Full of transformational experiences
Valentina Lopez is from Santiago, Chile, and has a background in graphic design. She studied MA Service Design at the RCA, before honing her skills as a service designer for global design and innovation consultancy Fjord. She is now working on education and sustainability projects in Asia and has plans to return to Chile.
What were you doing before the RCA?
Before becoming a service designer I was a visual designer for a branding agency in Santiago. It was a very creative and dynamic job, which could range from designing packaging for a coffee brand to creating a new logo for a retailer, or designing the in-store Christmas campaign for a chain of art shops. I really liked that it was very physical and fast: only a few months after the inception of an idea you could see it materialised in a space or object on the shelves.
After a couple of years of working in branding I began to feel I was missing out on being part of the most important decisions: what product or service are we providing, why and to whom? That's why I decided to quit my job and start my own business where I could define all those things. I opened a bike shop with a couple of friends. Everything was designed and built by us in collaboration with small artisans who worked with local materials. Through this entrepreneurial experience I started to become very interested in service design.
What appealed to you about the Service Design programme at the RCA?
When I saw the RCA Service Design programme I immediately felt drawn to it, even though I didn't know much about the concept of service design back then. Based on the programme description it sounded exactly like the area where I wanted to be designing.
Was there a particular stand-out, transformational experience during your time at the RCA?
The RCA for me was full of transformational experiences, from the opportunity to be part of the initial team of the Policy Lab in the UK Cabinet Office, to working with the Laboratorio de Gobierno team to set up the first innovation Lab within the Chilean government.
One of the most memorable experiences for me was being part of a team from the RCA and Imperial College who came together to design a new service providing free medical consultations to people in the remotest areas of Uganda. This project gave me the opportunity to travel to Uganda to do research and learn about this beautiful country. It also gave me the chance to learn from people from very different backgrounds. Together we used our knowledge in design and business to create a service that delivered value to people's quality of life.
What did you do after graduating?
Most of my service design career developed in Fjord, a global design and innovation consultancy where I spent four years designing services across physical and digital formats, in many different industries and for both public and private sectors.
As a service design lead I worked very closely with the client’s leadership team to define the direction of a project, as well as with an internal team of designers and researchers to define the methods and the outcomes. My work could range from research to designing frameworks, mapping out experiences, creating new ones, building and testing prototypes or designing the details of a new service or product, with lots of workshops and collaboration sessions in between.
What you are currently working on?
At the moment I'm travelling and volunteering my service design skills in different countries in Asia. I want to apply the same methods in a very different context; often there is no budget, established process or dedicated team to work with. There are multiple pressing issues and the needs we are addressing are very urgent. I want to explore the role of Service Design in this context and how it can add value and create the most impact with the least amount of resources.
Currently I'm working with a school in the remote mountains of Nepal that delivers free education to kids from the lowest castes of the country who otherwise wouldn't be able to access education.
My plan is to spend around seven months volunteering my skills and then, after seven years away from Chile, I'd like to go back home and keep doing what I've learned in London with a focus on sustainable service design.
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