When Design Management student Gabriela Azevedo completed our new Design Academy programme, she told us that it had not only given her a new understanding of design, but also the language with which to explain it. We were delighted and naturally asked Gabriela to share her experience with our readers and others who are also passionate about strategic design. Here is what she had to say.  

Last year I decided to come to London from Brazil to do my Masters in Design Management. My goal was to not only understand, but to convey to others the enormous power and potential of design when it comes to business innovation.

At that time, I was coming out of 11 years immersed in a business context: undergrad in Business Administration, MBA and professional experience in the financial industry. However, my role differed to many business roles in that I was very much in the world of design. I worked in an innovation department within the largest private bank in Latin America. We were responsible for creating partnerships and developing projects using design thinking. I also used to run an ideas generation programme which was responsible for training all 90,000 employees on innovation.  

I knew that design and innovation had an intimate and irrefutable relationship, but I just couldn't explain why.

By this stage in my career the word design had become part of my routine. I knew that design in business was about so much more than creating beautiful PowerPoint presentations. However, with no design background, I was finding it difficult, impossible even, to convey this to others. I knew that design and innovation had an intimate and irrefutable relationship, but I just couldn't explain why.  

I decided to stop what I was doing and go and expand my design knowledge. I booked onto a Masters degree in Design Management in London and headed off. However, despite my hopes and enthusiasm, months into the course my doubts were only growing. I found myself avoiding people who might ask me to explain was design management meant. The fact remained that I still did not know what to tell them. Management and design seemed to come from two different worlds: the world of planning and organization versus the world of creativity. 

Design Academy helped me to see that design is a discipline, not a type of product or industry. I finally started to understand my Masters, my skills and the power of design.

It was at this point I managed to get onto the Design Council's six week Design Academy. I realised during these six weeks that the reason I could not explain design management was because I still hadn't really grasped what design was. Design Academy helped me to see that design is a discipline, not a type of product or industry. I finally started to understand my Masters, my skills and the power of design.

Design Academy also introduced me to the Double Diamond, Design Council's business innovation tool. The Double Diamond provides you with the bond that connects design and innovation.

Over the six weeks I had the chance to apply the Double Diamond to a number of real world challenges, particularly to issues within the healthcare sector. The challenge my team and I were set was to support people caring for their loved ones. Tackling a challenge in such a different industry was certainly new to me. However, the Double Diamond helped us dive in using the design research methods discussed. In order to come up with a plan we conducted interviews, undertook research and created stakeholder maps and personas that helped us to pin down where were the main problems were. 

The Double Diamond process is important for creating innovative solutions because it looks for answers where business does not: with the end-users.

The Double Diamond process is important for creating innovative solutions because it looks for answers where business does not: with the end-users. Interviewing carers and people being cared for clarified so much for us and helped us to see problems that were often overlooked by the standard methods of approaching this sector.

The project was not one-little-bit like my work in the financial sector, but in the end you realise that once you understand the Double Diamond you have the skills to tackle any type of problem. Design goes way beyond creative industries.

Design Academy consolidated my knowledge. I knew design thinking, I knew the Double Diamond and I knew innovation. Now I felt equipped to be a Masters graduate in Design Management.

I had finally found the answer that I was looking for when I left Brazil back in 2015. Now I will go back much more confident in being a design manager, an innovator, a service designer, a design thinker. The labels don’t really matter when you know what you're doing and why.

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