Client: Adidem and Link Health
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Project timeline: February 2016
Services provided: Workshop design, facilitation
Imagine doing three months work in three days, producing a better outcome than you could reasonably have hoped for along the way.

Andrew Wisdom designed and facilitated a three day immersive design workshop for SJBUrban as part of a master planning process for a development site in suburban Melbourne. The outcome of the workshop was a master plan resolved to an appropriate level that surprised and delighted the client.

Immersive design is an intensive, collaborative and participatory process that is able to generate better outcomes to typical design projects, more quickly and efficiently than conventional design approaches. At its core, the immersive design process is a forum for production, rather than a forum for discussion. The structure and intensity of the process avoids protracted design, discussion and negotiation by involving all participants, in person, in a tightly structured set of activities in the same room for an intensive period.

Immersive design involves a conversation between designers and various project stakeholders. These stakeholders bring relevant knowledge and insight of the project site, as well as the desired outcome and the broad environment in which the project sits. The design team progressively develops its response to the project brief by exposing its efforts to response, critique and discussion by the stakeholder group at landmark points in the process. The workshop is primarily about resolving design challenges and producing design outputs in real time, then reviewing this work regularly within the workshop; each step building on the one before, with the aim of testing assumptions, testing ideas and developing consensus amongst all stakeholders and the design team.

The three day claim above needs to be put in context. As with any workshop, success doesn’t happen by accident. An immersive design workshop demands that enough preparatory research is undertaken to ensure that the design team is well informed when meeting. This may demand a good deal of research be undertaken before the workshop.

Success also depends on a tight structure that balances design and review activities, together with a facilitator able to engage everyone in the appropriate way at the appropriate time, to keep things moving towards the shared goal. The role of the facilitator is critical; it is simply infeasible to expect the design team to facilitate the workshop as well as acting as designers.

This workshop demonstrated that partnering with people who want to create value together can be a powerful and exciting thing.