on a project starting from scratch, you know when sky is the limit doesn't always play to your advantage. As a matter of fact, having certain constraints will help you make decision in a timely manner. Thankfully, time is my biggest constraint since I was doing this on the side not as a full time job. 

So how did I get started? 

I began my process by doing the following things 

  • Interview stakeholders

    • Design professionals who attend events in NYC​​

    • Design professionals with Service Design experience in NYC

    • Service Design Network (HQ) Community Coordinator

    • Service Design Network chapters leads in SF, Chicago, Finland, Taiwan

  • Market research​

    • Service Design companies 

    • Service Design government initiatives 

    • Service Design education

    • Other Design community event types & formats

By the time I finished doing all these research on my own, I spoke to 23 stakeholders and clearly saw there's an opportunity in the market to start another meetup community, designating to Service Design.

My 4 takeaways from this research phase were

  1. People want a space to learn and chat about Service Design

  2. Companies and government are looking for ways to incorporate Service Design into their practices 

  3. Having regular event schedule would create better engagements as a community 

  4. To start a community, you need partners and sponsors to be sustainable

From here, the best next step is really to test these assumptions. 

The best way to learn? Prototype! I'm a firm believer that "People say what they do but don't do what they say". The only way to find out if your product or service is needed is to test your assumptions!

Among the Service Design professionals I've spoken to in the city, I was able to connect and reconnect with folks I've met in other events. When I pitched to them about the idea of starting a meetup to validate my assumptions, many of them eventually joined me on the ride! 

The first prototype debuted! Our first event was at the basement of Flatiron Hall Restaurant and Beer Hall. 74 people signed up in less than a week and about half showed up (which we later learned that's the show-up rate for free events). ​

There were obvious challenges in the logistics but we designed every touch point to ensure we could provide the best conversational environment for the attendees —

  • Way-finding signage,

  • Bingo for self-facilitated conversations, and

  • Portable easel pad with lots of markers and post-its to gather community needs which plays a pivotal role for our future event curations! 

SDN First Event.png

Assumption Validated! From this first prototype, I learned that there is a community interest in Service Design. Also, many people want to get involved in this process to HELP! Among the people who stepped up to help, we eventually became a team of 10! We continue to prototype different event format and engagement models till today!

The Outcome


Anchor 3


There are 10 of us in the core team

There are 2,000 + community members on our meetup

We have hosted more than 30 events up-to-date

We have produced a Service Safari program on our own 

We have Capital One, EY, Squarespace as our sponsors

We meet every second Tuesday of the month (sometimes more!) 


We won the Most Excellent Event Organization among 54 global chapters of SDN

We also had ZERO dropout rate in Global Service Design Jam for the first time in NYC history

The Lesson


Anchor 4


I often get this question on how did you do it? 

My answer has always been the same — Just do it! 

Since day 1, my mentality has always been "what's the worst can happen?" And it turns out there's never the worst thing but rather the best thing keeps happening to me which is I LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY!  

Without consciously thinking about what framework or methodologies to apply, I learned that if you ask the right question, all else will follow. It's not about the tool. It's about the mindset! 


If you want to apply my process into starting a business rather than starting a community. You absolutely can. Here are a few lessons I learned in the process —


1. Do your research 

I know people say this all the time but it's only through research you will be able to learn about the problem space

2. Prototype

You MUST prototype to validate your research findings and assumptions made. It really doesn't take a lot to prototype something small to understand your target customers. 

3. Narrow your scope

Often, I see people have great vision but unable to execute because their scope is too broad. I learned that it's great to have vision but you have to be realistic. 

4. Find good people

I cannot do this on my own. Every single step of the way I was able to carry on this journey because I have good team support and sounding board.

5. Help your team grow

I spend just about the same amount of time if not more on hosting internal bonding activities and educational opportunities for my core team. To me, people are the reason this community exists. I need thought leaders to continue to grow and partner with me, so we can keep this community around.  

6. Do your individual and team retro 

It is only through self-reflection, you will find ways to improve your process. Self-retro is important because it gives you your "why". Doing team retro will make sure you align.

Lastly, I wanted to end with this African Proverb that spoke deeply to my heart as I reflect in the process — If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together. So true! 

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