Gensler’s Design Strategist Development (DSD) Program

In 2015, Gensler made a strategic investment in the future of its Consulting practice by launching the Gensler Design Strategist Development (DSD) program.

Unique within the architecture and design industry, the DSD is an in-house, professional training program that prepares emerging architects and designers for work as design strategists. It immerses participants in a highly-curated mix of project work with Fortune 500 companies, training in core consulting functions, and ongoing leadership development. Tailored to the specific strengths and aspirations of each person, the program explores the evolving relationship between design strategy and business outcomes with special attention paid to the role the built environment plays in empowering people and transforming organizations.

The DSD program was a necessary strategic investment in our practice and the talented people who comprise it. Being a consultancy within an architecture and design firm means we are asked to address client problems at the intersection of people, operations, finance, technology, and space. The challenges our clients ask us to solve can range from determining the best way to reinvigorate a cafeteria to implementing detailed strategies governing the composition of a client’s real estate portfolio to helping to redefine the patient experience at a hospital.

Prior to launching the DSD program, we came to realize that the only way our practice could incite a culture of innovation while simultaneously serving our clients was to develop a diverse, well-trained design strategist community networked across the globe. Our profession is architecture and design, but our work is all about people. We needed to make a focused investment in our talent in order to equip them with the necessary tools to push our practice forward.

While Design Strategy as a curriculum has become more prominent in recent years, few institutions train designers in how to apply immersive design strategy to the specific problems clients face. Many programs focus on product or service design. Far fewer focus on the range of issues surrounding place and space how they affect and interact with the other dimensions of successful organizations. These programs produce a limited number of graduates each year.

The DSD program has been our way of filling a glaring talent gap by developing top-notch consulting talent internally. It has established a diverse, tight-knit community of design strategists located in our offices across the globe. Our DSD graduates leave the program with a highly specialized understanding of the processes and tools that are critical to solving the problems our clients face. They are deeply committed to the principles of design and to design culture at large. They also exhibit the exceptional soft skills required for success as a consultant and as a designer. They are a community of practice, extending from peers to principals.

We are deeply proud of the DSD program and the role it has played in evolving our practice. We know that the pace of disruptive change facing our clients will only continue to accelerate. As a result, we need to be agile in our design responses, and our DSD graduates are helping us deliver increased value to clients around the world. The DSD program stands as a testament to the value investing in internal talent yields, and we will continue to use lessons learned from this program to help our people understand the context in which our designs are created and build the interpersonal and leadership skills required to fully articulate the value we bring to our clients and communities.