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Design Philosophy

Whether emergent through products, services, or systems, designs impact how any organization operationalizes their goals and mission. The heart of each touch point and interaction does not reside in quality content alone, but also in design. Design communicates purpose, values, and intent. Through my

research, design projects, and case studies, my design philosophy has landed on the concept of “Meaningful Design.” Good design = meaningful design; it is valuable, significant, consequential, connected, and purposeful to its intended audience.

Meaningful design is more than a process or set of methods, it is a philosophy and a culture.

Meaningful design is built from the philosophy that meaning making is active and embodied; it encompasses a philosophy for participation and methods for enabling it. It embraces early experimentation, iterative design and learning loops, and failure. In a technology-centric landscape of tool development, meaningful design views tools not simply as media or experiences fixed in time and space, rather, as much broader cultural practices and ideologies.

Meaningful design is grounded in empathy, beginning with the needs and perspectives of the people being designed for. 

By placing value on understanding the experiences and contexts of those being designed for, insights inform innovation at a practical level. Outcomes influence the product/service solutions, developed in line with what works/what is desired by users (who actually implement or engage with whatever is created). This view of design avoids viewing an audience member as a subject, rather, as a participant that BRINGS something to every experience. 

Meaningful design promotes meaningful interactions, which sit at the core of well-designed environments for teaching & learning. 

From a pedagogical perspective, a theoretical framework of meaningful design positions learning as collective, collaborative, situated, and sociocultural. What makes something meaningful is heavily dependent on the sense-making of participants, and not solely on the designer of the experience. Therefore, the thing that is designed becomes the catalyst for activity, language, learning, and meaning making. 

Meaningful design methods aim to generate the best ideas and solutions, requiring teams to begin by asking the right questions. 

Design challenges begin with a “How might we…” question, driven by a problem and informed/inspired by inquiry and experiences. By asking how instead of what, solutions emerge from broader contexts of lived experiences, and not from a narrow or incomplete concept of a tool. Methods challenge assumptions early and require design teams to ask what is desirable (human focus), feasible (org/technology focus), and viable (market focus).  

Meaningful design is inclusive, supporting the democratization of projects, products, and services. 

Meaningful design considers anyone involved in problem-solving for new ideas a designer. It isn’t a practice that lives solely with graphic artists or project managers. Meaningful design practices function where democratized voices matter, where expertise includes the values of empathy and participant experience, and collaboration goes beyond traditional subject matter experts. This power is manifested as ideas are made visible and both designers and potential participants meaningfully contribute. 

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