Part of the Process

In our June 2011 issue, Peter Hall writes about the fascinating relationship that the giant design consultancy, IDEO, has with a very particular type of client – governmental agencies. The firm’s trademark design thinking method is showing mammoth bureaucratic juggernauts like the Social Security Administration a deep insight into who uses their services, and how they can help streamline even the most convoluted process, allowing government officials to effectively reach out to the citizens who need them (while saving costs). In the process, IDEO also had its own significant learning curve on how to use design to fix problems in governance.

There are some interesting parts to that journey that we couldn’t share with you in the magazine, like the videos produced by the firm as part of two projects: monitoring energy use in buildings operated by the General Services Administration (GSA), and helping Clark Realty understand what kind of housing wounded veterans really need.

The GSA came to IDEO to understand how they might meet President Obama’s directive that all government buildings are to reduce energy consumption by 30% below 2003 levels by 2015. So in a sense, the client was already converted. But the administrators weren’t the only stakeholders in the project. Ultimately, the tenants in GSA buildings determine how any energy saving plan works. IDEO created these videos to show how their solution, an energy dashboard, can help engage the buildings’ users and inspire them to do their bit towards the President’s goal.

For Clark Realty’s project, IDEO used audiovisual media in an entirely different way. The homes that Clark Realty wanted to build at Fort Belvoir, in Virginia, had to accommodate the special needs of wounded soldiers, but they also had to be spaces that families would want to live in. IDEO was called in to help frame the project, which they did with films like the ones below, capturing surprising insights with still images and voiceovers. Wounded veterans don’t want to be coddled, they want to be challenged. They need homes that help them reclaim control, that don’t make them feel different from their wives and children.

The films were accompanied by a comprehensive book that have not only helped Clark Realty understand their own project better, but also informed the initial architectural proposals by Michael Graves & Associates.

The videos are not the final design solution in either project. But in line with IDEO’s people-centric world view, the firm obviously invested much time and effort in keeping all stakeholders on board. The key to fixing broken governments, it seems, is all in the process.

Read more about IDEO’s work with government agencies in our June 2011 issue.

Categories: Arts + Culture