Specialization Spotlight: Design

At Doblin, our practitioners are aligned to at least one of three specializations: design, insights, and business. While we work on truly collaborative teams, our specialized practitioners each bring a unique perspective and integral skills to our work. This series aims to illuminate each specialization, their role on teams, and their contribution to the exciting work we do at Doblin.

Our designers are the backbone of our projects, helping our teams to create new offerings and communicate those offerings (as well as our insights and process) to our clients. The work we do at Doblin starts as fuzzy ideas, and our designers lead the shaping of them into tangible and compelling offerings through a relentlessly iterative prototyping approach. Our design practitioners are constantly asking themselves how to make things better and are driven by a passion for creating new and innovative offerings.

While our teams work together throughout the course of a project and the different phases of our work, each specialization contributes more strongly to specific elements that correspond closely to their skillset. Our design practitioners play the strongest role during the “create” phase, but contribute quite heavily throughout the whole process with the visual communication of different elements of our work.

Our approach to concept and offering development is multidisciplinary, iterative, and collaborative.
Our approach to concept and offering development is multidisciplinary, iterative, and collaborative.

How design practitioners are involved throughout our process:

Frame

Our designers collaborate with our insights and business practitioners to visually communicate our project framing

Discover

They contribute to research through heavy collaboration with our insights practitioners, participating in field research and conducting interviews as a part of the larger team

Analyze

During analysis, they often begin to think about how to translate our insights into action in the upcoming phase. Once analysis is complete, they work to communicate our research insights in a compelling way, usually in preparation for a research immersion workshop for our clients

Create

This stage is integral for designers, and looks very different depending on the project. It could be the visual representation of a new business, the storytelling of a new customer experience, or the prototype of a new digital tool. Our designers pride themselves on their ability to get “scrappy” at this stage because they are frequently using new and changing mediums to create and/or visualize the offering (especially when a prototype is involved)

Test + Develop

They create prototypes to test and collaborate with our insights practitioners to ensure we are asking the right questions in evaluative research to get helpful and actionable feedback. At this stage, our designers must be able to flex between different levels of fidelity and know when which level is appropriate for what we want to learn from evaluative research

Across all phases

Throughout the whole process, our designers are doing the important (but often overlooked) job of documenting what we do – so that our process can live on for our clients after it’s done. And in preparation for key touchpoints like workshops and presenting our final deliverables, our designers work hard to integrate content, story, and visual design so that our outputs reflect the quality of our work throughout the process

As shown across all phases of our work, one of the most important aspects of a designer’s role at Doblin is to visually represent the new offerings we create (whether they are businesses, concepts, services, or experiences). These representations could be concept sketches, visualizations of system maps, journey maps, prototypes – but regardless of the form, this work is about articulating a new idea in a way that is easy to understand (which is no small feat!).

Some of our designers will say that half of the job is pure design work and the other half is figuring out how to communicate it. This storytelling aspect of the role requires the ability to craft a compelling narrative to link together the different decisions made along the design journey. When done right, storytelling can be a facilitator to help our team and clients align on the direction we are heading, and to feel a sense of shared ownership of the work we are collaborating on.

While being a designer at Doblin does require a high level of visual design skill, this is not a traditional design job – it’s design plus storytelling plus strategic thinking. Our designers must be able to listen, understand, integrate, and re-communicate a lot of different perspectives and thoughts. And, they must be impressively adaptable. On any given day, a designer could be:

• Developing branding for a new business concept

• Storyboarding a video documenting our research process to share with our clients

• Creating a clickable prototype for a new digital interface

• Visualizing a new business model so that it’s easy to communicate

• Developing a low fidelity way to prototype in-person customer interactions within a new service model

As discussed in previous Specialization Spotlights, what makes our work so difficult (and so interesting!) is that the problem and solution space we work in is often intentionally ambiguous. We do this so we have the flexibility to build the best offering for our clients and their customers. Within these ambiguous spaces, insights practitioners often define the bounds of what we are looking to understand from customers, business practitioners define the bounds of what space or market we should play in, and designers define the bounds of what we will create. It’s a consistent but difficult challenge, and our designers rise to the occasion through strong work and strong thinking.