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Be A Smart & Graceful Maverick

What Does Designful Thinking Mean?

I read the below excerpt by Holly Willis, a Design Educator who spoke at a recent AIGA conference and thought it was a really good way of explaining what I mean when I say “Designful Thinking” — a term being used a lot lately to describe how design can be applied to all aspects of business and, well, life in general.

Willis says, “A vital next step in design education centers on taking seriously the notion of systems and systems thinking, which are inherently trans-disciplinary, holistic and focused on the interrelationships and patterns of things, not on fixed and isolated parts of a larger process. This means embracing dynamism and emergent possibility…” or what I see as experimentation and innovation. In today’s marketing and communications climate, there is so much noise and inauthenticity that it becomes difficult for organizations to get their message out effectively. What they so often do is just blast content out to their constituents rather than taking a step back, looking at the larger picture, and planning an integrated and more interesting strategy.

With some of my clients we talk, think and just “try” things, seeing what works and what doesn’t—almost like we are “playing” communications/marketing strategy. This might sound like a strange way to describe it, but if you are looking at an organization in its entirety and want to build a sustainable community to support it, then you want your stakeholders to feel a apart of the process and that participating is fun. This is especially true in the non-profit world where you are asking people to donate their time and resources openly and freely.

So what does “Designful Thinking” mean? It means applying a new lens to all that you look at. It means experimenting with the unknown. It means integrating all moving parts so that they play together fluidly and effectively. Above all, it means being a smart and graceful, maverick.

Val Neumark Mickela - director of strategic initiatives & education, founder, headshot

Val Neumark

Val is a brand strategist, educator, facilitator and coach focused on using communications, design-thinking and technology as vehicles to advance equity. Through partnerships and collaborations, Val endeavors to co-design anti-racist, anti-oppressive spaces and tools that facilitate strategic-thinking, community building and sustainable growth for non-profits and social impact organizations.

Val has a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts & Media from University of California San Diego and a Master's Degree in Education from Pepperdine University. A 2016 recipient of Pepperdine University's inaugural 40 under 40 Award. In their free time Val plays soccer, loves to hike, watch baseball and read Mia Mayhem books with their daughter.