My first month as a designer with InWithForward

My first day back in Vancouver to finally join full time with InWithForward and we start by reflecting on the last couple of months of the project Grounded Space. We are going to change everything! Well, not everything but our reflection pointed us to some mayor shifts in the way we are doing things.

I haven’t had this much fun or been more challenged in finding creative and different ways to communicate new concepts and ideas than in this last month. Iteration and prototyping is a core characteristic of the design doing, designers test new products/services, refine them and test them again but reflecting and iterating about our own process, and the way we do things or the way we think, is much harder. Specially when you have deadlines or need to deliver, you follow what you had planned and go back to your known methods and process.

Improving our process and trying new things is something we are constantly doing at IWF. It became clear to me when, after an event where we tried a new way to communicate a change in the workflow moving forward, one of the crew members commented that what we had them do “was so In With Forwardi”. For the crews to understand the new way of continuing our work we wanted them to feel it, to experience and embody it, so we had them Floguing. What the heck is this? We combined the words flow and vogue (yes, like the dance move) to introduce the new flow by flowguing, by making poses and moving around the room following this proposed flow dynamic. This felt In With Forwardi to them, they knew something unexpected and fun would come along, something to make abstract concepts tangible and grounded.

This constant reframing and change is challenging because it means more time into designing our interactions with the teams and the way we transfer capacities. It means getting out of our comfort zone and thinking outside of the box. It is totally worth it and it makes our daily work exciting but, most importantly, it is not done just for the sake of creating a new beautiful toolkit or just for the surprise effect, it really is born from a deep reflection about what is not working well and what is, and how the teams are learning and using the knowledge and tools we create. It is about how can we bring more clarity, make it more relevant to the context, and ultimately have a greater impact. For example, this new workflow proposed was not just to shake things up but it came out of two main elements that we felt weren’t fitting quite well. On one hand, it was addressing the constant struggle of teams to balance their original role and daily work with the new additional role they are taking as being part of Grounded Space.

On the other hand, our own capacity to check-in with each organization on a weekly basis, the great amount of time this was consuming as well as the routinary and practical rhythm we were getting into (which isn’t the spirit of the kind of work we are promoting).

What struck me the most is actually what makes this attitude of changing possible. What I have found is that the honesty and openness of the relationship between IWF and the organizations involved in Grounded Space is what makes this way of doing things possible. There is trust built thought years of work but it is the nature of the project always presented as a prototype that will evolve and change in the making, that we are creating as a collective, what allows for iteration. This is so different to the way I’ve seen design agencies work. I have never seen a design or social shop being this transparent in sharing their thought process behind every decision and also openness to change and adapt to the organization’s suggestions.

There are so many feedback loops created for the organizations to be able to share with us their experience of using what we are creating, and improve it together. It has been such a wonderful surprise to see that I joined a truly co-creative initiative that goes beyond just including people in workshops to building something together every step of the way. Demystifying the design process has been one of the goals we’ve set for ourselves. It is inspiring to see the black box of design and creativity being revealed and shared even more.


Valentina Branada

Valentina is passionate about using design strategies for social advancement and …

Read more about Valentina Branada