DESIGN + IMPACT

A deep dive into the intersection of design and impact

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to our guide on design thinking and impact. Design thinking is a concept that can be used across a variety of design endeavours, such as services, products, experiences, and social interventions. By reading this guide you will:

  • gain a basic understanding of what design thinking is
  • understand the skills and concepts that are must-haves in the space
  • understand design justice principles
  • see design thinking in practice through case studies 
  • learn more about the places and people that are doing this work in Canada

DEFINITIONS & SKILLS

Before diving into the guide, let’s define a few concepts that you may have or will come across as you access a variety of  resources available to you.

Design thinking: an iterative process to solve problems that keeps people at the centre of every process. When creating a solution, whether a product, service, or internal process, the first question to ask is: what’s the human need behind it?

 

Human-centred design: an approach to problem solving that involves the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process. The end solutions are tailor made to suit the needs of the people that are being designed for.

Iterative Process: the process of testing out products/services at an early stage to receive feedback from end-users to improve given their needs. This process allows us to adjust our services and products to suit the needs of the end-users.

Empathy: the heart of human-centered design is empathy. You need to understand who you are designing for. The more we understand and empathize with our audience, the better solutions we’ll be able to create. Watch the short video below to get a good understanding.

Ambiguity: The next concept that is CRUCIAL for folks to understand and be comfortable navigating is ambiguity. 

DESIGN THINKING: A TIMELINE

Early references to Design Thinking originated in the aftermath of WWII, which had a deep effect on the way engineers, scientists, and creatives approached problem solving and strategic thinking. Throughout the 50s and 60s, there were efforts made to apply a scientific methodology to the field of design in order to understand and overcome the human and environmental challenges that could not be solved through other means.

Go over our list of courses available at different universities and online, as well as our list of organizations working in the space to get started!

DESIGN JUSTICE PRINCIPLES

It is important to recognize that design is a powerful tool that holds a lot of privilege in terms of the influence it can have on the media, urban planning, and economic systems around the world. Similar to other structures of power, design can be used to uphold systems oppression (capitalism, patriarchy, heteronormativity) or be used to lift marginalized voices and communities by engaging and designing solutions with them.

 

Below are the 10 ways designers can support social justice by the Design Justice Network.

"DESIGNING INSTEAD OF FOR"

– Design Justice Network

10 Ways Designers Can Support Social Justice

Learn more about Design Justice Network through their Look out for the latest Zines on their website and below!

DESIGN ZINE Issue #1

Principles for Design Justice
CLICK HERE

DESIGN ZINE Issue #2

An Exhibit of Emerging Practices
CLICK HERE

Design zine Issue #3

Design Justice in Action
CLICK HERE

Design zine Issue #4

Acción Política + Design Justice (only available in Spanish)
CLICK HERE

Design Zine Issue #5

How to Make a Local Design Justice Node
CLICK HERE

DESIGN THINKING IN ACTION

FRAMEWORKS

In this section you’ll see frameworks, case studies, and tools professionals apply in the field of design thinking. A case study spotlight will follow so you can see how some of these frameworks are applied in real life!

TEN TYPES OF INNOVATION
BY DOBLIN

This framework created by Doblin is used to develop viable innovations and identify new opportunities beyond just creating new products. Additional resources are available as a book (sample here) and as Innovation Tactic cards.  These 10 types of innovation can be broken down into three sections:

    1. Configuration types focus on the ways organizations work from within (business model, stuctures, processes)
    2. Offering types focus on the main product or service of a company
    3. Experience types focus on the elements that your end-users will interact with

Read a summary about each type below and visit their website for more details!

Profit Model

How you make money

New ways to turn organization's offerings into cash

Product system

How you create complementary offerings

Connecting products and services that would otherwise be distinct offerings

Network

How you connect with others to make value

Relying on other organizations' strengths through collaboration to increase the value of offerings

Service

How you amplify your offerings

Enhancing the value of your services and products, making it them easier or more enjoyable to use

Structure

How you orgranize and align your assets

Using unique ways to organize your human, financial, or intangible assets to improve your offerings

Channel

How you deliver offerings

Ways you connect your offerings to your end-users

Process

How you use signature methods to do work

Improving internal processes to make an organization adapt quickly

Brand

How you represent your organization

Improving the way you "package" your services and offering to be memorable

Product Performance

How you develop unique features

Focusing on improving the features and qualities of your offerings

Customer engagement

How you nurture relationships

Developing meaningful connections with end-users

THE FIVE STAGE PROCESS OF DESIGN THINKING
BY THE STANFORD D.SCHOOL

The Stanford d.school is one of the biggest players in the space and they have developed many wonderful resources to take you through the design thinking journey, no matter where you’re at! Below are the 5 steps they follow to start the process:

1. Empathize

Immerse yourself into the physical environment of the problem that is trying to be solved. Observe and engage with the end-user to understand their experience and motivation.

2. Define the problem

Compile the information gathered during the empathize stage, analyze and synthesize observations in order to define the core issues in a problem statement.

3. Ideate

Brainstorm as many new solutions to the problem statement as possible.

4. Prototype

Produce a number of inexpensive versions of the final product or service for a test group of end users to trial. The team should have a better idea of the problems present and how users would behave, think, and feel when interacting with the final product.

5. Test

Rigorous testing of the complete product using the best prototypes from the stage before.

THREE CORE ACTIVITIES OF DESIGN THINKING
BY IDEO

As a leading design thinking firm, IDEO has developed frameworks and resources to support new and experienced designers. Below are the three steps they follow in their process and a case study to exemplify all of them!

1. Inspiration

2. Ideation

3. Implementation

Wondering how to use these steps?

Check OUT IDEO'S DESIGN KIT!

GO TO IDEO.ORG

VOICES FOR BIRTH JUSTICE

A Campaign and Movement to Raise Awareness of Birth Justice by IDEO.org

CHALLENGE

”Black women in the U.S—regardless of class or education—are 2‑to‑3 times more likely to die during childbirth and 60% more likely to have a premature baby than their white counterparts. The fight for Birth Justice is the fight for Black and Brown women to have the pregnancy they want, deserve, and have been systematically excluded from. The UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative looked to IDEO​.org to help build their momentum and amplify their impact.” – IDEO

1. INSPIRATION

Interviews and co-design sessions with mothers, fathers, grandparents, caregivers, preconception women, doctors, nurses, doulas, lactation consultants, community leaders, organizers, educators, and birth justice experts.

2. IDEATION

  • Prototypes of different campaign materials to mobilize mothers in communities of color (posters in doctors’ offices, clinics and Facebook posts)
  • Materials were co-designed by moms from different racialized groups (Latinx and Black)
  • Community feedback informed the final version of materials

3. IMPLEMENTATION

  • Design team relied on local communities’ existing work and networks
  • Resource aggregator to connect parents to own local resources was created
  • Roadmap to execute awareness campaigns was designed for communities to launch their own campaigns

OUTCOME

Voices for Birth Justice was launched as a public awareness campaign in honor of World Prematurity Day in 2019.

UNIVERSITY COURSES - DESIGN THINKING

University of british columbia

Sauder d.studio
CLICK HERE

University of Alberta

SOSC 380 - Design Thinking & EXGEN5355 - Design Thinking for Innovation
CLICK HERE

Queen’s University

ENIN 140 - Media and Design Thinking
CLICK HERE

Simon Fraser University

DLOG756 - Design Thinking Methods for Engagement
CLICK HERE

University of Manitoba

PDEV-1053 - Design Thinking
CLICK HERE

McMaster University

CCD 103 - Design Thinking, Creative, Critical & Design Thinking
CLICK HERE

University of Victoria

Introduction to Design Thinking
CLICK HERE

University of Toronto 

3483 - Leading by Design
CLICK HERE

University of Waterloo

INTEG 121 - Collaboration, Design Thinking and Problem Solving
CLICK HERE

University of Calgary

BMC 377 - Design Thinking
CLICK HERE

Ryerson University

FSN 303 - Design Thinking, Process, and Methods & FCD 558- Intro to Design Thinking 
CLICK HERE

McGill University

Innovating Through Design Thinking
CLICK HERE

Mount Royal University

INFO 1610 - Principles of Design Thinking and Doing
CLICK HERE

Western University

BSMG6215 - Design Thinking 
CLICK HERE

IDEO U

Online Design Thinking Courses by IDEO
CLICK HERE

DESIGN THINKING FIRMS IN CANADA

DESIGN JUSTICE NETWORK

an international community committed to rethinking design processes to center marginalized groups
CLICK HERE

Dossier Creative

brand and innovation design firm that creates compelling brands and builds value for entrepreneurial ventures
CLICK HERE

ALL PURPOSE

helping organizations positively impact people and the planet through the design and creation of human-centered experiences and products
CLICK HERE

Domain7

people-centric, holistic set of services to achieve meaningful organizational change.
CLICK HERE

Bridgeable

service design consultancy that creates a more human world, one experience at a time
CLICK HERE

DOBLIN

helping leaders discover new possibilities through human-centered approaches
CLICK HERE

public inc.

full-service social impact agency that puts purpose at the top of the business agenda
CLICK HERE

idea couture

operating where design meets business, insight meets foresight, and empathy meets economics
CLICK HERE

themoment

solving today’s complex challenges while innovating for the future
CLICK HERE

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

We hope you’ll continue learning about this space on your own, with friends and school. Check out these additional resources below to help guide you:

On the basics of human-centred design and service design

On inclusive design

Other tools, guides and frameworks ​