Better By Design


Design is essentially a multidisciplinary endeavour that values different skills, knowledge and ways of being in the world as a source of creativity and innovative problem solving. Reading this book you might recognise tools and approaches from a range of familiar disciplines. We see this as characteristic of the richness of the design approach. 

It’s helpful not to be able to describe design in hard and fast terms. It is not ‘action research’ or ‘community learning and development’ or ‘appreciative inquiry’ or ‘Lean’ or ‘PDSA’. But at the same time it is. 

That’s not to say that ‘design’ has some higher value or lofty purpose. It is just to say that, fundamentally, design is about what works. 

Some designers have a knack of making things look beautiful and tidy; like it was obviously supposed to be like that. This ability to synthesise, organise, colour-code and collate belies the reality of an experience that is not always straightforward, obvious or elegant. The now ubiquitous ‘double diamond’ is a case in point: a helpfully innocuous way to describe a design process. The simple symmetry of the two up-ended boxes suggests not venturing outside so much as just setting them on edge slightly.

The reality of the design process is that it is challenging. It means looking at things anew, challenging the status quo, venturing outside of the comfort zone and being open to new possibilities. 

Better by Design was an experiment, funded by Big Lottery Scotland to explore the potential of design to support third sector organisations in becoming more sustainable and increasing their social impact. The results were impressive. 

This book introduces the methods and mindsets from Better by Design. If you’re new to design, I hope this book inspires you. If you were part of Better by Design, I hope this both brings back memories and encourages you on your journey from here.

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