For my thesis on authentic corporate social responsibility, I formed a strategic partnership with Gensler & Associates, the world’s largest architecture firm. By collaborating with an organization in the public realm, it afforded me the chance to conduct user research, identify insights and opportunities, test prototypes, and implement potential interventions.
I selected Gensler because I’ve long admired their commitment to positive community impact through the power of design. Many of their initiatives dovetailed well with my thesis ideas. Gensler also embodies the very nature of a corporation: within 45 offices in 14 countries, they employ over 5,000 people. As the world’s largest architecture firm, their yearly revenue of over $1.1 billion is almost twice the revenue of the world’s second-largest architecture firm. At the same time, I could leverage opportunities to make local interventions by working with their Baltimore office.
As my first step, I conducted a mock workshop to prototype some workshop techniques with my fellow graduate students. This helped me identify strengths and opportunities of my workshop before I ran it with my thesis partner.
With that trial run completed, I embarked on over two hundred hours of user research with the staff at Gensler. I spoke with a broad range of staff, from recent hires to managing directors. I conducted my user research via observation, in-person interviews, phone conversations, email, live workshops, virtual workshops, and online surveys over the course of four months. I even embedded myself within their team as an intern to help them with their internal projects. My goals were to understand their perspective on corporate social responsibility, why they are interested, and how they could see it fitting into Gensler.
By conducting multi-method user research with all levels of staff over an extended period of time, I built a deep working relationship with the Gensler team. They trusted me; I trusted them. I know the strength of this partnership will be critical as I continue my thesis work.
Project completed within the graduate program in Social Design at MICA.
Faculty Advisors: Lee Davis, Thomas Gardner, Mike Weikert.