Design Loft 

The Design Loft is unlike any other learning space at Evaluation 2018. The Design Loft is an experimental space that provides conference attendees an opportunity to learn specific tools and strategies from design to apply to their work as evaluators.

Whether you are an experienced professional evaluator, a newcomer to the field, or an evaluation consumer, the Design Loft will provide you with practical strategies you can apply immediately to support evaluation and program planning.


What makes the Design Loft stand out is that it takes place in 40-minute workshops delivered every hour on the hour throughout one day of the conference. The workshops are short, intimate and practice-based led by Cameron Norman, who is both an experienced CES credentialed evaluator and a design professional. Space is limited on a first-come-first-served basis to allow attendees an opportunity to engage deeply with the material, ask questions and come away with a new skill. Workshops are designed to allow attendees to take an ‘active learning break’ between sessions during the conference program. 


The principles of the Design Loft are:

  • Embrace whimsy (relax your assumptions and challenge the usual ways of working)
  • Show don’t tell (make things visible and tangible)
  • Bias for action (do, not just talk)
  • Culture of prototyping (build and evaluate as you go - quickly)
  • Time constraints (do what you can with the time you have)
  • Systems thinking (imagine how things connect)
  • Empathy (build for those you wish to serve and could serve)
  • Access (put things in reach of the most people, most often)
  • Curiosity (ask lots of questions - none of which are ever stupid)
  • Possibility (explore how might something work - even if seemingly impossible)

Schedule of Events

The Design Loft runs on a single day of the Evaluation 2018. The list of sessions are:

Friday, November 2

9:00 a.m. | User Personas

A persona is a tool in design that envisions a typical program user by constructing a profile of their behaviors, perspectives, and lifestyle relevant to the topic drawing on user research. These fictional characters are based on evidence and user-data collected by the design team and can help program designers and evaluators understand and anticipate the issues associated with how a new program will function when put into the world.

10:00 a.m. | Attractor Mapping

Where is the action happening and how we can understand where to focus our energy and evaluations when looking at a complex system? Where might we focus our design and evaluation efforts when so much is going on? This simple, visual approach to system mapping will show us how.

11:00 a.m. | A Day in the Life

What does the typical user of a program go through in their day? How might the reality of a user's day-to-day experience influence the design of a program and what might it mean for evaluators seeking to understand that experience and its relationship to program outcomes better? This session will show how a simple walk-through of a program using visual tools, acting out, and hypothesis generation might enable program planners, evaluators and collaborators to see new possibilities and insights.

12:00 p.m. | Journey Mapping

This method helps tell the story of a program user’s experience with a program by tracking the encounters that a person might go through along the program. This allows evaluators and designers to analyze the various touch-point an individual might have with a program and create the right kind of program and data collection opportunity. This allows the evaluator to see where problems and opportunities might lay before implementing a program or looking retrospectively at an existing program. 

1:00 p.m. | 5 Whys

This simple set of questions gets us to tap into our inner 5-year old and inquire about not just why something is happening on the surface but toward a more deeper understanding of the cause of a problem. By getting closer to the root of an issue, we are better equipped to design programs that make transformational shifts, not cosmetic ones and evaluations that have the power to transform people and programs alike.

2:00 p.m. | Role-Playing/Bodystorming

This exercise literally will get you out of your chair and provide a powerful form of problem exploration and prototyping. It involves acting out specific actions or scenarios to gain insight into design opportunities, constraints, and challenges when seen from the perspective of different audience members. This workshop will provide a perfect mid-afternoon break to get up and move and learn how a simple, imaginative approach to getting out of our head can yield insights and opportunities that will create programs that will resonate with our whole selves.

3:00 p.m. | Paper Prototyping

This ultra-low tech model of prototyping uses simple tools to construct mock-ups of envisioned products allowing for a quick, low-cost way to see opportunities, challenges and needs without resorting to expensive, time-consuming and potentially harmful full-scale prototypes. Working from an example, participants    will see how everyday materials can serve as evaluation tools to aid design and assess potential strategic options in a quick, low-cost and effective manner.

4:00 p.m. | Storyboarding

Movies and plays get made by taking creative ideas, mapping them out visually, and using that to guide how things get shot and what is needed to make it come alive. We can take the same idea and apply that to evaluations. Visualizing an activity or program through simple drawings — no matter how simply done — can be an engaging way to gain insight into attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, and relationships between concepts, project components and people. This technique will show you how a simple drawing can yield enormous information to guide a program design and the evaluation questions that follow from it.


The Design Loft was first launched in 2016 as an experimental ‘pop-up’ conference within the main annual convention as a means of providing hands-on, practical opportunities for evaluators to learn about design methods and tools that can benefit their work and advance innovation within the field. This year the focus of the Design Loft will be applied to the conference theme of Speaking Truth to Power.