Adele Gilpin

As part of our Interview series 1, we spoke with Adele Gilpin a service designer for local governments. She started a career as a software developer but changed as she wanted to try and design the services.


Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Adele, I am a service designer in local government.

You’re probably asking what the heck that is.

So someone once described service design to me as the thing that makes you choose one coffee shop over another.

So, St. Neots we have a complete plethora of coffee shops on our high street.

We’re really lucky. But everyone has their own preferences. So some people like to go to one coffee shop because it’s a chain. They like the familiarity of it.

Other people might like to go to another coffee shop because it allows dogs.

Others are kid friendly. Some people like the artisan coffee.

Other people just prefer the pastries over the coffee.

But each of those shops are meeting people’s needs. They know their audience really, really well and have crafted that experience to meet those people’s needs and just make that service really, really simple.

And that is essentially what service design and user experience design is and that’s what it’s all about.

How did you get into the creative industry?

I was a software developer for 10 years. I’d done software development at university, and I got to the point where I’d been doing it for 10 years,
commuting into London every day was a bit of a killer and I needed a change. And I really wanted to explore the bit that happened before things were made.

How were those designs created?

How did you know what to create and what it looked like on a screen?

I’d always had a bit of a passion for graphic design and just really wanted to dig into that little bit. So I got a job in local government where things need to be slick, they need to work.

People don’t really have a choice about government services. They have to use them and they have to work really, really well. And they’re often used by the people who need to use them the most. And you don’t really get a choice.

You can’t report a pot hole on another government website. You have to kind of report it in one place. So that journey has to be slick.

So that really inspired me and it inspired me to get to know people, get to know the residents where I was living, what they needed and how to
try and make things easier for them and in design apps, websites, experiences that met their needs and relieve some of that pain for them.

I see services every day and it really bugs me when things don’t work,
especially when you use something quite slick, like I don’t know, BBC website or iPlayer, something just works.
And when something doesn’t work, it really annoys me.

Or there’s like an extra part of the chain where you have to go and email someone and you have to wait for a phone call, like why? Shouldn’t have to do that nowadays.

What tips would give to someone starting in the creative industry?

Be curious. If you’re interested in designing websites or apps or products, actually look at the world as a series of services and products and look at them in isolation and look at the decisions that were made for that to actually get on your phone or on your device.

Like why is the button that colour? Why is it there? Why is the size of the text that size?

How is the text written? Is it full of acronyms or is it written in quite plain English?

How easy is that thing to use? Start playing around with things yourself. It’s so easy to prototype things. So pen and paper, really easy to do. If
you’ve got an idea for an app, try it out. Build something yourself and test it with friends and family. Get their feedback.

Prepare to iterate on it and test it again. Get more feedback. One of the most important things I’ve learned is who might be excluded from the service that you’re creating. So 22% of adults in this country have some form of disability. That’s bonkers. If your service excludes them, you’re
excluding 20% of the market.

So if, for example, you were designing an app, think about how you might use that with one hand or one thumb. So if you make it easy for
someone who has lost the use of one of their arms, you also make it easy for someone who is carrying a child in their arm or carrying a really heavy bag of shopping.

So if you think about accessibility, you make things easy for everyone.