A workshop tool that helps you design anything from a small garden lot to big projects or even your life. The Design Web makes us think more creatively and openly.
Goal of the exercise
Learning how to think more creatively and openly when designing anything from a small garden lot to big projects or even your life. Instead of viewing the design process as a linear sequence, its various aspects are visited through a web that tricks our brain.
Number of participants:
6 to 30 persons
Adults, young people, mixed groups, intercultural groups, teams
Age of participants:
Aged 12 or above
Duration of the method
30 to 60 min, depending on the complexity of the project and on how detailed your plan aims to be
Materials / Location
13 A4 sheets, each bearing one of the 12 or 13 keywords of the Design Web (complemented possibly by short explanations or questions):
Visions & Goals
Help (What do you need help with? Where can you get this help from?)
Limits (What might block your path, keep it small or slow it down? What difficulties can arise?)
Ideas (What do you want to create?)
Principles (Ethics and values)
Integration (How to bring it all together?)
Action (What do you want to get done? What are the next steps?)
Momentum (How can you keep it up?)
Pause (What can be restful routines?)
Paper and pens for note-taking
A large open space where small groups of people can comfortably move around the keyword sheets arranged on the ground in a circle
Write the keywords on the sheets (and add additional information if desired).
Place all the sheets in a big circle on the ground.
Read more about the Design Web and listen to a podcast available here: https://makingpermaculturestronger.net/engaging-the-design-web-with-looby-macnamara/
Formulate a question, problem or topic for the project you would like the group to design.
Step by step
The workshop trainer asks participants to form a circle and presents themselves. This can be followed by a short warm-up if participants do not yet know each other well.
The trainer explains the activity and the designing task to be accomplished (e.g. how can we make our community garden more inclusive for children?).
Once everyone understands the task, the trainer divides participants into small groups of three people, with one of them designated to take notes.
The small groups are then asked to freely circulate among the sheets with the keywords, visiting each one at least once in no particular order, and, during each stop, to discuss what they associate with a particular keyword. When they reach the keyword “Action”, for example, they could talk about actions to be undertaken to involve more kids in the garden, such as reaching out to schools and nursery schools, which are then consigned in writing by the note-taker.
There is no time limit for any particular stop. If nothing comes to mind, a group simply moves on to the next stop and comes back to it later. Stops can also be revisited to add new perspectives. Once the allocated time has passed, the trainer asks everyone to stop circulating and to finalise their notes, before forming once more a circle.
Each group finally shares its results with the other participants. Ideally, the note-taker prepares a document that can be used by decision-makers, or the entire group, during a follow-up designed to structure and plan the implementation.
Use the method with a single small group or individually.
Add “Celebration” as a keyword to the Design Web (How do we celebrate success?)
Some participants prefer the keywords to be explained or complemented by questions, others consider this a restriction of their creative thinking.
"Pretty eye-opening what happens if we don’t follow a certain order”
Credit and References
Looby Macnamara “Design Web”