Marta Falcón On Service Design and Entrepreneurship As A Tool To Combat Unemployment

(Podcast in Spanish - Article translated into English)


Marta Falcon is an experienced Service Designer working at She works to help small businesses and individuals start a business or improve their service offering.

Marta has over 9 years industry experience working on projects spanning product design, graphic design and service design in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.

Marta believes that entrepreneurship can be used positively to help reduce unemployment and give people the opportunity to live the lifestyle they want; one which aligns with their values, and one which uses creativity to make new opportunities.


Marta discusses service design, providing insights into the Spanish sector and how she believes entrepreneurship can be used to tackle unemployment.



[Tom Allen] - Marta could you please share a bit about your background in design? [2:06]

[Marta Falcón] - I’ve been practicing as a designer for roughly 9 years now. I started out as a product designer, then later got some experience as a graphic designer and also in packaging. I got experience in a variety of disciplines as my projects grew and I getting that experience was required to make them complete. I worked in a variety of countries such as Italy, UK and Spain in companies ranging in size from very small agencies to multinational companies. It was valuable to get that experience to understand how both design and business works in these different contexts. Until the day came that I felt prepared to start my own small business here in Spain. And with time working on small projects with small companies, I began to find my passion in business design and service design and that it was something that I was naturally good at.

Whilst service design and design thinking can be very effective for large companies, it can also be very valuable for small businesses. 

I created my own methods and tools and after applying them, I found that they worked really well. I began to focus on working with small businesses to help them design and improve their services and at the same time have evolved and improved the methods and tools I use.

For those of us unfamiliar with service design could you please explain what this is and how you engage with small businesses to tackle problems and design new services? [4:44]

I always give a simple example so that everyone can clearly understand. Someone who designs a jersey is a fashion designer, someone who designs a website is a website designer, someone who designs a chair is a product designer. So the person who designs the protocols to follow and the phases that a service is going to have and how you are going to interact with your target users… it’s quite complex but it’s about creating a great user experience - this is what a service designer does.

In my particular case, I’ve discovered that small businesses have their own concrete needs which aren’t the same as large companies. My work is about analysing my client’s business, their goals, fortitudes and resources. Who is their kind of client? What are their needs and expectations? The end user must be a the centre of the process. After that, I find how they are differentiating from their competitors in the market.

When all of that is clear, I can design a service: the user experience (taking into account the emotions of the user), protocols, use of resources etc. to have a consistent offer which is attractive for the end user.

How can service design be used to create positive social impact and are you familiar with any successful case studies in the social enterprise sector? [7:04]

Startups are using service design tools more and more to create valuable offerings. Here in Spain there aren’t many social enterprises but it’s definitely a growing sector. I really believe in the small businesses who have big ideas. Perhaps they have less resources, but precisely because of this, they have a lot more creativity. 

It’s great to see people who have the guts to create a lifestyle. To align their work with their values and for a cause. I really enjoy helping these people who have a small amount of resources but who are strong and innovative.

We’re in 2017 and things are changing.

A lot of resources now are free and it really depends on the creativity of the small business, freelancer or startup in how they use these resources effectively.

I get really motivated helping these people design their own business and lifestyle which aligns with their values, and that these values can create a positive benefit for society.

Spain has seen a lot of change since the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2007-08 with concerning rates of unemployment, housing issues and a shaky market. How do you see service design as a tool to help improve this situation? [9:04]

In using service design to help someone create a business and new lifestyle which aligns with their values, I really believe in entrepreneurship as a great way to help alleviate this situation and to create employment. I find it really satisfying to help someone who says “I don’t want to be just another number in the queue collecting my unemployment benefits” and who is determined to use their skills and creativity to create new opportunities. Someone who says, “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it”. This is a seed for change. Not all my clients are starting from scratch. Some already have established businesses. But service design can be a great way to help the people who unfortunately are still feeling the negative effects of the crisis.


What are some of the challenges you typically experience when working on these projects with fresh entrepreneurs who have previously experienced the negative effects of the crisis? [11:35]

One of the biggest challenges is at the start of the project when working with someone who has had a hard time. In many cases they have a lot of doubt and insecurities and gaps in their knowledge, all of which are things that I have learnt through experience. The day that you start out as an entrepreneur is the day that a huge learning process begins. This requires patience. Some of the biggest challenges for a person might be self-doubt and a lack of support from public institutions. Or sometimes the support that exists is very theoretical instead of being practical. So keeping someone motivated can be a challenge for me. 

In working with someone who is searching to make a change and create a business, as a consultant how do you measure the impact of your work? [13:08]

I always do a follow up with all my clients. At the beginning we set measurable goals so it’s quite easy to see whether we are on track or not. It’s about setting small actionable goals and steps over the long run in order to help the client arrive to a bigger end goal.

Which tools would you recommend to the listeners who are thinking about launching an initiative? [14:41]

I would recommend to always start by writing your thoughts and ideas down on paper. Something that you can easily pick up and continue to add to. Personally I love organising my ideas with post it notes. There are some great books and inspirational Youtube channels such as ‘Pensamiento Positivo’ about entrepreneurship and consciousness which can be very useful and they are completely free.

Are there any specific local issues or problems that you believe could be improved with the application of service design? [16:28]

I think the biggest problem we can tackle with service design here in Spain is unemployment.

As mentioned before, I really believe in entrepreneurship as a great way for people to start a lifestyle they are passionate about. 

It’s very important for us to share knowledge, workspaces and even the financing of projects (crowdfunding). Co-working spaces can be great spaces for sharing and are becoming more and more popular.

How have you seen the design industry transform in Spain over the last 5 years and where do you see design, social enterprise and social innovation heading into the future? [18:07]

The truth is that during the last 5 or so years in Spain, the real focus has been surviving. People don’t seem to have placed so much focus on social change initiatives, simply because perhaps from a personal level it hasn’t been a priority for people. If someone is finding it hard to pay the bills their first focus will be on that.


Now there is a shift and trend in that small businesses are sharing more.

Whether it’s knowledge, tools or resources people are sharing more and it’s my hope that things continue this way.

I also think a large problem has been in education. But with more people participating in entrepreneurial activity, this will be positive and is a great example for the younger generations by watching their parents take initiative.

Have you come across any inspiring projects or initiatives recently which are creating positive social change? [20:20]

Just recently I came across, which seems like a really positive initiative.

In Spain, are there any particular cities that you think are really leading the social design movement? [21:30]

Perhaps Barcelona? At least for it’s strong entrepreneurial movement. I’ve also seen a strong ‘maker’ movement there recently which I think is very positive. People are experimenting and making things and turning those experiments into businesses.


Initiatives, resources and people mentioned in the podcast


You can contact Marta on LinkedIntwitter or facebook. Feel free to leave comments below.

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