Introducing Sheffield Design School

Where anyone can learn to think like a designer

Sheffield Design School — where anyone can learn to think like a designer

The world of design is inaccessible to most people. It feels like an exclusive club where only the privileged few can call themselves designers.

And at a time when we’re seeing more and more ‘design-led’ organisations and a shortage of designers, this is a problem that will only get bigger.

The idea

Designers helping other people think like designers.

That’s what Sheffield Design School will do.

We’re not just talking about training people up to work as designers. We’re talking about helping people to develop the essence of what makes a good designer.

The one thing that all good designers have in common…

An open mind — one that is open to experiment, to do something to learn something. There’s actually a name for it. It’s called a growth mindset. And it can be learned.

So Sheffield Design School will help people become designers — not by job title — but by the way they think and approach problems.

Our job will be to create space for people to rediscover their creativity and use it.

A bit of background

The word design can mean many things to many people.

When I say design, I’m talking about the process of design. In particular, design thinking which is just a fancy name for solving problems in a more creative way.

I’m one of the privileged few I mentioned above. I’m extremely lucky that I’ve found a profession that I love. I’m a designer. A Service Designer to be precise. But I never set out to be a designer. In fact, I was the opposite — I was a developer to begin with and then a project manager. Neither of which require you to be a designer.

So how did I get here?

Well I was never cut out to be a developer — my mind isn’t logical enough. I was an okay project manager — a good organiser. But it turns out the part of those jobs that I was really good at was creative problem solving. Being able to see the real problem and solve it.

Not just solve it by doing the obvious thing or by solving it the way others have tried to solve the same problem. But by taking the time to understand the problem, come up with ideas to solve it and then test those ideas out to see which one is the right idea.

And that’s now my job.

The moral of the story? You don’t need to be a trained designer to think like one.

How it will work

We’ll work with anyone who wants to use design to improve their organisations, teams, products, services or just the way they approach work.

We’ll develop a tailored approach that works for them. It could be a training course, coaching, mentoring, bootcamps or whatever style of learning works best for them.

We’re not a design agency. We’re not going to come in and deliver a project for you.

The key to this is that we want to work alongside people to help them develop the mindset, skills and techniques to do it for themselves.

Why we’re different

We believe that design thinking can be applied to any situation. Not just a professional one.

We want to help people develop design thinking as a skill for life.

So Sheffield Design School will run TOMS Shoes style One for One programme.

Every time we’re paid to work with organisations and teams, we’ll give our time for free to work with people who would never get the opportunity to access this sort of learning.

We want to work with people and groups who are excluded from society — people who, given the right opportunity, would make positive changes in their lives.

We’ll work with them develop the mindset, skills and techniques to help them make better decisions, explore new opportunities and become more connected and active in society.

Why ‘Sheffield Design School’?

First of all — this idea is bigger than just one person. It’s about developing a network and a community of creative design thinkers. So it needs an appropriately bigger name than just mine.

Why Sheffield?

Well we’ve got to start somewhere. We won’t be limited to just working with people in Sheffield but that’s where we’ll start. And why can’t we make Sheffield the design capital of the world? We know this sounds a bit grand but you’ve got to have a vision, right?

And why school?

We’re at our creative best when we start school — we’re curious and inquisitive. And then the education system goes about slowly removing that creativity by teaching us a standardised curriculum to set you up for life in the workplace.

We want Sheffield Design School to be different. We want to help people get back to the time where they thought anything was possible.

And we want to make it all about learning — not just the people we work with learning from us but we will be learning from them too.

We’re only experts of our experience — we have experience of applying design thinking — the people we work with will have experience of the problems they want to solve. Sheffield Design School will bring the two together to create a shared learning experience.

So what next?

In order for Sheffield Design School to work, we need to make sure we’re practicing what we preach. So we’ll be taking a design thinking approach to the whole idea.

Over the next few months we’ll be developing our first courses and working with our first customers.

But before that, the first step we need to take is ‘understanding’.

Understanding whether others think this is a good idea. Understanding if people would find it useful. And understanding if people will pay for it.

And we’ll be doing this all in the open. One of my design principles is to ‘show your work’ — the more we share, the more feedback we’ll get. Good and bad. But that feedback is vital if we’re to make this work.

For a start — we know some of the words written here might not be accessible. So we need feedback and help to work out how best to talk about Sheffield Design School in an accessible way.

What can you do to help?

Our ask of you is simple.

If this sounds like something that you’d like to find out more about — whether you’re an organisation, a team, a designer or just someone who thinks this sounds interesting — get in touch.

You can sign up to our newsletter, get in touch on Twitter (DM’s are open) or just email us directly —

Let’s get together for a chat and see if Sheffield Design School can help.