All Posts by Collabo Creative

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Oct 30

One Intern’s View of How Collabo Walks the Talk

By Collabo Creative

We believe in helping develop the design community in Indianapolis. One of the ways we do this is through our internship program. This past summer, we had the pleasure of bringing on Maria Meschi, a graduate student at the Herron School of Art and Design. Read on to hear about her Collabo experience, in her own words. — Take it, Maria!

On my first day as a design intern, Terri (Collabo President and Cofounder) asked me to diverge on my strengths, interests, and projects I would like to tackle during my summer with Collabo Creative. After creating these lists, she directed me to converge on the areas that most interested me and to draw the connections between the tasks and my capabilities. This was my first experience with how designerly skills and methods are woven into every day here at Collabo.

I came to the design world on a zigzagging path that wove through event management, theatrical experiences (on- and off-stage), and marketing. I began the MFA program in Visual Communication Design at Herron School of Art and Design in the fall of 2017. I was attracted to the creative and collaborative nature of the design process, and have found it, in practice, to be well-aligned with my preferences and strengths.

My typical week at Collabo began with the entire staff gathering on Tuesday mornings to share something personal about the previous weekend as well as a discussion of the primary focus and tasks for the week. Each Thursday, the staff spent an hour together for DBT (Designing Better Together), which could include a design method, an activity, or a discussion of books and articles related to design and other relevant concepts. Throughout the week, we held impromptu sessions to diverge and converge on content for projects, like the curriculum of the Design Thinking Everyday Jumpstart, create prototypes for clients, and provide insights at each stage of a project’s development. 

Through these activities, Collabo has cultivated an inclusive environment. We are encouraged to bring our whole selves to the office, and everyone’s ideas are valued. It reminds me of the “Yes, And” cycle¹ I practice in my role as an improviser with CSz Indianapolis. An offer (in most cases, an idea) is made, the others in the conversation listen, accept, and then build upon the idea. 

"Yes And" Cycle

When I was asked on my first day about the projects I most wanted to impact, I identified a need in my skillset to gain more experience in how the design process works outside of the classroom. I also sensed that I could bring my marketing and event expertise to Collabo and help the company focus and enhance their communications and workshops.  With Terri’s agreement, we set goals to launch the Design Thinking Everyday Jumpstart program (check!) and to build a more robust website (check!) and social media presence for the company (yeah!). 

As I reflect on my summer internship, I’m struck by how fortunate I am to have spent time with an organization and group of women who are willing to both instruct me in the way they use the design process as well as to let me instruct them in the areas of my expertise. As designers, we are taught that everyone’s perspective is valued and has something to contribute. In practice, however, I have found that even design-oriented groups defer to hierarchy and “we’ve always done it this way” thinking when the pressure is on, often to their own detriment. This is not the case with my experience at Collabo, they are truly a design thinking company that walks the talk. 

I’m so thrilled that I have been asked to remain with Collabo part-time to continue my work with our communications and practice my design facilitation skills. I look forward to more opportunities to learn and grow with this company.

1. adapted from Connect Improv Curriculum, ©2015 Lacy Alana, LCSW

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Sep 18

Label Your Data, Not Your People

By Collabo Creative

As strong believers in the process of co-design, we often find ourselves balancing different perspectives, communication styles, and temperaments as we build consensus within groups.

In service of that goal, we recently dedicated two weeks of our  DBT Book Club to exploring three questions:

  1. What tactics do we use to better understand ourselves? 
  2. What about understanding other people?
  3. How can we leverage that understanding to help us collaborate and design better together?

Testing, testing, 123  

We began by discussing personality assessments and profiles, of which there are many. Sara Frisk, a keynote speaker at the recent AIGA Design Educators conference MAKE this past summer, mentioned an application called Crystal, which “helps you learn more about your natural communication style, motivations, and behavioral tendencies.” By creating personality profiles and sharing them with your coworkers, Crystal is meant to help you discover your personality, and see how to work better with coworkers. 

After we each completed the Crystal assessment, and found its insights to be pretty accurate and valuable in how we perceive ourselves, we started to wonder if more assessments would lead to more understanding. 

We looked at 16 Personalities (which helps you to “get a concrete, accurate description of who you are and why you do things the way you do—for free) and Gretchen Rubins’ 4 Tendencies Quiz, (which claims to allow you to improve your life, as well as the lives of others by discovering whether you are an Upholder, a Questioner, an Obliger or a Rebel). After taking several, we found ourselves asking the following questions: 

What’s the value in knowing your strengths and/or classifications? What can be the detriment?

While these tests may help you to understand yourself and others, we need to also be mindful that we’re not using labels to simply categorize people. For example, when you look at someone from a Meyers-Briggs profile perspective and saying, “Oh, they’re an ESTJ! That’s why they are behaving that way.”

Have you or anyone else you know taken one of these tests and said, “It’s spot on!” and there are no discrepancies at all?—Maybe… However, we like to believe that you can better understand people’s actions and behaviors based on looking at their traits, supplemental to what they say, do and make (thank you, Liz Sanders!) versus forming expectations based on their “category.”

We joke because we love.

Is it fate or just traits?

While it’s debatable whether or not a person can change their personality, it seems when we look at these kinds of tests and profiles in trying to better understand ourselves, we tend to accept that these traits or assessments define for us for who we are.

But is that it? Are we merely a reflection of what these tests tell us? Or can you change, adjust or improve on what these say? For example, if a test revealed that someone was highly analytical and independent then should they just accept that’s the way they are and will be? — We say, heck no!

In the book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success (from the same awesome folks who wrote Crucial Conversations—a book everyone in the world needs to read, if you ask us), the authors state that every personal change begins with self-reflection. You must be aware of who you are, where you want to go and your goals—focusing on reflection, awareness and habits. In considering how we grow as people, the one section that we honed in on identified six sources of influence to help you transform yourself... Nice and practical, just how we like things. 

Of these 6 sources, 1 especially resonated with us: Start loving what you hate 

There’s always difficult things in life that you have to do, but “hate” to (or strongly dislike). On one hand, you can accept that you don’t like doing this thing and choose that, that’s the way you are. OR, rather than being stuck in a “fixed mindset” (see our past blog posts on The Design Thinking Mindset), you can employ specific tactics to start loving what you hate. 

One specific tactic we liked was: Visit your default future. ¹

To do this, you focus on the outcomes. What will happen if you did that thing that you hate? Can you see yourself far ahead of that thing that you hate—what happens when you complete it? How will you feel? What will you have accomplished once it’s done? 

Let’s look at this example regarding our disdain for “doing the dishes.”

We asked ourselves: How will we feel if the dishes were done? What will our lives be like when the dishes are done?  

We would feel less stressed out. Our kitchen would be less cluttered, therefore making our minds also feel less cluttered and ready to tackle new things. We’d be ready to take on the world… once the dishes are done.

Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self.

Ralph Waldo Emerson — Self Reliance and other essays

So should we be focusing more on the traits that we can take on, versus the role assigned to us by a personality type? Ralph Waldo Emerson would probably say so. In his famous text, Self Reliance and Other Essays, he says to “Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self.”  When it comes to understanding yourself, and forming new habits to become your best self, we believe that employing Design Thinking in your everyday life can have a profound impact. 

Bernard Roth, a prominent Stanford engineering professor, says that design thinking can help everyone form the kind of lifelong habits that solve problems, achieve goals and help make our lives better. “We are all capable of reinvention,” says Dr. Roth, a founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford and author of the book, “The Achievement Habit.” 

Design has been described as “a constructive and optimistic process of searching for possibilities.”² How might we approach our lives in the same way?  If we intend to be our best selves, then through intentional behaviors and actions we can change our mindsets, and form lifelong habits to help us get there. 

1. There’s something to be said for the power of visualization and envisioning. Stay tuned for more on this in future posts 😉 

2. Body, John, Nina Terrey, and Leslie Tergas. 2010. “Design Facilitation as an Emerging Design Skill: A Practical Approach.” DTRS8: Interpreting Design Thinking, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, 19-20 October, 61–70.

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Aug 01

Where to Start with Design Thinking Reads

By Collabo Creative

During our last Collabo Book Club, Ali (our fantastic visual experience designer) asked us, "Which design books would you recommend reading if you're new to Design Thinking?" 

We thought it was such a great question that we wanted to share our picks with all our friends. Read on to find what they are. 

We’re always looking to stay sharp around the Collabo office, from our weekly DBT Thursdays (#designbettertogether), to our Collabo Book Club. So when our beloved visual experience designer asked the rest of us for some “must have” designerly book recommendations, we jumped on it. Below are just a few of our faves, with a few words as to why we love these books to begin with. 

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life Hardcover by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans  

Maria's Pick 

When I decided to return to school for my MFA in Design Thinking and Design Leadership, I struggled to explain what I was learning to my family, “It’s kind-of like an MBA but it’s creative - you can apply it to anything!”  This book provides an accessible introduction to design thinking and how to apply it to something everyone has - a life. 

I’ve recommended this book to friends seeking career change, my parents as they approach retirement, and students graduating from high school.  It’s a great was to look at design thinking the way we do here at Collabo —as techniques you can use every day.

Niki's Pick

When I was learning about Design Thinking and practicing the different skills, I got introduced to Jon’s Kolko book Exposing the Magic of Design. For me, it was my to go back to book when I need to take a step back in trying to make sense of data. Kolko presents a theory of design synthesis in a simple and concise manner that can be applied to any design problem, as well, he talks about the importance of synthesis, what abductive reasoning is, and why we should care about these. Personally, my brain tends to ideate all the time, after reading this book I have been training my brain to be aware in the moment of when I need to be Ideating and when I need to be synthesizing information. In this book he introduces some practical methods.

Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods & Theory of Synthesis by Jon Kolko

Design Expertise

by Bryan Lawson and Kees Dorst

Pamela's Pick 

Bryan Lawson & Kees Dorst, for me, are two godfathers of design expertise. In their book, “Design Expertise,” they aim to explore and demistify what knowledge, skills, attributes and experiences are necessary in order to design well. At Collabo, when we teach and talk about “Designerly Skills,” they are inextricably tied to the 5 skills highlighted in this book: ‘formulating’, ‘moving’, ‘representing’, ‘evaluating’, and ‘reflecting’. This book is a must for creating foundational knowledge of design as a discipline. 

Terri's Pick

I love this book. Although the concept of “design having the potential for huge impact in our rapidly changing world” may seem a bit “old hat” today, for me, The Power of Design: A Force for Transforming Everything is still one of my all time favorite design books—especially for anyone who’s new to Design Thinking or People-centered Design. 

In this quick little read, Farson lays out compelling real-world examples to illustrate how design, or better put, big D—Design, is ingrained in everything we create and thus provides near endless opportunity for us to take control and begin to lead the change we put out into the world. This was truly an inspirational book in my journey to becoming a Designer. 

The Power of Design : A Force for Transforming Everything

by Richard Farson


Ready to start your Design Thinking journey? Check out the Design Thinking Everyday Jumpstart and begin your path to becoming a creative problem-solving ninja and design-led leader.

Equip your teams to innovate smarter, faster and more effectively through design-led practices. 

Have a question? Contact us anytime!

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Jul 03

The Design Thinking Mindset

By Collabo Creative

Once a week at Collabo, we hold our own in-house collaborative sessions called “Design Better Together (DBT) Thursdays.” You may have seen some pictures of past DBTs or maybe you’ve even joined us for a couple. Either way, in these weekly sessions we get together to focus in and sharpen our design thinking skills. Recently, we decided to use every other DBT Thursday to start the Collabo Reading Club.

The first topic we covered was the Design Thinking Mindset. 

A mindset is a mental attitude that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations. In other words, these are mental frames we develop that shape our actions and behaviors. Being that these frames are essential to the way we operate, it seemed appropriate that our first blog post should discuss mindsets. We believe practicing Design Thinking every day starts with cultivating the right mindset… which is actually made up of four distinct mindsets: curiosity, growth, inclusive, and action.

Mindset 1: Curiosity

Creativity comes from curiosity. Just a few days ago, author of multiple New York Times bestselling books on leadership, Simon Sinek tweeted out, "the more curious you are about the world, them ore you experience and learn. the more you experience and learn, the more connections your brain is able to make. And with more connections, you can find new solutions to problems or see things no one else can see." 

“the more curious you are about the world, the more you experience and learn. The more you experience and learn, the more connections your brain is able to make. And with more connections, you can find new solutions to problems or see things no one else can see.” — Simon Sinek

There’s plenty of research explaining how curiosity and humility are important qualities of leadership, and why being able to ask questions makes you a better leader. In his Forbes article, “Embrace Curiosity: 4 Ways Questioning Makes You A Better Leader,” Jeff Boss discusses just that, and affirms how curiosity fuels leadership. Boss explores the relationship between curiosity, competence, confidence, adaptability, and growth, finding that demonstrating curiosity shows a leader’s humility to understand where the gaps are in their knowledge and to seek out the answers required to be effective. Asking questions facilitates dialogue and enables leaders to seek out new opportunities, change perspectives and move beyond assumptions.

Mindset 2: Growth

Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, found that mindset is the difference between high and low achievers. Folks with fixed mindsets believe “what will be, will be;” whereas folks with growth mindsets believe “what will be is up to me”. Curiosity provides the catalyst for growth; fixed mindset people give up when they don’t find the answer they’re looking for, whereas growth mindset folks keep searching until they find an answer.

James Clear, a renowned writer on habits and performance, builds on Dweck’s mindset research explaining it’s possible to have a growth mindset in some areas and a fixed mindset in others. In order to change your mindset, practice is paramount. By intentionally changing our habits, we practice the mindset we wish to cultivate, and results will follow. It is our actions that define who we are, not our mindsets (see our 4th mindset below). For example, let’s say you feel you’re lousy at math. You may not necessarily like math, but want to improve your skills.  To do this, you'll need to develop a habit of practicing math, in some form, everyday. 

Mindset 3: Inclusive

Empathy and inclusivity are key components in approaching design thinking from a people-centered perspective. It’s critical to include multiple stakeholders from different backgrounds, roles, and expertise throughout the process of creative problem solving. In “How to use Design Thinking for your Innovation Process,” Tyrone Pitsis discusses how it’s critical in the work environment to have people from all departments working together on solving a problem. Empathy and curiosity are required at all stages, creating opportunities for disruption and moving to action, our final mindset.

Mindset 4: Action

As mentioned earlier, our discussion topic was on the Design Thinking Mindset. Initially, this included the first three mindsets that we’ve looked at so far (curiosity, growth, and inclusive). After further investigation and thoughtful banter however, we found an underlying theme running throughout all three mindsets, which led us to determine the last mindset: action. 

Being able to operate from a different mindset requires shifting your values and perspective, as along with your actions—making both mental and physical shifts in your daily life in order to practice forming new habits. What we also found (pulling from research on applied improvisation) is that there are external and internal factors at play. For example, it is necessary to have positive reinforcement and support in being able to change our behaviors, both from our social environment, as well as our own internal forces. It can be easy to limit yourself, or to feel as though there are too many obstacles to overcome, especially in workplace culture. However, if you’re able to employ the drive and motivation to change your daily habits, you can overcome the social factors at bay.

These mindsets combined… 

These four mindsets—curiosity, growth, inclusive, and action—are inextricably linked and ultimately fuel your ability to hone the skills necessary to operate as design thinkers and innovative leaders. (psst…we’ll get into design thinking skills in a future post.) 

To further develop your design thinking mindset, start by shifting both your perspective and your actions. In the wise words of Mr. Clear, "it's your daily actions that will change what you believe about yourself and the person you become."

“it's your daily actions that will change what you believe about yourself and the person you become.” — James Clear


Want to learn more about cultivating your Design Thinking mindset? Check out the Design Thinking Everyday Jumpstart and begin your path to becoming a creative problem-solving ninja and design-led leader.

Equip your teams to innovate smarter, faster and more effectively through design-led practices. 

Have a question? Contact us anytime!

Want to share this page with your network?  

Aug 24

Creating a more welcoming campus

By Collabo Creative

IUPUI Welcoming Campus Task Force 

The Welcoming Campus task force was put together to discover how to change their campus in order for it to be seen as a more welcoming and open destination for the greater Indianapolis community. Seeing this as an opportunity to connect with their stakeholders, Collabo was brought in to create a participatory session where community members along with campus leaders could share their perspectives on what "welcoming" really means. 

The Goals

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The Approach

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The Results

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We needed to refresh a major product and brought in Collabo to help us understand the customer experience and then drive our thinking around a complete re-design. The experience was so positive that we asked them to come back and help our entire organization begin to use design thinking in our work. That led to new models for business, and new business as well.

Chad Priest — CEO Indiana Region, American Red Cross

When IUPUI unveiled their new bicentennial strategic plan, one primary initiative was to make their urban, downtown campus more “welcoming.” Aside from laying out a giant mat at their front door, IUPUI leaders realized there was a lot of ways they could do this, for better or worse—and it all hinged on understanding what “welcoming” meant to those they serve. 

With the realization they wanted to understand their customers better and design a “better” campus for them, they engaged Collabo to help wade through the mess. They needed to hear directly from their campus visitors about what would make an urban downtown campus more “welcoming" and connect to the surrounding community.

Collabo co-designed a participatory session with community members, local organizations, and university deans. A diversity of views tackled a jam-packed agenda to accomplish the following:

  • Define what "welcoming" means
  • Define what "welcoming" feels like
  • Define what "welcoming" looks like
  • Determine key concepts and insights

Collabo’s facilitation helped them suggest possible campus improvements, ranging from features like greeters to gateways and free-use community space. Ultimately, the task force was able to define strategic focus areas and give recommendations for the university chancellor. Cue the trumpets!

The outcomes of the session are already in the works and continuing through ongoing policy changes, wayfinding improvements and large-scale construction projects.

This project is a powerful example of how a well-planned, full-participation, design event can harness solution plans shaped by those affected by it. — we just call that awesome!

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Need to make your service more welcoming too? Call us today for a free consultation!