Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Sir Misha Black Awards, which celebrate excellence in design teaching. And even more so, the pleasure of hearing last years award winner Judah Armani give his presentation one year after he won the award.

One phrase that Judah said stuck with me.

“Design communicates between our inner world and our outer world.”

Why is this important? Well, for me it is a reminder of something which I already hold to be true, but it takes a great speaker to bring it out. And that is the value in understanding not objectively what the world is, but how it shows up to people.

I called my company Constructivist after the education philosophy that says that people make sense of the world based on their experiences. If we want to educate people, we have to start with where they are and where they want to get to.

And so is the case with design. Designs imposed on people don’t stand a good chance of working. Not really, not for them. But design that engages with individuals’ inner worlds – with where they are at – has much more chance of success.

What I take from Judah’s words is the potential power of the reciprocal of this relationship. That is, design has the power to validate an individual’s experience. To make them feel listened to. To give them voice. And even to give greater articulation to that voice.

Yesterday in the Pattern Book for Regenerative Design I wrote about the Seedling Analogy. It’s the realisation that the most robust ideas are the ones that emerge from the ecosystem itself. Our inner world is our ecosystem, shaped by experience but uniquely ours. When it is drawn out by design, it helps us see ourselves in the world.

What does all this tell us. It is an invitation to invite more people into the design process, to try understand how the world shows up for them, and to see what emerges from the process.

Post script

After I finished this post checked back and I’ve written about this sort of topic before back in 2020. Check out this post on Proust, Constructivism and Listening to Clients.