One of the most powerful questions ever asked. The foundation of science and innovation. "What if" challenges the existing logic with which we look at problems. By focusing on this question, boundaries are shifted, and solutions emerge from a new perspective.
What is What if Lab?
What if Lab is a platform where collaboration between designers and clients (industry, governments and institutes) is activated and facilitated. A platform that focuses on creative thinking for the design of our common future. What if Lab allows organisations to explore how design methodology can support them in developing and researching solutions for complex issues (in the long term).
But what do we mean by design?
Basically everything around us has been designed, from the jeans you are wearing to the website you are looking at right now. But design is not exclusive to products or tools, processes are designed too. Good examples of this are the way we live together or how we deal with our waste.
Designers shape the future. By developing processes, methodologies and scenarios, they find targeted answers to complex societal challenges. The role of visionary and innovative designers in society cannot be underestimated.
And how are designers going to support my organisation with questions we have been working on ourselves for many years?
In a What if Lab, a tangible outcome is not the only thing that counts: the process, the collaboration and especially the doing are important component parts of the value that What if Lab represents. During the What if Lab, an organisation offers designers outside an opportunity to look at daily practice inside the organisation. Because designers are specifically trained to question the status quo and think in terms of possibilities, they can easily unearth new insights and opportunities. The What if Lab structure and the design methods employed by the designers offer employees and organisations a new perspective.
So how does that work in practice?
Dutch Design Foundation (DDF), the organisation behind What if Lab and Dutch Design Week, organises various events and projects with and for designers every year and supports them in their daily practice. As such, we are in contact with thousands of designers and design agencies, each with their own areas of expertise. From within this group, we seek and select parties who can support the organisation with their expertise, background and motivation. Based on a clear briefing, introductory meetings, sessions with experts or a master class, design studios then get to work. Throughout the process, research and concepts come together and ideas are validated and further refined on the basis of feedback from the client. This process is supported by the What if Lab, through a 'Lab Manager' and/or a digital dashboard specially developed for the What if Lab. At the end of the What if Lab, designers present the results, and clients can test potential and impact for their organisation.
You mention long-term cooperation, but a What if Lab runs for a predetermined period of time. How does that work?
As the What if Lab, we are a matchmaker and facilitator, we ensure that the right parties meet, and we have designed various processes in which clients and designers get to know each other. Clear briefings and agreements, a transparent timeline, open calls and scouting, process supervision and fair remuneration for the participants are the building blocks that underpin all projects.
After the What if Lab, the client will have found a good partner in the design studio concerned for further development of the project. During the What if Lab, they came up with a suitable concept, scenario or prototype together, allowing them to take the next step. With this, the What if Lab objective has been achieved, a good basis for independent collaboration between clients and designers.
Who is What if Lab aimed at?
What if Lab is there for everyone who believes that everything could be better, more beautiful or more efficient and sees an opportunity in every problem. What if Lab connects designers, companies, governments and service organisations.
Because there are several types of What if Labs, there is a form to suit many organisations. The diversity of clients from former design challenges amply illustrates this. What if Lab challenges have been posted by VNG, NS/ProRail, Fokker Elmo, Leolux, Marathon Eindhoven, Province of Noord-Brabant and the National Police in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Safety.