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Service Design (MA)

Bahana Saikia

I'm a service designer, product designer, and no-code developer. I'm passionate about using my skills to help organisations solve problems and achieve their goals. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to work with a variety of startups, from those in their early stages to those that are more established. I mentor junior designers over the weekends.

Most recently, I led product design at Smarter.Codes, an AI-focused multi product startup. Managed the design function for portfolio products and consulting projects like, Hybrid.Chat and Objective.Earth.

My curiosity pushes me to continually explore, adapt, and grow, both as a designer and as an individual. Here's a peek into what I'm currently diving into:

  • Accessibility and Inclusive Design: I believe in design that transcends boundaries. That's why I'm exploring accessibility guidelines and best practices, creating visually appealing designs that are accessible to all. I'm broadening my understanding of creating products and services that embrace diversity and inclusivity.
  • Design Ethics: The growing concerns around digital privacy and manipulative design have emphasised the importance of ethical considerations. I'm reading "Design Ethics" by Mike Monteiro, a book that explores the moral implications of our design decisions.
  • Interaction Design: To craft captivating user experiences, I'm delving into interaction design. Through practicing with new tools and software, I'm incorporating dynamic and responsive elements into my designs.
  • Design Leadership: As I aim to advance in my career, I'm honing my leadership skills. Attending workshops and webinars on design management, I'm learning effective ways to lead creative teams and foster a collaborative and innovative work environment.
  • AI and Machine Learning in Design: With artificial intelligence and machine learning transforming technology, understanding their impact on design is essential. I'm exploring how these emerging technologies can enhance user experiences, personalise interfaces, and streamline design processes.

Previous experience:

  • Smarter.Codes: Product Designer - Led design and development of B2B products (CRM, social inbox, chatbot, social network, e-commerce platform) released in June 2022, driving 15% customer engagement increase and 20% revenue boost.
  • Beyond Design Studio: Chief Innovation Officer - Led design and development studio, resulting in 10% revenue increase and 20% customer satisfaction boost.
  • Teach2Educate: UX/UI Designer - Contributed to mobile app design for underprivileged students, leading to 30% increase in student engagement and 40% user satisfaction improvement.
  • DaurCom: Design and Experience Analyst - Led team to deliver client websites and applications, achieving 20% increase in client satisfaction.
  • ATOM: Product Management Intern - Conducted user interviews, analyzed app content, and improved UX resulting in 15% app retention increase.
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Design, for me, was a calling. Almost akin to the thrill of a great mystery novel, where every challenge presents a new puzzle to solve. The intertwining of creativity and problem-solving makes design a captivating dance of logic and usability.

The ability to transform abstract ideas into tangible solutions is nothing short of magical. To be able to take a seed of an idea, nurture it through sketches, blueprints, prototypes, and watch it grow into a fully-fledged product that can touch lives—that's why I love design.

But, what really lights a fire in my heart is the user. Seeing how my designs can make someone's day a little easier, makes all the late nights and coffee-fuelled brainstorming sessions worth it. The fact that I can play a small role in making someone's interaction with a product or service more enjoyable, more efficient, or simply more human, is the greatest reward I could ask for.

First, I believe that 'Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.' These wise words from Steve Jobs resonate deeply with me. My ethos orbits around the functionality of a design just as much as its aesthetic. Form follows function is a principle that underpins my approach to design - creating solutions that are not just visually appealing, but also intuitive and user-friendly.

The second cornerstone of my philosophy is empathetic design. As Don Norman aptly said, 'Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.' To achieve this 'invisible design', I strive to understand the users deeply - their desires, challenges, behaviours - and use those insights to inform my design choices. Every line drawn, every pixel pushed, is imbued with a deep sense of care and intentionality. It allows me to channel my creativity into making a real, positive impact in people's lives.

Thirdly, I am a staunch believer in iterative design - the idea that design is a cyclical process of prototyping, testing, analysing, refining. This is based on the idea that 'We are all designers, all the time.' a belief echoed by design thinking advocate Tim Brown. I firmly believe that great designs are born from continuous iterations and improvements, not from isolated moments of eureka.

Lastly, I abide by Dieter Rams' belief that 'Good design is as little design as possible.' This is the principle of simplicity, which purports that less is often more in design. In a world that is often complex and overwhelming, good design brings clarity, simplicity, and joy. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this world, to contribute to it, and to continue to grow within it. It's not just what I do, it's a big part of who I am.

These philosophies don't just guide my work; they shape how I view the world. They remind me that good design is more than just a final product - it's a process, an approach, a way of seeing and understanding the world.

Warning: This section contains mature or explicit content.

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The Context

Sex workers are adults who engage in consensual sexual services or erotic performances in exchange for money or goods, either on a regular or occasional basis. In the UK, there are approximately 105,000 sex workers, with 32,000 located in London.

Many individuals may find themselves drawn to this line of work due to external pressures or urgent needs, such as financial struggles, challenges in securing stable employment (particularly for those who are neurodiverse), or inadequate housing options. This is often referred to as survival sex. Sex workers may work under different arrangements, including agency employment, informal management, or as freelancers. Freelancers, in particular, face the challenge of not only finding clients but also seeking support and guidance from various organisations.

Once individuals enter the profession, they encounter a multitude of problems, including:

  1. Stigma and societal taboo associated with their work.
  2. Violence and harassment from clients, the police, the general public, and landlords.
  3. Legal issues and complexities surrounding their work.
  4. Difficulties in accessing essential services, such as sexual health resources.
  5. Lack of support from family and friends.

These pressing concerns have created a distressing landscape marked by devastating incidents, such as serial killings, murders, heightened levels of violence and harassment, and an alarming increase in raids targeting sex workers. Additionally, access to adequate healthcare remains inconsistent and inadequate, posing significant challenges for those in need.


The Problem

In response to the increasing numbers of sex workers and the challenges they face, various support services, charities, and organizations have been established. These initiatives play a crucial role in providing vital assistance, resources, and advocacy for sex workers. Currently, there are more than 54 charities operating in the UK, with a collective funding exceeding £100 million, and over 20 of these charities are based in London.

Despite the progress made in raising awareness and advocating for the rights of sex workers, they continue to confront ongoing frustrations, including stigma, violence, disrespect, and harsh judgment. The need for financial stability, respect, and safety remains constant for sex workers as they navigate their lives in a state of fear, not only for themselves but also for the well-being of their loved ones. To cope with these challenges, many individuals in the sex work industry adopt practices of anonymity as a means of protection and self-preservation.

The practice of anonymity extends beyond their professional lives and into their personal relationships, where sex workers may utilise aliases even with their loved ones. This additional layer of anonymity serves as a safeguard against potential risks and helps to maintain a sense of security amidst the various challenges they face on a daily basis.



Our exploration led us to delve deeper into how sex workers establish and maintain relationships with various stakeholders in their communities. We discovered that sex workers primarily engage with charities and external service providers, including statutory services. However, we noticed a significant gap in connectivity between these charities and service providers, which becomes even more pronounced when sex workers adopt the use of aliases.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the experiences and challenges faced by sex workers, we engaged in meaningful discussions with prominent organisations and individuals dedicated to supporting them. This included insightful conversations with esteemed advocates such as the English Collective of Prostitutes, SWARM Collective, and Streetlight UK. We also consulted renowned sex work researchers, including Kate Lister and Dr. Angelika Strohmayer. To ensure our approach was informed and sensitive to the nuances of this complex issue, we sought guidance from experts such as trauma-informed designer Jenny Winfield, inclusive design expert Rama Gherewo, as well as Jo-Anne Bichard, a design researcher in HHCD, and the Reason Digital design studio, both of whom have previous experience collaborating with sex workers.

In our pursuit of knowledge and empathy, we also explored a wide range of resources, including books, movies, podcasts, and blogs that allowed us to immerse ourselves in the lived experiences of sex workers. This multidimensional approach provided us with invaluable insights into the challenges they face and informed our understanding of the importance of developing effective and inclusive solutions to support sex workers in their pursuit of safety, respect, and well-being.

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1. Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing - The knowledge gap between sex worker charities and support services hinders the accessibility of comprehensive assistance, highlighting the need for improved information sharing and collaboration.

2. Need for privacy and Confidentiality - Anonymity is a critical requirement for sex workers to feel safe and protected, emphasizing the necessity for solutions that prioritize and maintain their confidentiality while facilitating access to vital resources.

3. Holistic Access to Support - Sex workers' diverse needs extend beyond their profession, necessitating access to a wide range of services; addressing these holistic needs through integrated service models can contribute to their empowerment and overall well-being.

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Potential Solutions

We have two potential solutions.

1. A blockchain enabled platform through which a sex worker will sign up privately for any service and then choose which data points to share and with whom. They can also share it with friends and family using their private keys. 

2. Integrating their private details on NFC-enabled passports (or another existing system of identification like a driving license). Sex worker will go to a service provider, service provider will scan the passport, their system will show the data, they can CRUD the data. Once the service is done, the updated data will be loaded back on the passport and erased from the system. 

We are currently exploring both these solutions, weighing the pros and cons and figuring which one to take further. We are also keeping in mind the speed, scale and scope of project so that whatever we do, gets implemented on ground.

Launch Project
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The Challenge

Social Impact Lab is an exploratory project with the aim of increasing financial literacy among prison leavers and reducing the number of individuals being recalled back to custody.

It helps financial advisory staff to build awareness and education around financial management among prison leavers as they are beginning their probation period.

The project is based upon 11 weeks of research and working closely with prison leavers and advisory staff, we have designed these interventions in the service to help facilitate improvement.


Social Impact Lab was created in partnership with Ministry of Justice, UK and Catch22, a not-for-profit social business that designs and delivers public services to people on probation in the UK, with a focus on building resilience within communities.

We worked closely with prison leavers and Catch22’s staff implementing participatory design methods. We conducted our own research to uncover new insights that can support Catch22 in improving its service.

mission statement


Most recalls are preventable, which represents an important goal for all parties involved as it can significantly impact a Person on Probation's future prospects and mental health, deteriorates resettlement outcomes for probation services and is costly to the Ministry of Justice.

MoJ then decided to provide rehabilitation and reintegration services to people on probation through its partners, one of which is Catch22. Catch22 provides different services like justice, education, employability, reform etc. We worked with one of its services named FBD - Finance, Benefit and Debt service to people on probation.

User Journey of a person on probation


Following the Double Diamond design process, we began with Discovery. As a team, we felt it was necessary to start this project by addressing how our shared values would shape the considerations we took in designing the various interviews we had. Particularly with People on Probation, many of whom may have experienced discrimination and trauma, we made sure to prioritise their well-being and define a solid framework for discussion by creating an environment they felt comfortable participating in. We also interviewed 3 POP and 3 FWAs to gauge their day-to-day and also to find out the gaps for disengagement. 

Next, we converged on to a set of HMWs based on the insights, themes and opportunity areas discovered during the discovery stage. 

Then we utilised our desk research and key considerations in conjecture with our objectives to run a series of workshops with both the POPs and FWAs to test our hypotheses. Armed with these insights we developed a portfolio of interventions to help Catch22 create more value through their service.

PoP facing interface
admin facing interface

The Solution

We created a digital tool with a strong focus on user needs and requirements, ensuring a seamless experience for individuals navigating the post-probation process. It offers a seamless digital service experience for People on Probation, incorporating all of the existing touch-points like the Service Contract, Privacy Notice, Income, Expenditure Forms and the Service User Questionnaire. More over the tool aims to help POP get the most of this service by making all content relatable & easier to navigate with special attention to making the experience engaging and effective in communicating service value.  

We then paired this user facing tool with an admin panel, designed to meet the unique needs of Financial and Wellbeing Advisors (FWA). This comprehensive interface streamlines administrative tasks, enhances communication, and ensures seamless management of casework for individuals on probation. We approached this with special emphasis on scalability in mind to ensure a sustainable and adaptable solution.

Full case study
Launch Project
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Improving Sanitation Through Behavioural Change

How might we increase information and awareness about bathroom etiquette in the UK by nudging tourists towards adopting responsible flushing practices that protect the environment and improve hygiene to reduce sewage blockages and maintenance costs?

User Journey


This project addressed the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6): Water and Sanitation. This goal focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The challenge at hand was substantial, with billions of people worldwide still lacking access to these basic services. The urgency to quadruple the current rate of progress by 2030 to achieve universal access was significant, and we were tasked with innovating within this vast and critical space.

Among the many facets of this issue, our team decided to concentrate on an often overlooked but impactful problem: the improper disposal of items in toilets, specifically toilet paper, and the resulting costly repair and maintenance. While it might seem like a small piece of the broader issue, we found that it had significant implications for sanitation infrastructure and costs the UK £100 million.



We conducted a thorough research effort for the project, incorporating desk research and user research to gain a comprehensive understanding of the problem. For user research, we interviewed tourists from 8 different countries visiting London to uncover their challenges and perceptions. Additionally, we conducted observational studies at multiple public toilet locations and interviewed sanitation workers. To develop a holistic view of the stakeholders involved, we created detailed user personas, user journeys, and a stakeholder ecosystem map. These insights played a crucial role in shaping our ideation and concept development process, ensuring alignment with the identified problem.

digital intervention
redesigned dustbins

The Solution

For the solution, as the first intervention - we developed were a series of signs, stickers, and posters to educate tourists about appropriate flushing practices. Strategically placed in various public and private restrooms, these materials aimed to increase cultural awareness, promote positive habits, encourage conversations about toilet practices among tourists. We focused on relatable language, inclusivity, and humour to engage people from diverse cultures effectively. 

The second intervention focused on extending the service digitally; using a QR code that leads to a website that provides guidelines on proper toilet usage in the UK. We also proposed this multilingual digital intervention integrated with the the Great British Public Toilet Map - a popular resource that maps out public toilets in the UK. 

The final intervention aimed to encourage proper waste disposal and discourage inappropriate disposal of items in toilets. We created prototypes of redesigned waste bins at key locations, such as public toilets, railway and tube stations, airports, and malls. The goal was to visually nudge people to dispose of items like wet wipes and tampons correctly, reducing the chances of them being flushed down the toilet.

Launch Project
Click here to see the full case study!