After graduating with a Business Management degree, I wanted to pivot into a career as a designer, a task that seemed impossible at the time. I always had a background interest in design itself, but the industry seemed difficult to break into.

Two years later and I’ve been a service design intern at FutureGov for the past seven months, and in that time some of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt have come from looking at life challenges as design challenges.

Designing for the brick wall

You can still be who you wish you is, It ain’t happen yet, And that’s what intuition is.

Kanye West, I Wonder

Kanye West expresses the importance of keeping our minds open to all possible solutions. There are barriers in life that seem immovable but can be passed with new, unencumbered ways of thinking. I’ve learned this is called ‘designing for the brick wall’, an approach equally relevant to organisational challenges as it is to challenges in your personal and professional life.

What’s the one element of your design challenge that seems impossible to contend with?

From the outside in, I saw an industry seeking formally trained designers but with limited entry points for those who hadn’t done a formal design degree. I knew there must be a solution, I simply needed to put the right pieces together. I didn’t have the time or resources to go back to university, nor the skill level to embark on a masters degree. It seemed impossible to get the education and experience I needed to get my new career moving.

My situation presented me with ‘design constraints’ that I had to workaround. I was looking for a pre-made, off-the-shelf solution for a problem that was unique. And that’s not what we do with design. Our job is to give each problem the due discovery and problem-framing process that it deserves.

I’ve learned that we can take a parallel approach for many organisational challenges. In our employment services work with Camden Council, we discovered that traditional employment services focus on making people ‘job ready’. In a highly competitive job market, things like care obligations and complex application processes can act as barriers, deterring applicants. Designing with this in mind, we created services that focused on helping businesses and jobs become ‘people-ready’ rather than waiting for the job market to become less competitive and more accommodating.

My barrier wasn’t my degree but the way I looked at the wall. It was a constraint that I had to take into account when designing the solution.

Finding my MVP

Designing my solution saw me moving home to save money, moving to Sweden to study Industrial Design, finding a job that didn’t challenge me creatively and finally, as I kept pushing forward to develop, to an internship with FutureGov.

In this unconventional approach, I ended up with my minimum viable design education and the experience and knowledge needed to take the first steps into a career that promotes and encourages ongoing learning and skill development. With FutureGov, I’ve learned the language to explain the things I was feeling: that there must be a way around a problem (designing for a brick wall) and there must be an achievable next step that will help me on the road to where I need to be (minimum viable product/solution).

Ultimately, as an intern at FutureGov, I’ve learned that when dealing with seemingly impossible challenges, it helps to take the problem as it is rather than waiting for the perfect conditions to solve it. And that being open to all possibilities is something to embrace. You might not get a perfect solution, but you’ll get one that helps you get to the next stage.

What’s the one element of your design challenge that seems impossible to contend with? Designing for that element may give you the solution that takes you forward.

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