Designing for public services: a practical guide


This guide brings together in one place a collection of practical tools and methods for using design in public services. Created by Nesta and IDEO as part of Design for Europe, it offers ways to do things differently by introducing the process of design thinking, and provides guidance on how to introduce this new approach into day-to-day work in the public sector.

It will help you to:

  • understand the principles of design thinking and how they can be used in a government context
  • explore the different stages of the design process, and why it is important to place citizens and users at the centre of your work
  • start using new practical tools and methods to create change in how you tackle problems, both old and new
  • consider the challenges you might come across when trying to implement this new approach, and how you might overcome them.

Public officials tend to be seasoned practitioners of methodologies more commonly associated with optimising existing services, but are less familiar with methods and tools associated with innovation, such as design thinking. They can feel less well equipped in how to design bigger leaps that can lead to greater change. This guide is therefore for both policymakers and people who design and deliver public services, who need to make larger changes in how they serve their citizens.

Over the past five years, Nesta and IDEO have been testing the tools and methods in this guide with governments all over the world, and they have been adapted for use in public policy and service delivery design.