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5 Examples of Silent Design

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Silent design is a design activity that isn't called design. It is common for design to be used to solve problems and create new value by a wide variety of individuals who don't think of themselves as designers. The following are illustrative examples.

Customer Experience

A operations manager designs a model of customer problems that helps customer service representatives to sympathize with customer needs. The model becomes part of the team's culture and improves customer experience.


A data center has space for more customers but is desperately power constrained. A manager measures airflow and temperatures throughout the facility and discovers that the overhead cooling ducts are inefficient. She finds that a few strategically placed passive airflow systems can reduce cooling related energy consumption by 12% on an average day.

Interior Design

A restaurant manager starts a new position and instantly recognizes that the interior of the restaurant is bland and overlit. He takes down the corporate art and offers the space to local artists to promote their work. He improves the lighting with a system of shades that generate more ambient light. Customer reviews begin to improve.


A supermarket manager gets tired of throwing out food. She gets permission to donate it. No charities exist that will except the food so she creates an organization that puts the food up for the taking until it reaches 6 hours after its expiry date. She finds a variety of innovative and safe uses for the food in partnership with the community.

Tactical Urbanism

Neighbors that are tired of cars speeding past their house at twice the speed limit put a highly visible keyhole garden in the middle of the road that forces cars to slow down to get around it. The city takes it down but the neighbors become politically active and eventually get approval to create a living street.
Overview: Silent Design
A design activity that isn't called design.
Attributed to
Peter Gorb
Angela Dumas
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