Finding purpose in our approach

A year ago, my two partners and I had a shared dream that would later become GRDN, a design studio focusing on brand experience. Despite our rather different profiles and backgrounds as designers, our vision of design is the same. In an industry where the transformation of a brand is often represented by the metamorphosis of its visual expression, we see a greater potential. Inspired by design thinking, we seek solutions that can truly bring value to people’s lives. We seek purpose.

This vision was born about three years ago when the three of us were working at Cossette, a communication and marketing agency. We were commissioned to redesign the ecosystem of the Concordia Stingers, the sports teams representing Concordia University, located in the city of Montréal. With quite a small budget for our ambitions, we had to get creative.

Our first instinct was to create a credited course in collaboration with the university that would allow students from various fields to participate in the redesign. While initially intended to provide a little extra help with the project, this idea was much more revealing than we could have imagined. We felt a huge burst of enthusiasm from students, who were eager to participate in the transformation of their sports teams. This was followed by a sense of empowerment among the students that naturally led to contagious pride — the emotion we needed to design for. This discovery has also pushed us to go further and approach the project from a more human point of view. Through immersion, we were able to get insights from the players, coaches and staff on their experiences rather than impose a limited vision of the future based solely on our designer expertise.

In the end, the project felt more like experience design than traditional branding. Here’s a look at it.

This project had a huge influence on our approach at GRDN. Two of the four phases of it are directly inspired by these findings.

Empathize

An immersion phase encourages us to adopt a human-centred approach. A lot of our insights come to light at this stage and inspire solutions that have a real impact. We believe that by trying to understand people’s real motivations and needs, we can get their attention by creating value in their experience with a brand, product or service.

Empower

We also believe in empowering people through our process. We try to involve all stakeholders as much as we can from the beginning of a project because we think they are best placed to ensure a sustainable transformation. All of a sudden, they no longer have to undergo the change, they create it with us.

By designing with the human experience in mind at every step of our process, we believe we’re able to move away from trends and get closer to relevance.

For us, that’s where we find purpose.