Good design is more than strategy – it’s strategy rooted in purpose.
When design is led by passionate, purpose-driven people, it has transformative potential.
To move the needle on the multitude of complex problems that exist today, design must bring passionate people together.
At ThinkPlace, like so many other design firms, we use co-design practices to solve complex problems. But our key difference is rooted in our ethics; we work exclusively with purpose-driven people who care deeply about a project’s impact.
If speaking of passion and purpose seems cliché coming from a design firm, it’s notable to mention our recent wins at Australia’s Good Design Awards. We were honoured with five awards at the 2023 ceremony, with particular emphasis given to the impact our projects have. It’s one thing to be strategic, and it’s another achievement entirely to be strategic whilst adhering to a strong ethical compass.
Co-design is the driving force behind the work we do. In practice, co-design is a variety of design techniques that encourage participatory decision-making. It’s human-centered design, where we involve all stakeholders to create equal opportunity for contribution within organisational structures.
Good design occurs when people are compelled by their drive to create positive change.
We’ve witnessed powerful transformations within the varied industries of our clients. We view ourselves as facilitators, working to consistently ensure our clients and their users are at the centre of the design process. In our eyes, good design occurs when people are compelled by their drive to create positive change; from the purpose-driven team at ThinkPlace, to our visionary clients, and the passionate people within industries, we’re connected by a shared purpose.
Our work enhances communities, strengthens economies, creates sustainable environments, and enables trustworthy institutions.
A successful collaborative approach we bring to our clients is place-based design. This approach targets the specific circumstances of people in the place in which they live. For example, when WorkSafe ACT came to us asking to understand silica dust exposure attitudes in the Australian Capital Territory, we decided to immerse ourselves in the state.
Using immersive, qualitative research, we met with stakeholders across the construction sector in the ACT. From concreter to safety officer, we spoke to people about the occupational hazards they face. By being empathetic and meeting them where they were – from the smoko spot to the head office – we engaged workers in candid conversation. Through this qualitative research, we were better able to understand attitudes and create room for a whole-of-system analysis; in doing so, we helped facilitate targeted regulations and future interventions to help workers protect themselves.
Our work with WorkSafe ACT saw ThinkPlace chosen as a Good Design Award 2023 winner. “The Silica Dust Exposure research project approaches data collection with a warmth and authenticity that allows access to intriguing insights,” the judging jury said.
For further reading on our partnership with WorkSafe ACT, you can dive into the case study.
“The contextual elements of coming into an environment like Bougainville cannot be underestimated and the design team have done an outstanding job.” – Feedback from the Good Design Award 2023 jury, who awarded ThinkPlace a Good Design Award for this project
By working in partnership with the Ed Institute, we used place-based design to deliver a training program that provided aspiring entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills and mindset they needed to accelerate their business ideas and create new market value. While it is often thought that the content of a training program is most important, this project highlighted that the focus should be on considering the environment (both psychological and physical) the content is being delivered in.
To read the full case study that highlights the success of this project with the Ed Institute, head here.
Participatory design methods dismantle the hierarchical nature of traditional design.
Place-based design is beneficial in engaging disadvantaged or marginalised communities. Participatory design methods dismantle the hierarchical nature of traditional design; if someone doesn’t have a seat at the table, we bring the table and chairs to them. When the Department of Regional NSW approached us about creating employment and vocational strategy in the rural New South Wales town of Walgett, we knew the answers couldn’t come from us.
Using participatory design, we had ThinkPlace team members spend time in the Walgett community, meeting with Indigenous leaders and town residents to decipher what would bring social cohesion and harmony to the community. At ThinkPlace, we acknowledge that Indigenous people around the world offer a unique, powerful perspective when designing societal systems. Walgett’s Cultural & Community Pop-up Hub was born from working with, not for, Indigenous voices.
Our work with the Department of Regional NSW and the Walgett community saw ThinkPlace chosen as a Good Design Award 2023 winner for the project’s ability to enhance the fabric of the town. “Walgett’s Cultural and Community Pop-up Hub is a transformational design that shows great potential to boost social cohesion, spark economic growth and challenge negative, yet unfounded assumptions of the community,” the judging jury said.
To learn more about the Walgett Cultural & Community Pop-up Hub, read our case study.
Much like good design needs to be collaborative, it also can’t be rushed. Rather than push to get a project over the line, skipping crucial details and processes, we instead take time to understand the users who will be interacting with a design.
Volunteering Australia’s new National Strategy for Volunteering came about through an innovative participatory futures method. Over the course of 12 months, we engaged community groups across Australia, exploring possible futures collectively. Through extensive research and collecting a diverse array of information, we were able to create a 10-year strategy that would stand the test of time. Having just been awarded a Good Design Award 2023 for this project, we’re thrilled with the excitement the jury has towards this project’s future. “The project is a brilliant example of systems-level design work, and the Jury is excited to see its impact evolve over time,” they commented.
Image: Sarah Wilson/Volunteering Australia
Read more about how we used co-design to help Volunteering Australia develop a 10-year strategy.
These methods don’t ignore the extensive quantitative, desktop research that is another pillar of good design. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry engaged ThinkPlace to help shift workforce management and planning practices within the agricultural sector.
“This is an essential and topical project that enhances a dynamic workforce. The impact and application of the tools demonstrates why they have been so well received by the agricultural industry.” – Feedback from the Good Design Award 2023 jury, who awarded ThinkPlace a Good Design Award for this project
Zooming in on horticulture as an ideal case study, we undertook desktop research to develop context-driven behaviour change models. We then tested prototypes on peak bodies and growers throughout Australia. The suite of tools we built from this prototyping phase encompasses a Pre-Harvest Checklist, a Workforce and Business Analysis tool, and a set of case study videos that drive home the value of workforce planning and management.
To dive into the process we used to develop context-driven behaviour change models for The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, head here.
The crux of good design is a passionate team determined to see it happen. Our teams at ThinkPlace are authentically engaged; we’re ethical in our approach to getting work, and hire people who are not only experts but who genuinely care about outcomes. Using co-design to solve complex problems, we adapt to, respond to, and learn from areas of friction. Our success is found not by imposing our beliefs, but by weaving our knowledge with the lived experience of the people entangled in a problem.