June 2015 FEW Workshop Recap: Unlock the Power of Design

FEW Workshop, June 30th
Facilitator: Melanie Rayment, Design Strategist and FEW Member

Recap by Helen Lewis

On a rainy Tuesday evening 17 attendees learned about the concepts and practices used by designers with Melanie Rayment. Despite our different backgrounds – education, services, and NGO’s, we were all curious about design. Melanie began by encouraging us not to think of design simply as ‘making things pretty’ or ‘being creative’, but to look at the process designers use.

TAKE OUT 1: Any process in which technical issues combine with human concerns such as process, priorities, values, emotion, motivation might be improved by using design thinking. Design is about better quality and more humane things, products, services, experiences.

TAKE OUT 2: Empathise with your end user to find the right problem to solve.

We interviewed our partner about an experience with a service provider and identified their needs and goals within the interaction. We learned how empathising is a key stage in design because it means that the design goal is right for them. This is also a tenet of Human Centered Design.

TAKE OUT 3: Brainstorm within boundaries.

This was a good chance to practice brainstorming differently, within appropriate parameters. When the issue is neither too broad nor too narrow, brainstorming has a purpose. We were about half way through the workshop at this point because we had spent time observing, gathering information, and reflecting on the needs of our user. Contrast this to how often people rush to get to a solution rather than clarifying the nature of the problem. This is particularly true for using design to improving services and experiences. Examples that came up in the working lives or participants were creating a dealership, providing quality advice, interviewing for a new job, and making a curriculum. The brief Melanie assigned was to find out about a recent interaction with a health care provider.

TAKE OUT 4: Build a prototype; get messy.

Most people had about 5 possible solutions in the five minutes we had to brainstorm. Melanie told us to make one and basically turned the Compass Offices into a playroom for grownups. Pipe cleaners twisted into people in hospital waiting rooms, lego blocks arranged on tables represented physical spaces, sponges became apps that patients might use.
This stage was a lot of fun!

TAKE OUT 5: Evaluate with the end user; repeat cycle.

Having made a prototype we then explained it to our end user with the aim of getting feedback to begin a new iteration. Building some prototype in the real world however roughly sparks dialogue, conversation, questions and suggestions from the end user. I felt really good about showing my idea because I knew that even if I missed the mark with the technicalities or there were problems with the execution; the design’s foundation was built on empathy and curiosity about her needs. And although we didn’t have much time to practice the feedback stage, I could tell that she was excited about a system that had been designed in response to something she had said. Not bad for an hour’s work! In reality a design team will cycle though the observation, generation, prototype, and testing phase a few times given the restraints of a project. However, we can apply the four stages once or as many times as we want.

This workshop was a great insight into the concepts and practices in design thinking. We learned the importance of empathy for the user and how to collaborate to find the best solution to a need. Imagination, empathy, and willingness to fail are essential. It seems to be about creating a structure and a purpose with intelligent inputs, asking the right question, and empathising with the user. Co-design seems to be a bit of a buzzword these days, but rightly so and learning how it works fits in well with FEW’s mission of empowering and equipping people to grow professionally.

Graphic by Melanie Rayment, highlighting the angle from which she spoke, “think like a designer



  1. Visualise. “Show not tell”
  2. Empathise. “Walk in their shoes” – understand intimately who you are designing for.
  3. Discover. “Understand the Why” – define your problem
  4. Prototype. “Embrace serious play” – design, test, iterate and make rough models to test and think with your hands.
  5. Collaborate. “Design with not For” – facilitate diversity of thought, design with your users.
  6. Re-frame. “Look at the problem from a new perspective”.

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