Design is not optional

Design is not optional

How we use design to tackle thorny problems and build more desirable futures.

At Luminary Labs, design plays an integral role in our work. Every person on every team — from Strategy and Communications to Business Operations — is engaging in design on a daily basis. Over the years, we’ve given a great deal of thought to design’s role in strategy and innovation consulting.

A curated list of our writing on design:

  • Every decision is a design decision. We believe most choices we make at work are design choices; even something as simple as deciding to pick up the phone instead of sending a Slack message is a design decision. Advocating for design contributes directly to the thoughtful transformation of businesses, organizations, and institutions.
  • Why hardware is hard. Every inventor wants to bring the next iPhone to market, but there are many barriers. We need to rethink how we develop new physical products. Reducing or eliminating known barriers helps us push the boundaries of what hardware can do, while staying flexible enough to overcome as-yet-unknown obstacles along the way.
  • On prototyping and piloting. Prototyping and piloting are just two parts of a larger innovation cycle that includes research, problem statement definition, concepting, and operationalization. An organization that doesn’t learn to “fail” through prototyping and piloting often fails to learn what’s most critical to making its product or service successful.
  • 5 realistic ideas for future-proof innovation. In fields where humans and machines increasingly collaborate on an end product, how can companies optimize efficiency while enhancing user experience? It’s all about designing the right system with multiple stakeholders and goals in mind.
  • Better workshops, by design. Collaboration and co-creation workshops benefit from a design-led approach. To increase participant engagement and generate meaningful outcomes, we consider a number of important factors.
  • A master class in conversation design. Well-designed exercises that give permission to explore strong opinions can be incredibly important — especially when an industry’s most interesting people are gathered in one place. These brief moments of discomfort or tension yield fruitful conversations and meaningful progress.

Our Design & Insights team works across projects and focus areas, uncovering real human needs, bringing new ideas to life, and building the broader team’s capacity. Designers often wear different hats and work with teams to support projects at different points in their life cycles. In recent months, our designers have worked with the Future Finder Challenge team to understand adult learners’ needs, develop a challenge identity system that conveys the program’s values, and ensured that public-facing materials are accessible. Design & Insights’ work on Mission Daybreak also included developing an identity system and website, collaborating on a virtual accelerator program that emphasized Veteran-centered design, and creating an engaging experience at a live demo day event. For a large foundation focused on the future of education, our strategic foresight and speculative design work has included conducting research with learners, families, and educators, in addition to supporting design and facilitation of a co-creation workshop.

Design will continue to play a significant role in advancing our work at Luminary Labs as we find ways to build more preferable, desirable futures across education, health, science, and infrastructure. If you’re someone who loves designing with non-designers, reducing complexity, identifying business needs, and delivering on shared design goals, we’d love to meet you: We’re hiring a Senior Designer in New York.


Winnie Chang
Design Manager
Sara Holoubek
Founding Partner and CEO