The pursuit of using great design to make things better for people is an activity which has no end point. We humans are constantly evolving. Throughout this flux, the things that deliver value to us are forever changing too. For proof of this, we need only step into a museum where the innovations of bygone eras, the stuff of everyday life, are celebrated as a tangible representation of who we were and what we held dear.

As Design Strategists, working within a Design and Innovation company, our role is to help our clients work out what they should do next. To do this, we learn how to travel faster than the speed of culture. We perpetually explore new tools and research techniques that can help us uncover peoples’ needs, wants and dreams. We become adept at understanding the markets we serve. We dig deep into people’s lived experiences, whilst simultaneously stepping back and exploring these individual behaviours in relation to societal change.

As Newton’s third law of motion tells us “For every action (or force) in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. A new technology advances, a political movement gains momentum, a medical discovery is made: all these forces create a cultural current which moves the zeitgeist forward. Sometimes, these movements are so gentle they are barely felt, other times they create a wave of change so powerful that it sweeps us all forwards with transformative force.

There can be few people on our beautiful and vulnerable planet that were not impacted by the summer of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Never had our mission of ‘making things better for people’ felt more urgent. Amidst the turmoil, anguish and calls for social justice, we held a mirror up to our beloved creative industry and recognised many shameful flaws. Like most of global culture, our industry has inequality baked in.

“Once you know better, you do better.”

Maya Angelou

We had to ask ourselves; what can we do as design and innovation professionals to create a better, fairer world? One of the key lessons we’ve learned is that self-reflection and cultivating greater self-awareness is a must. Taking a clear-eyed look at where we fall short and then committing to tackling the biases that hold our creativity back.

Three years on and our belief that ‘great design makes things better for people’ hasn’t changed, but our processes, working culture, and approaches to gathering insights have begun to. We have widened our perspectives but there is yet more to be done; more unmet needs to be addressed; more ignored voices to be amplified, more space to be made at leadership level.

The road is long and challenging. We need to invest time in repairing what is in disrepair. We must accept that a certain amount of chaos will follow as we unlearn the old and explore the new. We need to find creation through destruction, to teardown old systems that served only a few and consciously build new improved ones that can serve the many.

The rewards are rich. More diversity equals greater creativity, deeper insights and better decision making.

It is a journey we must take together, with you, our design and innovation partners. With that in mind, we want to be open and share what we learn with you as we go. We invite you to read about our journey via the resources on The LAB and to reach out to us and similarly share your learnings.

“Once you start taking everyone’s interests into account – all the potential participants in the conversation – it pushes you towards goals that are inherently moral, such as the wellbeing of everyone. Because anything smaller than that can’t be defended when you say it to everyone else.”

Stephen Pinkerton
Mariel Brown is Director of Foresight & Strategy at Seymourpowell.