Designer, Engineer and Critical Thinker

Design with Words | Design a Workshop

Document A Design

Design with Words

How might we design a design workshop? 

Team Size: 8/ Rhode Island School of Design / 2017 Spring / 6 weeks

Why workshop? There are a lot of tools that designers use to work with thoughts and ideas, and to turn them into concepts, intents, and—eventually—products, services, etc. Here, we explored words as a design tool. Words can operate as a fluid and flexible medium for holding and shaping ideas.

As a class, we ran a facilitated design workshop, drawing on the methods of scenario planning to build out some interesting ideas. Then, we leaped off the results of that workshop to produce some kind of documentations and workshop design guidance.


Discussions: workshop Objectives/topics/approaches


We started by sharing topics of our own interests and our thoughts/concerns about the workshop through discussions.

Created by Luona based on notes taken during the course

Created by Luona based on notes taken during the course


Questions/confusions we had after the discussion

  • An end product? 
  •  How might we design for the future vs how do we design for the future of  ____?
  • How far is the future? What’s a good distance? How do we design for different time scales?
  • How might we better design for the future?
  • How to research about the future.
  • We don’t know what the future is. What can we do about that?
  • A topic?



We then did our individual research about the aforementioned questions, and shared with each other on the class. 


Ideation: Brainstorm workshop ideas


We then came up with our own theme and activities about the workshop based on previous discussions and research. 

My first draft of the island idea. Click on image to see details. 

After presenting our own ideas and commenting on others', we picked our favourite 3 themes: Utopia vs Dystopia, Island, Design and Space. We then discussed based on the idea itself (what can we get from the workshop if we use the theme), engagement (whether the theme is interesting enough) and flexibility (how much details we can change under the current framework). Finally, we chose "Island" for our workshop. 

Planning Details


After deciding the theme, we broke down the workshop based on schedule and assigned each part to smaller groups. We then developed each part of the workshop in our own group.


We used google doc to share ideas and collaborate as a large group. 

  • Define Workshop Constraints
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Island Scenario: You are living in the not too distant future on an island located in the __________. Every __________ the island you’re living on becomes inundated by a flood, and the people of your community need to find a way to survive this recurring natural disaster. A changing atmosphere has impacted the ability for people to form long term memories. Memories fade away with the receding flood waters, and the island’s inhabitants are left to rebuild their community without any recollection of events preceding the last flood. Your community is run by a __________ government, and it needs to find a way to record and share it’s history in order to survive. How do you warn future generations? How do you warn yourself?

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Island Scenario: After thousands of years of searching, the fountain of youth has been found on your remote island in the __________. One drink of the Island’s water and the drinker will never die of old age. They can however die of injury. Every __________ the island you’re living on becomes inundated by a flood, which is now the number one cause of death on the island. The island’s magical water is an abundant resource, but it’s controlled by the island’s __________ government. As the people have continued to prosper, the population has grown to a point that the Island’s resources can no longer support it. This danger has lead to a very competitive market for products to survive the flood.


Island Scenario:You are living in the not too distant future on an island located in the __________. Rugged, mountainous terrain rises steeply from the ocean with almost no flat areas. Every __________ the island becomes inundated by a flood, and the only refuge is at the top of the mountain. When the island was young and the population small, there was plenty of room at the top of the mountain for all the residents to safely wait out the flood. In recent years the population has grown to the point that the __________ government has had to regulate who will be able to gather at the summit. While some of the people chose to fight the government and some people support this measure, other more enterprising citizens have begun to invent products to help people survive the flood.


DECK OF CARDS used to determine context and roles, participants need to draw cards at beginning of island activity. 

Context Cards: 

1) Location: Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, East Siberian Sea 

2) Frequency of Flood (Time): Midnight (every night), every full moon, winter solstice, 5 years

3) Organisation/Government: Democracy, Communist, Guilds

Role Cards: 

Farmer: Concerned with quality of land and success of crops

Shop owner: Looking to profit from the product

Politician: You must ensure the interests of the government are taken into consideration

  • Design the Activities
  • Design the Workshop Schedule 
Recreated by Luona based on the final schedule 

Recreated by Luona based on the final schedule 

  • Design the Experience

Each step of the workshop is carefully designed to provide an atmosphere of the island theme and offer better experience for our participants. 

  • Advertise the workshop



On the day of workshop, each of us has a role as a facilitator. The detailed devision is shown below: 


Photo Gallery: 9 Participants from different backgrounds + 8 facilitators 



The Great Flood Catalogue by Adam B, Adam C and Luona

How we did it/How to design a workshop by Carolina, David and Juan

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Website Blog Post by Julia and Victor


What was your role in planning and delivering the workshop? I came up with the initial island idea, but didn’t have a detailed plan and direction. It’s so excited to see how the idea has been interpreted and developed. I worked on lead-in and lead-out of the workshop, and mainly focused on how to make the experience more valuable and more relative to our island theme. During the workshop, I was one of the ‘local islander’/facilitator of Forever Land. I was there to answer any questions asked by the participants and helped them to understand the scenario better. 

Tell me about some clever bit of design or some sweet solution that come out of doing this. One difficult task is to bring people with different background and let them work together. The ice breaking game made people start to talk to each other through story telling. The imaginative aspect of each island made our participants to dive into the scenario directly. The materials offered are those we played when we were children. So participants don’t need to know how to use them and can start using them to communicate their ideas easily. Even though the absurdness of each scenario was designed to make people think and create beyond constraints in real life, the participants were still able to build connection between the scenario and their real-life experience. 

How do you like collaborating with people? It’s great to work with others for a common goal. Different ways of interpreting the island idea made the overall goal of the workshop more and more clear and well-defined during our discussion. 

What advice would you give the group for next semester if I do something like this again? It’d be better to start inviting people early and leave enough time to dry run the workshop. 

What advice would you give yourself for the next time you have to develop an event with participants? Think carefully what you want to get from organising the workshop and what people can get from participating the workshop. Details like a consistent theme and good graphic design can really make a workshop experience great. 




Tim Maly




Group Project

Victor Badami, Adam Bowen

Carolina Briano, Luona Cai

Adam Chuong, Julia Lemle

Juan Ocampo, David Walden


6 Weeks