Escaping the trap of analysis paralysis

When faced with a problem, do you analyze it or do something about it? My natural inclination is to jump headfirst into a deep analysis. When I’m dealing with a design problem I’ll attempt to look at it from different angles, present it in new forms, or zoom in and out to examine it from varying scales. I start to believe that if I focus on a problem hard enough some insight will pop out at me. Reframing problems in this way can be helpful to see new perspectives, but analysis will only take you so far into a problem…


What I wish I knew as a service designer.

A blank piece of brown paper with a hand holding a marker
A blank piece of brown paper with a hand holding a marker

Service design covers a broad range of topics that don’t always fall within the traditional realms of a designer. My background in visual communication design and UX has provided me with a lot of knowledge for the work I do now, but service design brings its own set of challenges and topics that aren’t readily built upon when working in these design disciplines. They especially aren’t taught in design education.

The more I work as a service designer the more I start to see the gaps in my own knowledge where traditional design education and experience fall short. I also…


A Year in Review & Top Recommendations

Another year and another reading challenge complete! I surpassed my goal of reading 100 books with a total of 102. However, it’s not as much as the 112 books from 2019. At the start of the pandemic I thought my reading time would go up, but I found that my reading habits really didn’t change much. I also chose to read some longer titles this year, and this turned out to be a great choice because some of the longest books were also my favourites!

Of note in my 2020 reading challenge were the choice of topics based on current…


A simple guide for service designers to understand policy

Person signing a paper contract
Person signing a paper contract

The legislation is the service.
The regulation is the service.
The policy is the service.

If you look at any public service and ask yourself, “Why is it like this?”, you can usually find most answers to that question in some form of a policy document. Bad design is less often the fault of any particular team or person. Bad policy begets bad design. When I say policy, I mean policy with a capital P, as a broad term that encompasses all government direction setting.

Bad policy begets bad design

If you pour through the myriad of policy documents that…


The most important rule to keep in mind if you want to introduce user research on your team or in your organization.

8 post-it notes with different research activities. A hand is holding one of the post-its that says “run a usability test”
8 post-it notes with different research activities. A hand is holding one of the post-its that says “run a usability test”

Asking for permission to do user research turns it into a decision point for managers and executives. When faced with a decision, decision-makers will work through their own mental models to evaluate the benefits and risks. The risks will often outweigh the benefits. They will think of every scary scenario, calculate the extra costs, and factor in the extended timelines.

These conversations will naturally default to a “no”, or put more lightly “not right now”. It then becomes your job to further sell, persuade, and convince the decision-maker that user research is in fact a good idea. This is a…


A closure experience for product development

Notebook of paper with crumpled balls of paper
Notebook of paper with crumpled balls of paper

Working on a digital product is like being in a relationship. You go through an experience of growth, connection, and learning. You constantly think about it, day in and day out. It can be a frustrating and rewarding experience.

For some people, they’ve devoted years to building, improving, and maintaining a product. They intimately know it’s history as well as its strengths and shortcomings. But like most relationships, things change and sometimes you just need to move on. The product just isn’t serving the right needs for its users anymore (or your organization).

What do you do when you know…


112 Books in 12 months

2019 was a big year for reading. I set a stretch goal of 100 books after reading 91 books last year. I surprisingly surpassed my challenge by reading 112 books this year!

Below are my top picks for the year and my full reading list. Follow me on Goodreads so I can see what you’re reading.

Top Fiction

  1. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  3. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  4. The Innocents by Michael Crummey
  5. A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
  6. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Top Non-Fiction

  1. How to Be an Antiracist


Over the last few months I’ve been talking to people across the public service in various roles, looking at how we can more effectively embed and operationalize design at scale.

I’ve heard a recurring and fundamental issue across the board. No one knows what the hell we’re really talking about. Agile, UX, scrum, DevOps, service design, lean. These are foreign words to the traditional practices of public administration, and no one really knows what they mean.

“Digital government” needs to signal change, but we can’t forget about the people this change is supposed to support. …


Let’s talk about business processes.

When I talk about service design to clients, often time people default to thinking about processes. Processes are neat, linear (maybe with a fancy feedback loop), and provide us comfort in showing from how we get from point A to point B. They show us how things work, in theory. If we could just rejig the process…voilà, problem solved.

However, there is much more to service design than business processes diagrams, and if you’re going down that path…well you might be a business analyst. In service design we aren’t just designing a process, we are…


After publishing my bibliography of the 91 books I read in 2018 , a few people asked me what my “secret” was. I’ll start off by saying that I’ve never been a “book person”. I can usually count the number of books I read in a year on one hand. I also don’t read especially fast. I can’t do skim reading very well, and I don’t listen to audiobooks.

So here it is, the secret to reading a lot of books in one year…

Make time for reading.

It’s not really a secret, but it’s the only way to read a lot. …

Davis Levine

Service Designer. Currently on contract with the Alberta Government. Trying to connect Design and Policy in the public sector. www.davislevine.com

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