An asset-based approach
We’re very inspired by Ezio Manzini, the Italian design strategist and founder of DESIS network, who says:
When we design, we search for problems to solve. If you take the capability approach, you search for capabilities to support.
He continues, “You don’t ask what you can do to make people behave differently. You ask what you can do to recognize people’s capabilities and help people use those to solve the problems they face.”
In the social sector, problems and unmet needs are almost too easy to find. Rather, we look for assets—the people, resources, behaviors, relationships, and systems—that are already working well. Our designs leverage those assets to create more and better life.
A structured process
We believe strongly that design is a process, and we’ve often found the design process to be transformative for both students and clients. Ours can be represented by a “double diamond,” a two-part sequence of broadening and narrowing.
In Research, we diverge around user needs and assets: what’s working well here? What do people need? What are all the things that might be impacting our user’s behavior?
In Synthesis, we converge around insights and design opportunities. Insights are statements of tension or contradiction that describe the problem worth solving. Design opportunities, phrased as “How Might We…” statements, point us towards areas for potential growth and change.
In Concepting, we diverge again, this time around ideas. We brainstorm and iterate, creating lots of small ideas that will ultimately be built back together.
In Prototyping, we converge again, this time around solutions. We use a series of increasingly high-fidelity prototypes to test and break our assumptions, and get closer and closer to the right design.