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Service Design (MA)

Peter Williams

Peter graduated from Brunel University with an Industrial design Bsc in 2000.

Between Brunel and the RCA Peter has spent time working as both an artisan furniture maker and a design engineer.

Studying Service design at the RCA is providing him with the skills and experience to realise a long held desire to tackle social and environmental challenges at a systems level.

Degree Details

School of Design

Service Design (MA)

I am interested and motivated by the concept of ‘Sustainable Societies’.

The underlying theme of my current work is to explore two questions:

Is it possible to demonstrate that the ability to do more with less, can in itself be a symbol of progress or advancement?

Can we be more open to practices as solutions instead of products?

For a long time, I have been concerned by the role designers play in the fuelling of consumer excess. It hit me hard as a product design student in the late 90’s. I was being trained, not to address social and ethical needs as had been my motivation for study in this area, but to contrive products and features with “wow factors”. The things that can easily be spun into a must have by marketing. The attention-grabbing element of this year’s model: “Forget what you already own, it has no value now, you need this!”

Inspired by the transition design framing, I believe that only through a deep holistic analytical approach to the understanding of problems can we reach the underlying route courses of their manifestations.

Among transition designers there is a focus ‘on the need for ”cosmopolitan localism”, a place-based lifestyle in which solutions to global problems are designed to be appropriate for local social and environmental conditions’[1] They also advocate for broad stakeholder engagement, the sharing of multi-disciplinary considerations, sensitivity to relationships between elements within systems and the influence of scale. They acknowledge that stakeholders do not all define or understand problems the same way. Importantly, there is no expectation of the perfect solution that fixes something forever: a commitment to monitor interventions to ensure they remain appropriate within evolving contexts is required.

In my practice, I try to combine the philosophy of transition design with practical applicability of service design to create sustainable propositions fit for the real world.

[1] Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff, Cameron Tonkinwise, Peter Scupelli, ‘Transition Design 2015: A New Area of Design Research, Practice and Study that proposes design-led societal transition toward more sustainable futures’.

Child Health — Incontinence and constipation issues are increasing, more children than ever are starting school in nappies and this can lead to social isolation and adverse consequences for a child’s psychosocial wellbeing into adolescence. Family & health services are not resourced to provide best practice care for those affected. At the same time councils are spending £140M each year collecting and disposing of single use nappies. It doesn't make sense.
The Service Proposition
Service Features
Service Features — Sign up is easy and gives parents; access to the online resources, app and a tipper. Resources include; instructions and videos to guide parents through preparation and the four-step method, along with blogs, community building toolkits and a peer support forum. The tipper is a device that infants learn to use as a signal to carers that they require toileting assistance. Babies learn at different rates; the app delivers an easy way to record progress and lets you know when it’s time for the next step.
A Structured Method — The specific method taught by Stepping Stones is based on a study from 1985. The objectives for each phase of the original study make for a well structured method, however they are quite technical. The app simplifies data collection and the calculation of progress.
The Tipper
The Tipper — The 1985 study involved a potty that children learned to reach or grab for as a signal that they required toileting assistance. The tipper has been developed as a more sanitary signalling object. It provides a signal that anyone can recognise. This means that in a nursery setting carers do not need to tune into the specific body signals relied upon by other forms of AITT. The integrated bell addresses concerns that constant observation is required and the graphics make it recognisable in any environment.
Money to the wrong places — 34% of families with one child under five are living in poverty. Households where there is a child under the age of 3 are most at risk. UK child benefit payments for all children aged 0-2.5 come to £1,7B, the disposable nappy market value is £800M, 47% of those payments.

Stepping Stones is a service to teach a toilet training method inspired by the practices of indigenous peoples from around the world. It helps infants to develop continence before their first birthday. It is beneficial to child health, and the environment.


The age at which we as a society are toilet training our children has been rising, and this is having a negative impact on how easy the task is to complete. It is also associated with higher risks of continence issues for school age children which can lead to psychosocial problems into adolescence. Further to this, later toilet training means higher volumes of waste and CO2 emissions. Reusables reduce physical waste but the extra washing generates just as much emissions.

By supporting parents and carers to toilet train earlier, Stepping Stones offers families the potential to save money through reduced nappy usage. It could also save council and health services money via reduced waste management and health treatment costs.

Theory of Change

In many cultures around the world a gentle caring approach is used to teach continence, it can commence in the first weeks or months of life.  UK social norms mean that toilet training is rarely investigated by parents in time for these approaches  to be an option. Additionally the instructions available are open to interpretation which makes them difficult to study and subsequently they are not supported by our institutions.

The stepping stones method is ideal for study and if it is shown to be a suitable and viable toilet training method, it could be endorsed by health visitors who meet parents at the perfect time to share information about it. If stepping stones were to receive institutional backing, councils and health services could more than cover the cost of support and subsidies through savings in waste management fees and future health treatment costs.


Primary & secondary research, digital imagery & video, mdf & heat transfer prints
A New Source of Emotional Discomfort — We could be headed to a future in which attempts to achieve corporate objectives and mental wellness rely on data collection for the monitoring and management of our actions and wellbeing. Nudges intended to maintain our condition for optimum productivity might become overly prescriptive. We would be advised when and how to eat, work, exercise and recover. Stress from overwork may be reduced, but the loss of free will and high level of surveillance would become a new source of emotional discomfort.

PSY-HS is a body of work presented as a provocation. Qualitative research and speculative design tools have been applied to create a rich understanding of the context and influences that surround employee wellbeing today, and the socio-technical opportunities that may or may not improve it in the future.

In our places of work psychological health and safety is not given the attention afforded to physical health and safety.

If bones are regularly broken by objects falling from racking in a warehouse, the first response is not to offer bone strengthening workshops to the staff. Obviously you fix the equipment and operating practices. Burnout and other forms of psychological unwellness will not be fixed by resilience training. Workplace, culture and practice plays a bigger part in the issue.

How was your Day? Toolkit consisting of a is a series of short animations with an accompanying set of activity cards. It's purpose is to help neuro-diverse children explore concepts of behaviour and emotion with a carer or teacher.

It was created as part of across RCA 2019 and is collaboration between students from the service design, animation and information communication design programmes.


Animation & Activity Cards