Jan 19, 2024

2023 Year in Review

2023 was an exciting year for us. We worked on 12 consulting projects, spanning sectors like early childhood education, healthcare, retail and more! Alongside this, we trained folks on using service design in their organization, wrote 9 editions of the ask a service design newsletter and donated 1% of total revenue to environmental non-profits. Thank you to all our clients and collaborators!

Set of logos of clients and collaborators in 2023, including IRIS, IDRC, ECE Lab, DesignWith, CRA, Ontario's MECP, AlphaPlus, AECENL, WSIB, The Home Depot, LifeLabs, Ontario's MAG, Sam Talbot Studios, October Systems, Studio Wé, All In

Truthfully, I debated whether to write this post as I don’t want to contribute to only sharing highlights - 2023 was a difficult year for many in many ways, with continued global instability, economic uncertainty and I would say just general burnout. 

However, I do think it’s important to reflect, celebrate the good, be grateful for what you have, as well as documenting for posterity! So I’m sharing this in the hopes it might be interesting to some of you, and that it will be a time capsule for the future :)

Kind Words from Our Clients

“It was a pleasure working with your team. We did some amazing work last year and I’m proud of what we produced despite changing demands.”

“It’s cool when practitioners come and share their findings and process with people <3 thank you.”

“Your team is so talented and great to work with! The foundational research you did is already being used and referenced at executive levels.”

A selfie of the Made Manifest team
Small but mighty team!
The 101 on Made Manifest

In case you haven’t met us yet, Made Manifest is a service design consultancy - we love working with a really wide range of clients across the private, public and non–profit sectors. What many of our clients have in common is the desire to use the tools of design to create services that work better for the people delivering them and using them! We do this through three main offerings: consulting, capacity building, and perspectives. 

2023 was a year of continued growth for the team at Made Manifest, adding a long-time collaborator and incredible designer, Seden, to our team. We also continued to work with our roster of trusted, long time collaborators which means we are able to flex our team size as needed for projects. 

Consulting Work Highlights

We worked on 12 consulting projects, with 7 clients, 3 returning and 4 new. We continue to have the pleasure of working with a wide variety of client types and industries, across health care, early childhood education, retail, adult education, and government. 

At the core of these projects, many of you are figuring out where to make investments in digital channels for customer experience, how to support customers to self serve effectively, and doing deep qualitative work to understand the services and experiences you are providing better from a human perspective. 

Some of our highlights included:

  • Collaborating with an in-house market research team to add a quantitative layer to our 2022 qual journey insights and work. It was really exciting to work together to quantify things like how many customers are taking which journey pathways? Which concepts and improvements are highest value for customers? 
  • Piloting process changes on the ground with front-line clinic staff to measurably reduce support calls for a critical service. Prototypes included print collateral, posters and screens as well as updated processes. We LOVE piloting real changes to services and being able to see measurable improvements to staff and customer experience, as well as reduced costs for the business.
  • Co-designing, prototyping, testing, and delivering a toolkit to support paid professional learning days for early childhood educators in Atlantic Canada. Designing resources for the hardworking administrators of childcare centres that are easy to use, beautiful and reduce some of the administrative burden was super rewarding.

These examples scratch the surface of the work we got to do, and we are so grateful to all our clients and collaborators for the opportunity to bring our service design lens to the work. 

Behind the scenes of the DESIGNwith, the made manifest team setting up the exhibition

Capacity Building Highlights

In terms of coaching and capacity building, we had the honor of:

  • Delivering a multi-day service design training to the CRA. This built on our prior in person service design course, adapted for remote learning and updated. 
  • Working 1:1 with a service design leader on their writing and reflection practice. 
  • Coaching The IRIS Institute and The Inclusive Design Research Centre on piloting and testing a service aimed at bringing people together to build strong and effective accessibility plans. Inclusive design and accessibility are dear to our hearts and it is wonderful to be able to provide a service design lens on this important work. 

Perspectives Highlights

Sharing our perspective on service design and supporting the continued dialogue and evolution in the field is near and dear to our hearts! 

Screengrab from Daniele's podcast video recording
Chatting service design principles with Daniele Catalanotto

  • I had a super fun conversation with Daniele on his service design book tour, talking about principles for making service beginnings as smooth as possible (newsletter summary here if you’d prefer to read rather than watch/listen.)
  • Wasn’t sure whether to sneak this one into 2023 since the episode was released early 2024, but I was so stoked to talk with Andy Polaine on his Powers of Ten podcast. Not going to lie, little bit of a fan girl moment to talk to one of the people who literally wrote the book on service design! 

Good Things / Fun Things

The completed DESIGNwith exhibit with observers

  • One of the highlights of our year was collaborating with DESIGNwith on s/mallTALK, a project doing ethnographic research in the mall, culminating in a public exhibition and co-creation event. This also led to our first feature in Forbes (kind of!). 
  • Being a 1% for the planet member and donating 1% of gross revenue to environmental non-profits, bringing our lifetime donations to $14,679. (In 2023, we donated to David Suzuki Foundation, WCS Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada)
  • Answering too many emails, coffee chats, and questions to count on getting into service design. 😅

One of the things I’m proudest of looking back is our work on Made Manifest culture. In 2023, we worked hard as a team to try new things, solidify routines and ways of working, and have fun together!

Activity day at Made Manifest! Michelle and team making up some polka totes
Making polka totes!
  • We prototyped a ‘reduced workweek’ inspired by the 4-day workweek movement. It was super fun bringing our designerly approach to this, running three prototypes and reflection cycles to find the rhythm that works for us. (I’m hoping to write more about this process soon!)
  • We prioritized time to come together and connect as a team, which looked like walks in nature, simple coffee or lunch hangs a sound bath, and a day crafting polka totes together. 
  • I also worked on my leadership skills, in particular, focused on feedback and reflection. (Shout out to the amazing Melissa and Jonathan for their excellent Pulse session on performance reviews). This led to overhauling our 1:1 format and creating more intentional space for reflection and continuous feedback.
  • Finally, we prototyped our first ‘Day of Dreaming’ where we came together as a team to think about the bigger picture of Made Manifest - what is our vision for the studio? How do we want to show up with each other and clients? What inspires us?

 Paper and pen brainstorm maps
Exploring our inspirations during our day of dreaming.

Work with us in 2024!

If this post has gotten you excited about the potential for service design in your team, organization, or career, here are a few ways we might be able to collaborate.

  • We’re always looking for great projects and clients! We can help with understanding your customer and their experiences and disappointments better, designing, launching, and piloting new services or non-profit programs, or solving your gnarliest customer experience challenges (think - biggest call center drivers, inefficient operations, areas with low CSAT). 
  • Sign up for the Ask a Service Designer newsletter! And even better, submit a question and maybe we’ll answer it in the next edition. 
  • We’re also working on some new workshop and training offerings, so stay tuned! 

As always, a huge thank you to all of our wonderful clients and collaborators. It’s an honor to serve you and work with you! Special shout out to collaborators Ranee, Katya, Spencer, Kate, Sam and Simon, and a big thank you to the wonderful folks who support us on Ops, Finance and Legal. 

Linn Vizard
Made Manifest Founder. I ❤ glitter, cats, and deadlifting

Does your organization need help with an experience or internal process?