8 Readings to Guide Your Design Facilitation Journey
“It takes skill and practice to be able to facilitate people, and facilitation is truly the foundation of an effective design practice.”
– Ross Unger, Experience Design Leader
Design facilitation is fast becoming a core competency of designers. Valuing design thinking as a viable mean to fuel innovative practices, we now see more companies embedding design processes in their work flow. However, for design processes to be truly effective, they need to be facilitated well. Thus, designers are now being asked to engage in people-centered, participatory approaches to meaningfully meet the intertwined demands of clients and needs of their users.
The design thinking process works because key to it is active collaboration between designers, users and stakeholders. By involving multiple perspectives early and consistently, complex problems can be more meaningfully addressed.
But anyone who has experienced such a process can also attest to the complexity and messiness it brings. Often, when different worldviews collide, conversations lose focus, participation becomes unbalanced, power dynamics come to play, tensions build, relationships strain and challenging behaviours arise. This is why designers today are also called to be effective facilitators – to help hold space for conversations amidst such complexity. In doing so, they allow different groups to collaboratively express, assess and reflect upon their ideas.
Furthermore, as a designer progresses in his career, he would soon find himself facilitating more frequently and also, facilitating individuals who themselves are advanced in their fields. This then requires a more skilled design facilitator to handle complex group dynamics.
So, what is design facilitation?
In essence, design facilitation is the skill of effectively guiding a group of diverse individuals through a design process. This is achieved by supporting a collaborative and respectful environment that encourages full participation of the group. The process aims to yield outcomes that identify needs, clarify goals, or decide where an initiative should start and its next steps.
How do I Start Learning More About Design Facilitation?
To support you on your learning, we have curated the following 8 readings that provide insights on design facilitation, its fundamental principles and how-tos for beginners. The readings have been organised into 3 categories – What is design facilitation?, How to do design facilitation? and How to improve your design facilitation skills?
What is Design Facilitation?
UX COLLECTIVE – 12 MIN READ
The secret’s out: “being a great facilitator of design is the secret sauce that all influential designers and design leaders have in common”. Learn 4 key principles in developing better facilitation skills and designing meaningful collaboration.
MEDIUM – 4 MIN READ
Writer distinguishes design facilitators from expert designers, and explains why both are equally necessary to the design process in creating internal innovation within teams.
DIALECTIC AND THE AIGA DESIGN EDUCATORS COMMUNITY – 15 MIN READ
This paper studies effective ways to introduce design facilitation and research facilitation – two emerging roles for designers – into design education and practice, and the challenges in incorporating them into curricula.
How to do Design Facilitation?
VOLTAGE CONTROL – 5 MIN READ
A 7-step how-to guide for aspiring design thinking facilitators, coupled with practical pro-tips on how each step can be best executed.
SMASHING MAGAZINE – 5 MIN READ
This article focuses on how to develop the necessary soft skills (e.g. active listening, asking questions) to facilitate UX design and guides readers in planning and facilitating working sessions.
PROTOTYPR.IO – 5 MIN READ
A run-down of facilitation methods used in early stages of a design project. If you’re looking for methods that are highly collaborative and include your stakeholders and team members, this list may inspire you for your next project.
How to Improve Your Design Facilitation Skills?
UX PLANET – 5 MIN READ
Spoiler alert: The secret of facilitation is preparation. This reflection piece, written at the wake of attending a 21-hour workshop on sprint facilitation, contemplates what preparation actually entails for a good design facilitator.
SCIENCEDIRECT – 15 MIN READ
This paper explores the practice of design facilitation, with designers as participant-facilitator, and proposes a model to assess facilitation tools that designers use during participatory sessions.
Design Facilitation Workshops
If this article has piqued your interest in honing your skills in design facilitation, Studio Dojo is offering 2 upcoming workshops aimed in doing so:
Design Facilitation 1
A hands-on workshop providing you fundamentals and principles of being a good design facilitator. You will learn how to stay neutral while bringing others through problem-solving processes; principles of facilitating divergent, convergent and emergent processes; gain different tools for different stages of a design process.
Design Facilitation 2
Building on basics from Design Facilitation 1, this hands-on workshop covers advanced topics like managing power dynamics, facilitating design critiques that foster conversation, and framing techniques to improve your design facilitation.