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Service Design (MA)

Serene Yap

"The only important thing about design is how it relates to people." ― Victor Papanek

I am multidisciplinary designer on a mission to create better futures through collaborative design. Prior to pursuing a master's in Service Design at the Royal College of Art, I was a product designer at DBS Bank involved in designing multichannel digital experiences for consumer banking customers.

No BS and passionate about root-cause problem-solving and bringing people together, I believe in the value of diversity, unity and camaraderie. ✨

I also believe that as designers it is not enough to simply understand our users. Instead, it is through acknowledging the interconnectedness of life and understanding how organisations and people work within context to their environment that enables designers to better solution for, communicate and create value in society.

Topics of interest: service design, design ops, organisational design, emotional agility, urban mobility


MA Service Design - Royal College of Art, London

BA (Hons) Design Communication - LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore

Dipl. in Mass Communication - Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore

Recent Awards & Features

2021: Featured by DesignSingapore Council (link)

2020: Awarded the DesignSingapore Council Scholarship (link)

2019: Featured in Humans of DBS Bank (link)

Show Location: Kensington campus: Darwin Building, Lower ground floor

On the interconnectedness of life, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."

Imparted to me by my father, who had never before met his, this philosophy of the oneness of life and its environment—the belief where individuals can shape their surroundings by first bringing about change in themselves—had a profound influence in my growing up. To us, it meant that every individual has the potential to self-actualise, and help others do so too.

As service designers, we help facilitate and drive dialogues between groups to realise the importance of interconnectedness and the understanding of people; that when we design solutions centered around the humans that use it in relation to the planet and environment, we’re designing for a better future.

My 2022 rumination: How can we be more intentional in our design practice? How can we enable organisations to be more intentional in theirs as they face mounting pressure to move faster than ever to tackle global issues, yet if not careful, are at the very risk of creating even more of them?

These are questions I seek to answer in my final project alongside my colleague Natasha Lee.

Cyched! is a service and community that takes Curious Newcomers, Anxious Not-So-Safers, Cautious Need-A-Refreshers, Cool Cafe Hoppers and Casual Neighbourhood Riders on thoughtfully-designed safe and scenic rides in London, helping them get comfortable and confident cycling, all while cruising around the city. Our mission is simple—to create a diverse cycling culture in London by enabling more people to cycle.

As newcomers to the city, we were intimidated by cycling here, and through research conducted with people from over 25 countries we found that we weren’t alone — many people actually felt the same way, including locals themselves. We wondered, is this barrier something we can help people overcome?

Our research led us to believe that, whilst people often have concerns over road safety such as fear of collision, the lack of off-road and segregated cycle paths and cycle theft, there are other important factors that further deter people from making their first move to even start: psychological barriers reinforced by cognitive overload and the lack of a strong pull factor. understanding of psychological barriers reinforced by cognitive overload and the lack of a strong pull factor,

  • How can we enable people who can cycle and want to start cycling in London, yet, are too intimidated to, to start cycling?
  • How can we enable people who can cycle yet have no strong will to do so, to start cycling?
  • Is there a way we can get people cycling, without telling them to cycle?

Cyched! leverages on the intrigue of place-exploration as the pull factor to encourage new and existing residents to get on bikes, and the assurance of a positive first experience to enable them to gain familiarity of their environment, regain cycling confidence and overcome their psychological barrier of cycling in London.

For more details on the project, reach out to Serene via email or on LinkedIn, or read more about it here.

Team members: Natasha Lee

Partners: Peddle My Wheels

Tutor: Nicolás Rebolledo

A majority of recalls to prison happen when a person on probation breaks the terms of their license, but doesn’t actually break any laws. Preventing these recalls represent an important goal for all parties involved as it can have a significant impact on a Person on Probation's future prospects and mental health, it deteriorates resettlement outcomes for probation services, and it is costly to the Ministry of Justice.

Catch22, a social not-for-profit business that designs and delivers public services with a focus on building resilience within communities, has proposed the ACE Pilot Scheme to the Ministry of Justice, a programme that aims to reduce the number of individuals being recalled back to custody through the introduction of a Navigator Mentor.

Working closely with prison leavers and probation staff, our role was to collaborate with Catch22 in conducting our own research and uncover new insights to be incorporated into the delivery of the pilot.

Based upon 10 weeks of research, we found that, while there is a conscientious effort to deliver tangible support through Catch22's pilot programme, there is far more fundamental support that the Navigator Mentor could provide: the often overlooked act of listening and conversing with care. The Navigator Mentor is meant to be a mentor to the Person on Probation, and they can only build a trusting relationship if the interactions they have are meaningful. Furthermore, we believe that in order to reduce the rate of recall, successful initial engagement and consistent engagement is critical. 

The “Conversation as a Practice'' framework was developed with the goal of enhancing the impact of Catch22’s ACE pilot programme by enabling Navigator Mentors to build positive perceptions around probation services among prison leavers as they are beginning their probation, as well as equipping navigator mentors with the skills to create more meaningful relationships with people on probation.

This is done through 2 key interventions:

The Kick-Off Dialogue was designed to build trust, set expectations for the rest of programme and create a positive first impression, to demystify the perception that probation services are clinical and increase subsequent engagement.

To ensure the follow through of engagement, we designed Conversation as a Practice that includes dialogue training and rituals, to coach navigator mentors in facilitating better conversations and develop more meaningful relationships.

Whilst our proposal focuses on increasing people on probation’s engagement with the pilot programme, these interventions were designed to be implemented at scale into the Ministry of Justice system. Our goal is to create a culture where conversations become an intentional and reflective practice.

Conversation as a Practice has been implemented into the pilot programme by Catch22 and is currently being tested with service users as part of the pilot. 

For more details on the project, reach out to Serene via email or on LinkedIn, or read more about it here.

Team members: Anchit Som, Natasha Lee, Sarah Morse, Signe Williams

Partners: Catch22Ministry of Justice

Tutor: Judah Armani

Research has proven time and time again that regular contact with nature enhances physical health and mental wellbeing, and creates social benefits.

As part of a UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) funded project "Nature's Way" that explores nature-based solutions for wellbeing, our challenge was to understand the relationships between nature, space, mental health and social prescription.

Several weeks of discovery research with residents in the UK eventually led us to the segment of young parents, where we found that mothers-to-be, whilst prepared for the techniques of birth-giving and baby care, were rarely reminded on the importance of their own mental wellbeing, and lacked mental preparedness towards birth. Furthermore, studies have also shown that perinatal mental health problems affects 1 in 5 new and expectant mums.

While the journey to motherhood is often said to be amazing and beautiful, what’s rarely recognised or acknowledged are the challenges that women face during the process of her pregnancy and the time after.

We sought to explore whether nature could be used as an effective public health intervention tool and as a key asset for mental health and wellbeing activities to increase mums-to-be’s mental resilience and preparedness for the challenges of motherhood.

Brightside was developed as a unique service designed that uses nature as an intervention mechanism to provide antenatal programmes centred around mental wellness for mothers-to-be, increasing their resilience and enabling them to form healthier motherhood communities.

Set in London but scalable to different cities, our Brightside programme contains a series of guided group activities to be held at green spaces. The programme is designed to follow mothers through their pregnancy journey, where each stage consists of a combination of different activities. Our research with pregnant women show that whilst they’d like to meet other fellow future moms outside, having their partners involved in the antenatal activities are important to them too.

From nature reconnection activities with our clients and their partners, to prenatal yoga and meditation, mothers-to-be can subscribe to the programme from whichever stage of their pregnancy. 

For more details on the project, reach out to Serene via email or on LinkedIn.

Team members: Debby Hsiao, Nini Lin, Jiaqi Wang, Yanting Shen

Tutor: Nicolás Rebolledo