Design brings great value when you apply its mindset, skillsets, and process to spark new ideas, thinking, concepts or to deliver specific outputs as part of a larger program. It can play a key role in problem reframing workshops when you want participants to take on a designer's mindset and question fundamental assumptions. The mindset and process can also come together to establish a common base from which to increase buy-in and participation. And a designer's skills can always help to strengthen collaboration by helping key stakeholders to visualize a process and understand the important role that they will be playing.

When choosing design as a spark, you're are probably more likely to contract an individual design consultant or look for design skills that a more traditional partner has gained in incorporating design into their work. Sometimes that means that you need to rely on stakeholders who while invested in design may not have deep expertise. At the same time, this is a good way to learn about design and to start to see it in action.

Common outputs or deliverables

Tips and tricks

  • Consider where in the project you may want design to provide that spark and think early about who has the necessary expertise to fill that role.
  • A spark can often open up new avenues that your project could take. If you have set up some design as spark sessions in your investment, make sure that there is some thinking room included afterward to consider any potential changes to the overall flow of the investment.
  • Look for these types of skillsets in whomever will be fulfilling the design role: Go to Expertise and Skillset


  • Be wary of language that seems formulaic. There is a lot of design language out there that is available to be cut and pasted into proposals you might be receiving. Think about whether you've seen this language before and have your partner walk you through it in detail.

Questions for potential partners

  • Design often seems to follow a similar set of processes. Can you walk me through your process in detail and talk about how you use design to create a spark?
  • What kinds of design skillsets do you feel are most critical when design functions as a spark? Can you tell me a little bit about your team and how they fulfil these skillsets?
  • How do you ensure active participation from stakeholders who may be skeptical of the role of design, of a process that asks people to be opening to questioning their assumptions?

Resources and links