Service design sensation Shreya Dhawan

Shreya (center) maps design solutions for Philips during a 2016 SCADpro project.

As a graduate student, Shreya Dhawan (M.F.A., service design, 2018) contributed to two transformational SCADpro projects: Delta Air Lines’ “Envisioning the Future of Air Travel,” and Philips Healthcare’s “Redefining Patient Care Services.” Solving significant challenges for major corporate clients was an experience she achieved before graduation.

“Our students learn how to make sense of complex business systems and design effective solutions to enhance the value at the heart of rendering and using a service,” says service design professor Xenia Viladas.

As Shreya puts it: “To be able to learn what clients are looking for was a valuable experience.”

Shreya Dhawan:

My journey to SCAD began in India. I had earned my bachelor’s degree in industrial and product design, was working for a company called Tata Elxsi, and went to work with a medical startup designing hand sanitizers for the hospital environment. It felt like we were missing something by not talking to the actors in that setting. I wasn’t even sure what that research approach was called. I went online and saw that SCAD offered a degree in service design. I reached out to a student from Delhi named Jagriti Kumar (M.F.A., service design, 2016) and asked about the program. She had only positive things to say: “You should definitely give it a shot!”

Being able to participate in two SCADpro projects was a significant part of my professional development. It’s important to understand the ecosystem of the client. You might be working on a single piece, but how does that piece affect the entire system? Professor Viladas taught us how to see a system as a whole. I learned how to work at a concept level, then zoom out and work at a strategy level. Learning how different concepts tie together in a bigger strategy is fascinating.

I currently live in Atlanta and work as a service designer at Harmonic Design. Our CEO Patrick Quattlebaum co-wrote the book Orchestrating Experiences: Collaborative Design for Complexity (Rosenfeld Media, 2018). Patrick was interested in my SCADpro projects — that meant I already had experience working with clients in real time. He understood how that fit into what Harmonic does.

At Harmonic, we have clients in industries including telecommunications, retail, insurance, and banking. I worked on a project with a major public library system, mapping the digital fluency of different citizens who are coming into the library, so that assistance can be more effectively provided to them, while designing a superior physical space for a better service environment.

There are very few opportunities for a student to be a service design intern and really learn on a real client project. I wanted to push for students to get those opportunities. At Harmonic, I’ve been able to create our internship program. Our first year, 2019, we had a student intern from SCAD, Matias Rey (B.F.A., service design, 2019), who is now a full-time associate service designer at Harmonic. In the third year of our internship program, we received almost 100 applications.

I have seen tremendous growth in people’s understanding of what service designers do. With our client base, it’s about showing our many beneficial skill sets. As we keep evolving our practice of service design, our value proposition increases. We are focused more than ever on figuring out how we are contributing to sustainability, and how can we bring it into our practice, and bring it to our clients. It’s not just an industry trend — it’s important for us as humans.

Written by Peter Relic.




SCAD prepares talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented university environment.

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