Design is planning the purpose of something before it is made. Build more rational and useful products and services by carefully planning their making.

Design as a Plan

To design means to plan.

Try to replace the term “design” with “plan”:

  • User Experience Design → User Experience Planning
  • User Interface Design → User Interface Planning
  • Graphic Design → Graphic Planning
  • Instructional Design → Instructional Planning
  • Learning Experience Design → Learning Experience Planning
  • Workshop Design → Workshop Planning
  • Service Design → Service Planning

Using “planning” makes immediately clear the need of talking about time, resources, goals, objectives, and management.

The Design Strategy

  • What is that you want to build? And why?
  • Who is going to use your solution? And how?
  • How will they accomplish what they want or need to do?
  • When will it be ready?
  • Who is our competition?
  • Is there any demand for a product like this?
  • Are we able to build it? Can it be built at all?

These straightforward questions are frequently considered superfluous or banal. It takes courage to avoid pretending to have all answers understood and staring right in the eye of the client, who is still supposed to pay you the agreed lump sum in advance, and ask them “What do you want to build? And Why?”. This is my version of the two cowboys meeting under a dusted sun while having slightly trembling hands reaching for their guns.

Workshop Design

A Co-Design Workshop requires these elements:

  • a Sponsor and/or a client which decide the purpose of the workshop;
  • one or more facilitators who are put in charge by the Sponsor to organize and deliver the workshop;
  • a facilitation plan, including a vision and specific objectives;
  • a location or an online facility where to hold the event;
  • technical equipment and resources;
  • participants invited to attend the workshop.

As a Workshop Designer, you need to adopt an adaptive and iterative design approach. You have to learn about the objectives that sponsors want to achieve, so that you can plan and design together with them the actual structured activities to be facilitated during the workshop.

Workshop Design Phases

Usually, I divide the workshop design work into four phases:

  1. Discovery
  2. Ideation
  3. Delivery
  4. Reflection.

This breakdown of steps has a lot of similarities with the design thinking processthe Human-Centered Design framework, the Service design process or the Lean Startup model in the business field.

It is based on Strategic Design and it is inspired by many of the principles you can find in: Systems Thinking and Critical Thinking.

Second-order thinking is another approach laying at the base of a robust Workshop Design strategy. It requires reflecting critically about how facilitators, sponsors, organizers and the same participants are acquiring knowledge to see if you need to adapt your plans according to what you have discovered through action.

Speculative Design, Critical Design, and Future Design

Speculative Design/Critical Design is about re-imagining our imagination to create better futures that are possible and desirable.

Systemic Design

Systemic Design integrates systems thinking and human-centered design, with the intention of helping designers cope with complex design projects (also called Wicked Problems).

Traditional design methods are inadequate to face the recent global challenges stemming from increased complexity as globalization, migration, and sustainability.

Systemic Designers need improved tools and methods to design responsibly while avoiding uninterested consequences/side-effects.

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