A Q&A with Footwear Designer Charlotte Logeais

A Q&A with Footwear Designer Charlotte Logeais

Spotlight articles shine a light on designers and design materials we admire. Our founder and principal designer Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman has met many wonderful designers as an educator and career designer, and in our Spotlight interviews we ask them about their work and their design journey. In this interview we spoke with senior footwear designer and art director Charlotte Logeais. Charlotte has been a designer at Nike* for over two years. She began in the kids division and is currently a senior designer on the Women’s Lifestyle team. To her, design has always been about storytelling and problem solving. With a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Pratt Institute and a Master’s degree from USC integrating design, business, and technology, she is well versed in the power of design as well as the power of style. Her experience as a professional ballet dancer gave her an athlete’s mindset, and she knows the value of performance footwear firsthand. We asked her about the challenges of footwear design, emerging trends in the footwear industry, and what makes a great shoe.

Portrait of footwear designer Charlotte Logeais

Q: What is inspiring you at the moment?

A: The biggest thing that’s inspiring me at the moment are fashion week runway shows. I love  seeing all the runway collections and how each designer creates their own world while still aligning with the history of the brand. I also enjoy seeing how the runway trickles down into street style. 

Q: Could you tell us about your role at Nike? How do you fit into your team there?

A: I work on the Nike kids design team. I’m technically on the performance side, but the cool thing about the kids team—especially for me, being newer to the footwear industry—is that you get to work on a broad range of products. I’ve been able to work on lifestyle shoes, like the Air Max 1, and on performance product as well, like running. It’s been great to get to work on such a wide range of products and it’s  helped me discover what I’m most passionate about. It’s been a great team to first start on at Nike. 

On the kids team you can push the boundaries a little bit more and really have fun with the design. Kids love bright colors, they love shoes that are playful and energetic. They get super excited about designs that are colorful and vibrant – it’s the first thing they notice about a shoe. 

In footwear, we work two years out. The process is kicked off by a brief and then the design team begins pulling inspiration and sketching. Various priorities in the product brief will inspire the visual direction of the design. If it’s a shoe that needs to emphasize comfort, it’s probably going to be a more rounded form language. If it needs to emphasize speed, maybe it’s more angular. Those notes help us determine the visual language. 

My favorite part of the product creation process is when the team comes together to sketch together on a new project. It’s the most creative time we have each season. We go find a room—the whole kids team—and we sketch together all day for a couple of weeks on the projects of the season. Then each project lead will take all of those sketches, identify the common threads, and bring it to the finish line. 

Once the design has been finalized, we send out a tech pack and get our first samples back to revise. 

Q: What drew you to footwear design? 

A: I kind of stumbled upon it, which is funny considering I grew up in Portland, Nike’s backyard. When I was at Pratt doing my undergrad degree, I applied to a footwear design internship at Adidas and interned with them for six months. I’d never really sketched sneakers before and fell in love with it during that internship. I’ve always loved fashion and sport, and did classical ballet for 10 years, culminating in one year professionally before going to Pratt. In ballet, your feet are your main tool, but pointe shoes  have barely evolved since the 19th century. So it’s rewarding for me to be able to bring innovation to athletes through footwear design.  

Q: Of the skills that you learned at Pratt, which do you find most valuable in your work?

A: Design thinking is a big one, and the design process overall. In footwear, we’re given a product brief by our marketing team. That brief tells us who the consumer is, what they’re looking for, and what the priorities of the product need to be. Then it’s the designer’s job to take that information and create a design. At Pratt it was definitely drilled into us that you get your brief, you find inspiration, you sketch, you refine your idea, you present it, and then begin the development process.  

Q: Footwear is an industry known for inspiring cult followings. What are your main challenges as a footwear designer?

A: Being on the kids team is definitely a design challenge for me. I’m not the target consumer, and I think it’s a big challenge to design for someone who isn’t you while still wanting to imbue  the project with your personal aesthetic and sensibility. It’s a good challenge: to keep the consumer at the center of the product while still being able to bring in my perspective. Whenever we get to interact directly with the consumer it helps us to understand what they want from a product. As the kids team covers toddler through grade school, it’s a pretty large range and we have to tailor each design to what the specific age group needs. 

Q: From a personal standpoint, what makes a great shoe? One you’re excited to wear? 

A: For me, comfort is a huge thing. I want a shoe that I can wear all day long and it will be super comfortable. Also, a shoe that feels versatile and can transition between working all day at the office to going out for a drink or going to a pilates class. Having a shoe that can move with you throughout the day and keep you comfortable the whole day is the biggest thing for me. Beyond that, I like having some sort of icon on the shoe, a hero aspect of the shoe.

The shoes that I’ve been wearing the most right now are the Vomero 5s, they’re an old school running shoe that have now pivoted into lifestyle. 

Q: How does sustainability factor into design and production at Nike? 

A:  Sustainability is definitely a big priority. As a designer, I partner with material and color designers, and materials are usually the biggest sustainability play. We’ll often make sure to prioritize materials that have a certain percentage of recycled content to try to reduce the amount of new materials being brought in and reuse as much as possible. That’s a big priority, especially in the kids business. I think we’re one of the teams that is making the biggest effort with that. The youngest consumer really does care about the environment and about what their future is going to look like, so sustainability is especially important for them, and knowing that we also care. 

Q: What do you see as interesting emerging trends in the footwear industry today?

A: Some of the biggest trends are new digital tools. AI has been a huge one, getting to input a prompt and have ideas generated for you, often ideas that you couldn’t imagine or that are just super out there. AI is a powerful initial ideation tool for brainstorming and creating concepts. Midjourney is one of my favorites right now, I actually discovered it while pursuing  my master’s at USC. 

In the past, I’d just go on Pinterest and scroll for aesthetically pleasing imagery to create a mood board, but now you can create your own imagery for that mood board through AI. It makes each mood board a bit more unique, and you have the control to create the imagery that you want to work with. Now I do a bit of a combination of both, searching for inspiration images as well as generating them myself. I still do love Pinterest though… and I have so many boards.

Q: Are there other areas of design you would like to explore?

A: I purchased an apartment last May and have spent the last seven months renovating it. It’s in a hundred-year-old loft building in downtown Portland and it was a blank canvas, so I did all the interior design for it, working with the contractor and everything. That’s been a journey! But, It’s super rewarding to see it come together. The results of interior design are so physical. Whatever decision you make, you’re going to see it in real life. That has so much impact. Interior design is something that I’ve discovered I really enjoy doing, and I would love to do more projects like this.

Being in footwear, I’ve realized that lines are so important to me, when things align and how they are offset from each other. I think I’m driving my contractor a little bit insane, making sure everything is perfectly aligned and organized. Design to me is seeing how forms have relationships and fit together.

Footwear designers look at trends and forecasting. We are tied to the fashion world, so part of the job is keeping up with that, seeing what people are drawn to, whether that’s in person or through social media. On the performance side, we follow the different sporting events. In the NBA, there’s an interesting intersection of style and sport every time the athletes walk down the tunnel onto the court. Following influencers on Instagram is another good way to keep up with global fashion trends. Maybe I like their style or the way that they combine different clothing items in unexpected ways. Following those creators helps me stay connected to fashion and innovation. When I lived in New York, I could just go for a walk and see amazing street style everywhere. Living in Portland that’s a bit more difficult, so I rely on travel and Instagram.

Q: What do you see for yourself as a designer and for your career going forward?

A: I feel like I’m just getting started in footwear but I see a long future for myself in the industry. I’d love to work on more adult performance product. 

I also value  having my own design pursuits on the side, like interior design. I used to paint a lot and that’s fallen off in the past couple of years. I think it’s important to find the time to keep yourself fulfilled, to have those external pursuits that don’t involve the pressure to perform as much as your day-to-day work. The renovation project has been taking all of my energy so I think, once that is finished, I can find time to paint again. I also used to meditate every morning and I haven’t done that in a while. For me, finding the time for mindfulness and sport helps me stay balanced.

*Views are her own and do not reflect those of her employer.

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Appeal vs. Responsibility

In today’s design landscape, creators have moved beyond crafting products to shaping immersive product experiences. In this expanded field, narratives unfold through each curve and contour, blending aesthetics and emotions, and transforming designs into compelling and immersive stories designed to entice consumers. Welcome to the world of seductive design. This article will discuss appeal vs. responsibility in the work of the designer.

Seduction Redefined: A Deeper Dive

As important as functionality is, consumers today expect products to deliver more than function alone. They want products that they can connect to emotionally and that bring them joy. This is the definition of emotional design. We see designers trying to meet this demand across product categories. Take, for example, outdoor and sports products that exude a sense of speed and power, highlighting the sensations your body will experience during product use. The sleek design of a high-performance bicycle features an aerodynamic frame and vibrant colors not only to convey speed and power but also to emphasize the exhilarating feeling cyclists can expect when riding the bike.

Storytelling is a key component in creating a connection between a consumer and the product. The story connects the physical object to the consumer’s emotions. These emotional responses can be powerful, creating a bond between the consumer and the product as well as, crucially, cultivating brand loyalty. Packaging, in particular, has evolved to become part of the product experience, as demonstrated by the plethora of unboxing videos on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.

Both technology and the beauty businesses use packaging to define their brands. It is not just a container but an integral part of the overall seductive experience. Think of the similarities between your iPhone and a bottle of perfume; both promise the consumer an experience and are purchased as a part of a lifestyle the consumer desires as much as they are purchased for function. Consider the iPhone’s sleek, minimalist packaging, which resonates with the product’s promise of sophistication and innovation. Similarly, a bottle of perfume, adorned with carefully chosen materials and design elements, becomes a tangible embodiment of the sensorial journey it offers. Both purchases transcend functionality, entangling the consumer’s lifestyle aspirations with the allure of a unique experience.

The Role of Emotional Design

As consumer expectations evolve, emotional design emerges as the driving force behind product desirability, transcending the fulfillment of needs to nurture a profound connection. This shift toward emotional resonance elevates the functionality of products and establishes a deeper bond, transforming them into vessels that embody and reflect the users’ aspirations and sentiments.

Users perceive more aesthetically pleasing designs as easier to use and more effective. Beauty and usability are intertwined. Clean lines, intuitive interfaces, and straightforward user journeys contribute to the overall appeal of a product. The aesthetics of a product influence consumers’ expectations, fostering the perception that it will be easy to use and that it is superior to its competitors.

Two key questions about the significance of emotional design arise. The first is methodological: How does one effectively infuse products with emotional resonance? The second question is ethical: Given the potential extremes of emotional design, what is the designer’s responsibility to balance allure with transparent and conscientious design and manufacturing practices?

Engaging More Than the Eyes

How do designers go beyond surface-level aesthetics to create meaningful and captivating interactions? Designers can appeal to multiple senses to create an immersive and engaging experience. This might include tactile elements, sound design, or even scent. Material, color, and form are part of the overall product narrative and can be used to create an immersive and emotionally resonant experience.

Designing with an empathetic approach can also increase the emotional resonance of products. Products for new parents can connect emotionally to their ethos on child rearing. Lea Stewart, senior manager of design at Newell Brands, uses these emotional drivers to differentiate between brands like Graco and Baby Jogger, which she oversees. Stewart notes that “a product like a stroller can convey that you are the type of parent who believes the best thing for a child is for the adult to keep their adult life and bring the child along. That way, they get to experience more and see good modeling. The aesthetics then cater to that by appealing more to an adult sensibility: looking easy to take on the go and not impeding life. On the other hand, a different parent may believe that the family should center on the child and togetherness, so you, therefore, embed that in the product aesthetics to evoke security, comfort, and parent/child connection. This is all subconscious to the user when they purchase the product, which is the seduction.”

Another path to creating a connection is to infuse products with nature-inspired elements that evoke emotional connections. For instance, a packaging designer for a skincare brand might incorporate botanical illustrations, earthy textures, or eco-friendly materials to align the product with natural goodness and trigger a sense of tranquility and well-being in the consumer.

Customization is one tried-and-true way to connect the consumer to a product. Products that allow consumers to personalize or customize elements based on their preferences, experiences, or memories create an emotional bond. A furniture designer, for example, may offer customizable fabrics, colors, or engraved details, enabling customers to imbue the product with personal meaning and emotional significance.

Inclusivity is a particularly powerful catalyst in emotional design, transcending visual appeal to provide aesthetics and thoughtful, universal functionality. By embracing diverse perspectives and considering the needs of a broad audience, designers not only create universally appealing product experiences but also weave a narrative of allure that resonates on a profound and inclusive level, captivating users from all walks of life.

If you’re interested in going deeper, consider Don Norman’s Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things and Designing Design by Kenya Hara. Norman explores the emotional impact of design on user experiences, delving into how aesthetics, usability, and emotional connections shape our perceptions of products, a perspective directly relevant to the nuanced realm of seductive design. Hara’s book is relevant to the broader topic of design, including elements of seductive design. While the book is more philosophical, exploring the mindset and principles of design, it provides valuable insights
into the foundational aspects of creating compelling and aesthetically pleasing designs.

The Ethics of Seduction

While strategies for creating seductive products abound, the ethical question of the designer’s responsibility hovers over all of them. Given the impact of technology and evolving consumer expectations on the field of industrial design, it is only natural to question how the use of multiple senses
in crafting seductive product experiences might lead to unwanted outcomes—think doom scrolling on any social media platform.

As designers, we need to examine the potential unintended consequences of crafting seductive product experiences. It raises a fundamental question: In whose best interest is it really to design an experience that immerses the consumer to an extreme, and possibly addictive, extent? Awareness of potential pitfalls is essential to creating products that enhance well-being and, at the very least, do no harm.

The shadow of ethical concern looms large over the art of crafting seductive products. The relentless pursuit of engagement and immersion may inadvertently lead to the exploitation of human vulnerabilities and the perpetuation of unhealthy behaviors. As designers, we must navigate the delicate balance between captivating our audience and respecting their autonomy and well-being. In an era dominated by evolving consumer expectations and technological advancements, the use of multiple senses to create captivating experiences raises profound questions about responsibility and accountability. This calls for a nuanced approach that acknowledges the power dynamics inherent in design and prioritizes the ethical imperative of fostering positive and empowering experiences.

We must confront the potential ramifications of immersing users in seductive experiences by considering the fine line between engagement and exploitation. Only by conscientiously weighing the ethical implications of our design decisions can we ensure that seductive products enrich the lives of users without compromising their dignity or agency. It is incumbent upon designers to adopt a proactive stance, diligently examining the unintended consequences of their creations and prioritizing the well-being and autonomy of users above all else. This heightened awareness of ethical considerations underscores the imperative to design products that not only captivate but also uplift and enrich the lives of individuals in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Advocate and Enabler

In the dynamic field of design, the shift from crafting products to shaping immersive experiences marks a transformative moment wherein aesthetics and emotions are consciously intertwined. As we navigate this seductive landscape, emotional design emerges as the linchpin, propelling product desirability beyond functional utility. The narrative unfolds through sleek packaging and glossy campaigns, transforming purchases into sensorial journeys that resonate with consumers’ aspirations.

The increasingly savvy incorporation of multiple senses in product design—the intersection of allure and functionality—beckons an ethical inquiry, prompting designers to balance the immersive experience with transparency and conscientious practices. Methodologies such as empathetic design, nature-inspired elements, and customization serve as tools for creating emotionally connected products. Inclusivity becomes the heartbeat, ensuring universal appeal, while heightened awareness becomes the compass, guiding designers to navigate the potential extremes of seductive experiences and prioritize the well-being of consumers. The world of design evolves, inviting creators to transcend boundaries and shape not just products but profound and inclusive narratives that captivate the diverse tapestry of human experience.

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A Q&A with Inclusive Entrepreneur Marianne Weber

A Q&A with Inclusive Entrepreneur Marianne Weber

Spotlight articles shine a light on designers and design materials we admire. Our founder and principal designer Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman has encountered many talented designers throughout her career, and in our Spotlight interviews we ask them about their work, their design journey, and what inspires them. In this interview we spoke with Marianne Weber, the founder and CEO of the inclusive lingerie line Even Adaptive and a licensed occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Marianne worked with Interwoven to realize her empathetic vision, founding Even Adaptive in 2021 and launching the adaptive lingerie line in 2024. That our team contributed to Marianne’s incredible project, which won a Core77 design award in 2023, makes this a particularly special Spotlight feature for us. We asked Marianne about what inspired her to become an entrepreneur, the power of designing for a traditionally neglected audience, and what it was like to work with a design team. 

portrait of Marianne Weber
Photo courtesy of Marianne Weber.

Q: You had a career in occupational therapy when you became an entrepreneur. What inspired that transition? 

A: I’m still currently working as an occupational therapist and keeping up my license, so it’s a long, slow transition. I’m still providing people with what we do as occupational therapists: providing independence and helping them relearn how to do things for themselves. It’s definitely a career change, moving into a CEO and founder role and away from being a full-time therapist. But I feel like the change is necessary for touching more lives than I could in my occupational therapy role. When I had the idea to make this happen, I didn’t immediately think, I need to switch jobs. This has been a three-year journey so far, and I’m still doing both roles. 

The job I have is in acute care. What that means is that I come in when people are initially in the hospital or post-op day one. I’m seeing people at the most heightened and scared time of their lives, and it has to be taken very seriously every moment that I am working as an OT because one wrong step and I could seriously injure somebody. I’m not able to focus on being a CEO when I am at my job, I still have to be a hundred percent there and present. Then when I’m not there I can be 100% present as the founder of Even Adaptive. 

I think one element of the transition that changed my perspective was starting to talk to all of my patients about their engagement and their sexual health as well. As occupational therapists, we focus on making sure that everybody can complete their activities of daily life, their ADLs, and sex is one of those things that we have within our scope of practice. Before becoming the CEO and the founder of Even Adaptive, I was a bit more shy about asking those questions because my toolbox wasn’t full. But, through this process, I’ve done a lot of continuing education. I became more educated on how I can help people through the process of creating our products.

Q: You explain that confidence and sexiness are the pillars of your brand ethos, could you elaborate on that?

A: When you’re faced with these disease processes or you have a disability of some kind, a lot of society communicates that these people are not allowed to express themselves in any kind of sexual manner. They’re not allowed to date, and they’re not looked at as valuable in that way that other women can be when they have full function. The pillars of being independent and sexy go hand in hand for Even Adaptive. If we can make you feel good, and increase your confidence and your independence by providing you with something that you want to be wearing instead of something that was made for 75% of women out there, then we can help to drive change. Sexiness is not just about how someone else is perceiving you but about how you perceive yourself.

Q: Your brand focuses on a neglected target audience. Did anything about this audience surprise you? 

A: I don’t know if they’ve surprised me so much because I’ve been working with this community for many years now, but one thing that I was excited about was how willing they are to lift everybody up. In so much of the world, when you’re trying to do something new, you hear no over and over again. But this community says, Let’s make change. Let’s do this. Let me post about it. Let me share your website. Everybody is excited to be involved in the ambassador program and get their name out there and their story out there. They are used to being told no as well, so when somebody finally tells them, This is for you, they grab onto it and they’re excited to be a part of it.

I’ve got both sides of the coin. We’re looking for fundraising and venture capitalists are 98% men. You’re faced with talking to men about women’s bras and underwear but also about women with disabilities and underwear. It’s this far out concept to them. They think, Who out there would need this? No we’re not going to fund that. I don’t see how it’s going to make money. But when you give it to the people who need it, they’re extremely excited to hear about the product and want to know more and be involved.  As an entrepreneur, there’s one side that’s beating you down, but then the other side that’s lifting you up. There’s a balance.

I think my personal story into why this business came to be is a pretty powerful story and seems to resonate with a lot of people. It doesn’t resonate so much with men but whenever I can tell it to women entrepreneurs they get it right away.

Q: Could you tell that story?

A: I was in graduate school in 2018 and it was finals week. I was having trouble with my vision and I was thinking, I’m going to go to the doctor and get really cute glasses!  The doctor thought something was strange, so he sent me in for an MRI. The MRI resulted with multiple lesions in my brain and my cervical spinal cord, and a very long diagnostic process led to a diagnosis of MS [Multiple Sclerosis]. So I was diagnosed with MS during finals week of grad school to become an occupational therapist. I already had my career laid out for me. I knew what I wanted to do, and it just happened that this was happening at the same time. The whole disease diagnosis process is fairly unpredictable with MS. Being me, with well-established anxiety, I was going through all the terrible things that could come from it. It was a very taxing year for me before I got on medication and was able to deal with it. In that process, I started working at Johns Hopkins in neurology. I was watching these women, who were dealing with a more advanced disease process than I had, not be able to do basics for themselves because that’s my whole job: to help people to be able to do those things again. These women couldn’t put bras on. Those were always the first things that women with neurological conditions gave up on, their underwear and their sexuality. They would just say, What? I’m never going to leave my house again, so why do I need to do this? But that doesn’t have to be the only option.

Even Adaptive was created from my own experience of going through this diagnosis and feeling like my self-worth was down in the dumps, and then watching women have this reaction over and over and over. I wondered, What is the thing that I can do to help these people? And the answer was to create an adaptive intimate line, because it was the one thing I couldn’t solve. I can teach anybody how to put on a shirt one-handed or a pant or a sock, there are tools out there for that. But nothing existed for these women that could lay the foundation of confidence and help them to feel good again. 

Q: Could you talk about your experience working with Interwoven? What was it like to have a vision realized with a design consultancy? 

A: When first I called Rebeccah, I remember her calling me back very quickly. She was immediately interested in the concept. Hearing that, I realized, Someone is going to help me with this! It was very exciting that she was able to see the vision, wrap her head around it, and know confidently that she could come up with a functional solution. It was so exciting to have a team of experts that had this portfolio behind them, that actually listened to what the product needed to be. I think Interwoven did a great job of taking the requirements that I knew that the product needed and creating something that has never been done before; to make it the best in the market and the only one-handed functional bra product that exists. The other beautiful thing that they did for me was to think about how the product was going to survive in the world in an extremely realistic way. They thought, We’re putting this work in, has this been created before? Has this been patented before? Are we going to be able to get a patent through? They did work to find out how it’s going to be manufactured, and they thought about the pricing. Interwoven thought about every detail, so they knew that the product would be viable once it left their hands. That was one of the most important things that they gave to me besides the clasp design. They wanted to see the project succeed, so they designed it with that in mind.

Q: What is something you experienced in the Even Adaptive journey that you didn’t anticipate? 

A: It was surprising how much attention went into creating this product. The multiple iterations and all the trial and error, all of the tiny little changes that Aybuke would make along the way…the product is highly fine-tuned and functional. When you’re not on the inside, you don’t think about what it takes to really create something like this. I was surprised at how much they cared.

Q: While awareness is growing, inclusive design is not yet a universal priority. What does the landscape of the inclusive market look like from your perspective? What are your hopes for this market? 

A: Since I started, I do see more adaptive companies. They’re starting to get funding and they’re popping up more and more often. I am seeing a big shift in the normalization of it. It’s still really slow moving. In terms of taking into account the look of the products and being fashioned forward, a lot of them are stuck on function. I do think that we’re going to move into a realm—and this is part of what Even Adaptive wants to help accomplish—where you don’t have to search endlessly online to find the thing that will help you get dressed after breaking your arm. You should be able to just pop online, already have a brand in your head, and order it up. There are a ton of inclusive designs that have been normalized in our homes, like all of the door handles that are levers instead of knobs. That’s an inclusive design option and we don’t think twice about it. It’s just in houses everywhere now. 

Hopefully that’s where adaptive clothing will go. It happened with baby onesies overnight. Somebody came up with baby onesies that have magnets and moms are like, Yes!  That’s a cool normalization, and that inclusive normalization is going to move up the line as long as we can make things that people want to wear.

Check out the rest of our Insight series to learn more about the design industry. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for design news, multi-media recommendations, and to learn more about product design and development!

How to Facilitate a Co-Design Workshop

Co-design is an approach to design that actively involves end-users and stakeholders in the creative process. In co-design, the people who will ultimately use the product, service, or system are brought into the design process as active participants rather than as passive recipients. It can be an incredibly powerful method for understanding your users and creating products that speak directly to their needs. A co-design workshop is a classic tool for practicing co-design. In this Insight article we’ll outline how to facilitate a co-design workshop. Whether you’re diving into design-thinking, human-centered design, or UX projects, these tips and tricks will ensure your workshops are not only productive but also fun, dynamic, and actionable. Be sure to check out our list of resources at the end for some wonderful kits and tools to help you with your next workshop.

Photo: Jason Goodman

What is a Co-Design Workshop?

A co-design workshop is a collaborative and interactive session where diverse stakeholders, such as clients and end-users, come together to actively participate in the design process of a product, service, or solution. The primary purpose of a co-design workshop is to harness collective creativity, knowledge, and perspectives. The workshop aims to generate innovative ideas, solve problems, and create user-centered solutions. During a co-design workshop, participants engage in a series of structured activities, discussions, and brainstorming sessions. They share their insights and needs, working together to ideate and refine design solutions. This collaborative approach ensures that the final outcome reflects the input and preferences of all those involved.

Key Aspects of a Co-Design Workshop

There are a number of priorities to keep front and center when developing a co-design workshop. Doing so ensures that the participants are comfortable, empowered, and respected, and that their voices are at the center of the experience. These priorities include:

  • Inclusivity: Co-design workshops involve a diverse group of participants, ensuring representation from various perspectives and backgrounds.
  • Empathy: Participants empathize with the end-users, striving to understand their experiences, challenges, and aspirations. This empathetic approach is fundamental to creating solutions that genuinely meet user needs.
  • Creativity: The workshops encourage participants to think creatively, explore unconventional ideas, and push boundaries to develop innovative solutions.
  • Iterative Process: Co-design workshops often involve iterative cycles, allowing participants to refine and improve their ideas based on feedback and collaborative discussions.
  • Hands-on Activities: Participants engage in hands-on activities such as brainstorming, sketching, prototyping, and user testing. These activities facilitate active participation and idea generation.
  • Shared Ownership: Co-design workshops promote a sense of shared ownership among participants, fostering a collaborative environment where everyone contributes to the design process.

The ultimate goal of a co-design workshop is to create solutions that are not only functional and effective but also resonate with the end-users on a deep level. By involving stakeholders in the design process, co-design workshops enhance the quality, relevance, and acceptance of the final product or service, leading to more successful and user-friendly outcomes.

Facilitating a Co-Design Workshop in 12 steps

A co-design workshop is a big undertaking, and requires a lot of planning and development. Plan well in advance and create the agenda with care. Here are 12 steps to help you facilitate your co-design workshop with success:

1. Define Clear Goals: Know what you want to accomplish and communicate these goals clearly to participants beforehand.

2. Set the Stage: Create an inspiring environment with ample natural light, colorful supplies, and engaging materials. The ambiance is a powerful tool to create a comfortable, save, inviting atmosphere. Offer food and beverages. Seek out a pleasant venue that is easy to access.

3. Craft a Story: Design your workshop activities like a story, such that each exercise builds on the findings of the previous one.

4. Create Structure: Give exercises a clear beginning, middle, and end. Participants should feel comfortable, understand what’s expected, and see the purpose of each activity. Signpost progress so the group is with you every step of the way.

5. Embrace Creativity: Get creative with exercises, adapting them to your specific needs. Unique activities keep participants engaged and challenged.

6. Give Clear Instructions: Provide step-by-step instructions, but reveal them gradually to prevent confusion and keep participants on track. Providing copies of your instructions in writing can be useful for your participants to reference, either on a shared whiteboard or presentation, or on handouts you share.

7. Allow Breaks: Incorporate breaks for participants to process ideas, mingle, and recharge. And get snacks!

8. Intermingle Teams: Keep energy high by allowing participants to switch teams or seating arrangements, encouraging fresh ideas and perspectives. Activities that involve movement can be great for this as well.

9. Idea “Parking Lot”: Have a designated space to capture valuable but off-topic ideas. This ensures participants feel heard without derailing the main discussion. These ideas might be revisited at a later point in the workshop.

10. Attention Grabbers: Use timers, chimes, or visual cues to regain participants’ attention and guide them through exercises. These signals can help create structure in your workshop.

11. Be a Timekeeper: Stay on track, cut off discussions if needed, and respect participants’ time. Flexibility is key, but end the workshop punctually.

12. Effective Wrap-Up: Summarize achievements, ask key questions, and ensure participants leave knowing the next steps. You may want to conduct a feedback survey to get immediate insights about the workshop experience. Follow up with a thank you message and a summary of the workshop outcomes.

We also highly recommend having a dedicated notetaker and photographer and/or videographer for your co-design workshops, provided your participants agree and sign release forms as needed. Documenting your process is powerful and can lead to additional insights when you debrief with your team. It’s also a wonderful way to share the story of your workshop with others, and capture the assets created.

Facilitating a workshop is an art that combines structure, creativity, and empathy. By mastering these techniques, you’ll not only become a proficient facilitator but also a driving force behind transformative and impactful co-design workshops.

Photo: RF Studio

Co-Design Workshop Resources

This Co-Design Kit includes useful case studies that demonstrate the principles in action.

A third of The Convivial Toolbox, a book about generative design research, is dedicated to methods and strategies, with the rest of the book discussing the nature and importance of co-design.

This co-design web resource conveniently sorts activities and strategies into the stages of the design process. A great place to find activities for your workshop.

This co-design toolkit is specifically targeted to workshops around disabilities but is so wonderfully organized that it is useful for any workshop facilitator.

This co-design web resource has a number of excellent suggestions for both structuring as well as facilitating a co-design workshop.

Check out the rest of our Insight series to learn more about the design industry. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for design news, multi-media recommendations, and to learn more about product design and development!

Collaborative Design Tools

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. As a group of aesthetically obsessed designers, there are a lot of beautiful products, objects, and resources that we love and enjoy. These products improve the quality of our daily lives and we want to share them with you. This issue is a collection of collaborative design tools to help you find accessible ways to work and design with others virtually and in person.

Smart List: Collaborative Design Tools

Milanote / Miro

Milanote is a cloud-based collaboration software designed to help creative teams manage storyboarding, creative writing and briefs, mind-mapping, note-taking, and brainstorming. It can be used to create mood boards, mind maps, briefs and more, all in one place. It lets us create boards and share projects with team members to collect feedback and ensure privacy.

Via https://milanote.com/ 

Similarly, Miro is a digital collaboration platform designed to facilitate remote and distributed team communication and project management. As an online workspace for innovation, it allows you to add various content from texts to images, create maps and diagrams, and work with visual templates together with a team of any size to dream and design the future together.

via Miro

Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design

Generative design research is like throwing a design party where everyone, especially the people we’re designing for, gets an invite to the creative process. This book isn’t just a read for the academic design research folks; it’s also a hot topic for the business and design crowd. And here’s the kicker – it’s a total game-changer in the realm of collaborative design. It’s like the guidebook for bringing minds together to make sure we’re hitting the right notes in creating products, systems, services, and spaces that truly click with people. Plus, there’s no other book out there hitting this collaborative design groove right now.

via Amazon

Community-Led Co-design Kit

The Community-led Co-design Kit, an initiative by the Inclusive Design Research Centre in Toronto, Canada, represents a significant step in inclusive design methodologies. Supported by the Hewlett Foundation through the Flexible Learning Open Education project, this first iteration of the kit draws on insights from projects like Co-designing Inclusive Cities, Platform Co-op Development Kit, and Coding to Learn and Create. Rooted in the experiences of working directly with communities, the kit also takes inspiration from disability justice, anti-oppression movements, and decolonialist research and design approaches. Emphasizing community input, the creators acknowledge the valuable feedback received, with plans to incorporate it into future versions of the kit, reflecting a commitment to continuous improvement based on collaborative engagement.

via Co-design

Design-Kit by IDEO

In 2009, IDEO introduced the HCD Toolkit, a groundbreaking book shedding light on the transformative potential of human-centered design (HCD) in the social sector. This unique approach quickly gained traction, drawing in a diverse community of designers, entrepreneurs, and social innovators who eagerly snapped up over 150,000 copies. Fast forward to April 2015, and IDEO.org took things up a notch with the launch of the Field Guide to Human-Centered Design. This dynamic 192-page book not only packs in 57 design methods, key mindsets, worksheets, and real-world case studies but also reflects the collaborative ethos of design thinking. The collaborative spirit embedded in the toolkit’s development aligns seamlessly with the principles of collaborative design, emphasizing the collective effort to bring about positive change in the social sector.

via IDEO