Strategic design: a learning mindset.

In a field like strategic design that operates at intersections, across disciplines, and through change and uncertainty, it is useful to think of the process as a state of mind, rather than seek a formula for success.

While a learning mindset, as a practice, can benefit many, its specific application to strategic design is an effective way to introduce the practice and its value. Because it is an action-oriented field, strategic design requires proactive information seeking. Below, I outline two key factors for success: unlearning and curiosity.

An illustration with a lightbulb, roots and some early sprouts of greenery, representing a growth mindset.
An illustration with a lightbulb, roots and some early sprouts of greenery, representing a growth mindset.

Unlearning

It may seem contradictory to start an analysis of learning mindsets with an…


What we can learn from the dynamics of the greatest basketball team

The New York Times Magazine cover with the Chicago Bulls team. “The best. Ever. Anywhere.”
The New York Times Magazine cover with the Chicago Bulls team. “The best. Ever. Anywhere.”

It’s a story of growth, both personal and collective, from one superstar operating independent of the other dozen players, to a team of synchronized collaborators.

The team values of the 1990s Chicago Bulls are legendary not just in theory, but because they won. Again and again. I watched the docuseries “The Last Dance” for a second time with this specifically in mind, to surface some of the key leadership lessons (some learned the hard way) that can be applied off the court.


A (mostly) blank slate to create designs and infrastructure for inclusion

During the first On The Media episode of 2021, The World, Remade, Bob Garfield revisited a segment from earlier in the year on designing for access and inclusivity. The term, universal design, stems from programs, products and systems that were designed for a niche group, but find further useful applications and end up benefitting many people. Common examples are curb cuts and closed captioning.

via 99% invisible

Why is this particularly relevant today? The idea is that, with the restrictions in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, the world is participating in a universal design experiment. All people are experiencing a sudden…


With the help of frog’s Hartmut Esslinger.

Photo by Joel Henry on Unsplash

In his book, A Fine Line: How design strategists are shaping the future of business, Hartmut Esslinger defines four schools of design. “Classic design,” he defines as output that appeals to both the heart and the mind of the user. Products are more human-centered but are not inherently linked to brand identity. “Artistic design,” on the other hand, is directional and trend-setting, but not scalable or pragmatic. Corporate design is, more often than not, where internal teams fail to reach a bold enough consensus, and too many compromises lead to faulty strategy. …


An analysis of engagement with SDGs 1–5

Each day for 17 days I am releasing an analysis of how the fashion and space industries engage with the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Below are the infographics from the first week, SDGs 1–5.

While these lists aren’t comprehensive, the goal is to demonstrate the potential impact through shared efforts between the two industries, in addition to their potential impact independently.

SDG 1 & 2


The case for designers doing when everyone is design thinking

Graphic illustration with tiered layers of red, orange and yellow lines in the form of an arrow pointing up and to the right
Graphic illustration with tiered layers of red, orange and yellow lines in the form of an arrow pointing up and to the right
From an old IBM manual cover

In Travis J. Brown’s article “Strategic Design or Design Strategy? Effectively Positioning Designers as Strategists,” from April 2019, he questions the lack of perceived value of design in the context of business. As strategists, he says, “there appears to be increasing pressure on designers to distance themselves from design doing (i.e., being concerned with aesthetic considerations, visual articulation, and artifact creation.)” The myth is that, in order to assimilate as a business professional, the designer must be practical and not aesthetic.

The door is open to question whether, when we say design strategy, we are referring only to design thinking…


This is a story about how ideas come into our busy minds, plant themselves, and become a guiding light for us to focus on.

1. There is a light above. A small opening through which *stuff* is pouring down on you. All of it pouring down, distracting and confusing, and unclear. You look up towards the light coming through from above, but the debris and clutter fall around you and into your eyes. How do you get out?

2. Somehow, you’ve been able to capture some of the *stuff* falling down around you. The floor beneath you grows more solid and starts to rise. Something is taking shape. It is germinating, a seed planted, and you find other *stuff* to nourish that seed.


How space assets and space-generated data can impact Earth’s sustainability goals

A principle of FAAR is advocacy for sustainability on Earth and in space. Both classifications of sustainability, longevity and environmental protection, are interrelated and require the same commitment to long-term thinking grounded in resiliency.

By looking at the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in 2015, alongside activity in space, we can see they are integrated.

As with the SDGs, increased participation from international stakeholders in the space community can have and is having, a direct impact on our ability to set and achieve shared goals on Earth.

There are three broad categories that we can look at in…


And how you can apply them to create products that stand the test of time.

page from a sketch book with notes on design modifications drawn over a photograph of models wearing collection prototypes
page from a sketch book with notes on design modifications drawn over a photograph of models wearing collection prototypes
Sam Adair, graduate collection via 1Granary

The fashion industry is changing. From new business models to new buying calendars, virtual runway shows, and even PPE supply chains popping up overnight, there is room for reimaging the product development process. It is rare in the business of physical products not to have rigorous testing and user feedback before investing in inventory. The fashion industry has been at a disadvantage with such short timelines for selling products and the fleeting nature of trends. If you’re interested in building fashion products that can stand the test of time, it is a good idea to do some user testing.

Talking…

Lee Anderson

Design strategist, researcher & educator. 🔎 sustainable future through design science collaboration & new business models. 📚 @SDSParsons . Also @faarfutures

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