“It begins with love and passion, rather than mere problems and puzzles.” [1]
RMIT MDF — Future Design Contexts, Assignment #2

I’ve titled this post with a Golsby-Smith quote because after researching Humantific for this assignment, because this is how I imagine they approach their work. They represent the best of what a strategic or innovation design consultancy looks and sounds like. From their work, thought collectives, papers, to their nurturing of an emergent practice via posts & conversations. Humantific help us to consider what we do, why we do it, and equip ourselves to learn better collective problem solving.


Humantific are an ‘innovation consultancy’ operating across the United States, Spain and Brazil, their head office is situated in New York City. Their Founders are Elizabeth Pastor and Garry K Van Patter, both have distinct but overlapping skill sets — focused on creating innovation with humans. [2]

Elizabeth Pastor — Founder and Director Humantific
Garry K Van Patter — Founder and Director Humantific

Pastor’s specialises in developing the conditions for humans to learn and understand complex situations — this approach can be seen with the simplification of their own services to three areas. And in the visualisations they employ for sensemaking — supporting collectives to quickly grasp current and future states, and enable innovation to accelerate. [3]

Van Patter’s expertise is focused on building the capacity for inclusive innovation — designing it with humans, and translating early ideas into visuals. These skills support services to design cross-disciplinary innovation into client businesses and cultures. [4]


Humantific’s work is applied ‘upstream’, and they occupy ‘The Other Design Thinking’ position (see diagram below), where ‘Design 3.0 — Organizational Transformation Design’ and Design 4.0 — Social Transformation Design’ is practiced. To ensure their mandate is clear, they’ve carved a divide between themselves and where ‘Traditional and Product / Service Design’ is practiced. [5]

Source: The Other Design Thinking —

Humantific firmly believe that Design 1.0 and 2.0 are inadequate for their purposes, “the era of assuming that all wicked social problems can be solved by creating more products and services is over”. So they’ve designed and clarified their approach, with a new language and system to frame their offer. [6]

Source: The Other Design Thinking —

Humantific’s academic prowess affords them the ability to extend and adapt contemporary Design Thinking theories. Their rigour has allowed them to craft their own space and convey it with mastery — see how they articulate the 10 key differences (pp77–97) between themselves and the ‘Mainstream Design’. [7].

Source: The Other Design Thinking — #3 Way that The Other Design Thinking Differs —

To my mind, their model could be influenced by Buchanan and Golsby-Smith regarding design orders, but deepens its extension visually to articulate the differences in conditions they encounter (pp8–12). [8]

Source: The Other Design Thinking —

Their model also bears similarities to other emergent design frameworks including Transition Design (below). [9]



Humantific position themselves as “a hybrid, next generation innovation consultancy”. They work with multi-disciplinary teams and organisations to innovate and build inclusive innovation cultures. And are focused to create operationalise insights, make them real, understandable and teachable. Their services specialise in the design of conditions for change making to be successful.[10]


They’ve simplified their services to three simple strands;

  1. Sensemaking — Making complex situations visual, clear and actionable.
  2. Changemaking — Helping to tackle strategic complex situations that often require multi-disciplinary co-creation.
  3. Innovation Capacity — Helping to build next generation innovation leaders, teams and cultures. [11]

Their toolbox combines a variety of methods from design thinking, strategic problem solving and information visualisation. And are focused on building adaptive capacity and the capability for continuous change making.[12]


Humantifics approach to using visuals to support sensemaking ties in well to the collaboration Consonance framework published by #EpicCollaboration. [13]


Like Humantific, Collabforge also recognise a key ingredient for collective changemaking is a shared understanding. Humantific’s approach to using visuals to accelerate the elements of the above model is clever. Their beautiful, powerful visuals support rapid collective understanding; an excellent example of this work with SERMO, when they were tasked to create and explain the value of a professional social network for physicians.


The social platform was intended to exchange critical insights, observations, and review of cases in real time, providing physicians outside of these communities access to these valuable conversations quickly. [14]

“In that process of unpacking, and then rebuilding it back up, you come up with a much sharper, a much simpler idea, that ultimately allows you to get what idea out to a larger number of people”. Daniel Palestrant, CEO of Sermo [15]


Humantific understand that designing the conditions for humans to change is a key factor for success. A clue maybe in their name, that they know that the humans are the ones it all comes down to — and that often human design is the focus for adjustment to overcome our human selves, and make work towards a better future possible. This observation fits well with a post I wrote about designing #goodhuman collaboration.[16]

Source: The American Human Development Reports —!/measure-of-america

A great example of Humantific’s changemaking can be seen in their work for the American Human Development Reports. The reports focus on the real conditions for America society, but Humantifics visualisations lift the reader beyond the figures of development standards for a country to consider their equity by ethnicity, gender and postcode. [17]

“Humantific helped us see our work in a larger context, and to remember what we were trying to do, which was not just write a book, but to put something out there that would provoke discussion and provoke, hopefully change.” 
Sarah Burd-Sharps, The Measure of America, Author. [18]


Their approach to creating change is inclusive, and approach to building capacity within people and across the business is sustainable. They do this by designing accelerated learning programs to improve the readiness and capacity to maintain the innovation once they have gone.


An example of Humantifics work to foster innovation in a collective of people who haven’t worked together before can be seen in their workshop designs for FutureBankingLab. Combining leaders from different banking organisations across multiple sessions, they facilitated the group to envision the bank of the future. Their service here the intangible outcome of clearer thinking and producing working for groups with time pressures.[19]

“I like working with Humantific because it improves the clarity of my thinking and the quality of my decisions”. Rich Holman, EDS, VP Corporate Envisioning [20]


Golsby-Smith wrote in 1996 the “fourth order design has the breadth of scope and reach of skills that will be called upon more and more to help lead organizations. As this happens, it will not need a specific design task as the initiating factor. Design will be desirable for its thinking style, alone, without any artifact in view.” [21]
He was alluding to the consultancies such as Humantific, who would take up the mantle to “reinvent their professions to meet new opportunities and circumstances.” [22]
And they’ve done as he suggested, first they’ve understood “this widening context for design; and, second”… they’ve been able to…“explore and articulate the art of design within it. [23]


[1] pp5, Tony Golsby-Smith, Forth Order Design: A Practical Perspective. Source: Design Issues, Vol. 12, №1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 5–25

[2, 3, 4]

[5] pp7, The Other Design Thinking —

[6] pp13, The Other Design Thinking —

[7] pp 77–97, The Other Design Thinking

[8] pp 8–12, The Other Design Thinking

[9] Transition Design —












[21] pp23, Tony Golsby-Smith, Forth Order Design: A Practical Perspective. Source: Design Issues, Vol. 12, №1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 5–25

[22] pp22, Tony Golsby-Smith, Forth Order Design: A Practical Perspective. Source: Design Issues, Vol. 12, №1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 5–25

[23] pp25, Tony Golsby-Smith, Forth Order Design: A Practical Perspective. Source: Design Issues, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 5-25