We are V&A Dundee Design Champions

Ahead of the launch of the V&A’s new design museum in Dundee, the museum has created an online platform to showcase the work of emerging Scottish designers – the Design Champions.

Dezeen magazine is media partner for Design Champions, an initiative that will run until the V&A Museum of Design Dundee opens in 2018.

Over the summer of 2017 we were very proud to have been made Design Champions! Here is what V&A Museum of Design wrote about us:


Service designers Mike Press and Hazel White bring people together to create positive changes for communities, companies and public sector organisations, all powered by design.

However, despite their many successes Mike insists that “we don’t really design services”. “A lot of what we do is helping people have conversations. Specifically, we bring people who use services together with those who provide them, in a structured way.”

Hazel describes service design as “designing things that don’t normally get designed”, from applying for a place at college to visiting a doctor. The problem is that these essential systems, which can have a massive impact on people’s lives, “simply evolve” without any thought to how well they work.

“What we design is invisible,” Mike adds. “It’s the experiences, feelings and satisfaction you get from a service that is carefully designed around people,” something which he sees as a critical part of a properly functioning society. Design is needed to ensure that people “get what they need – indeed what they have a right to,” from effective support for finding work to compassionate management of a cancer diagnosis.

Together they lead Open Change, a service design company which has collaborated with councils, colleges, universities, the NHS, the Scottish Government and even medical professionals in Kuwait, all with a focus on bringing people together to solve problems.

“To design properly, you have to bring diverse people together to make sure you are solving the right problem and developing solutions that meet real needs, not just organisational needs,” Hazel says, arguing that this is “a fundamental shift in power” which “makes vulnerable people powerful and powerful people vulnerable”.

“Design is human: all people design,” Mike adds. “Open Change is about giving our clients – doctors, nurses, council workers, teachers and others – the creative confidence and expertise to design services better themselves.”

Recent projects include connecting 70 council workers responsible for delivering employability services with 15 young people taking modern apprenticeships, positively and constructively bridging a gap between those delivering an essential service and those who need it to enter the workplace, and the launch of the Service Design Academy in partnership with Dundee & Angus College.

This is “the UK’s first provider of accredited service design training,” Hazel says, and is intended to offer online courses “for the needs of busy professionals – health and social care staff, people working in local government and the voluntary sector, as well as people working in social enterprises and the private sector”.

“As designers, we are driven by values. We find those values in the culture that forms us, that inspires us, that informs our views of the world around us,” Mike adds. “Design gives us the methods, the processes and the vision to turn values into reality.”

Hazel thinks that V&A Dundee “has lit a fire of ambition to regenerate the city of Dundee”, while for Mike it “is a powerful symbol of the city’s collective aspirations – to be bold, to be inclusive, to build on and be proud of its history”.

We are proud to welcome Hazel and Mike to the rapidly growing group of V&A Dundee Design Champions, as committed advocates of the power of design to change lives – by giving professionals and communities the tools and confidence to come together to make those changes themselves.

The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.