Design and Transformational Change

Presently I am enjoying a informative workshop headed by Peter Jones of reDESIGNreSEARCH. Once a month a diverse group of us discuss how to best organize and assist people and organizations to make positive change using different methods of dialogue to engage them. Most of the time these discussions are limited to a three hour timeline and we rarely revisit them, but the topic of design and transformational change has recently overflowed into a few extra sessions.

The other week the following question was asked of the group: “What does (a) design(er) offer to a process of transformational change?” As a group of individuals we spent some time writing down our independent thoughts about this question on post-it notes and then pooled our ideas on a wall. We each talked briefly about our ideas and then afterwards our group attempted to coalesce our results into a minimal number of unnamed but broadly defined categories.


These results are uneditied and in their raw form taken from the post-it notes.

Group A
Open Mind
Deep Listening
Overcoming the fear
Space to challenge assumptions

Group B
Cross Discipline
Fresh Perspective

Group C
Different Perspectives

Group D
Make Decisions
Efficient Organization of Ideas
Understanding of when to keep going and when to leave it alone

Group E
Work optimally within constraints
Functional Solutions
Constraints can be operational or creative

Group F
Ideas can be borrowed and adapted

Group G
No Starting Point
Sense of Randomness
Divergence then Convergence
Adapt to the Unexpected
Welcome emergence
Explode it open then narrow it back

Group H

Group I
Refine, review, refine, review

Group J

Group K
Make it clear, coherent and comprehendible
Feels effortless

Group L
Multiple formats of presentation
Give Ideas Context
Communicate for mutual understanding and progress
Tell ideas as stories
Illustrative explanations

After inspecting this list I can say we failed at keeping the groups down to a minimum, but I think the content of the list speaks volumes about how design can help create solutions to issues. Too often we think of design as an end result but it should be part of the conversation that helps us evolve better solutions. Just as it is a designer’s job to create something worth taking notice of, when applied properly, the process of design can help concepts or ideas be more readily understood.