Full-time position (Vancouver based)

Want to be our Design Director?

Are you a seasoned practitioner and recognized leader of human-centred design? Are you up for guiding teams of designers and social scientists to reach new heights? InWithForward is an ambitious social design shop looking to up our game. Our mission is to transition our social safety nets into trampolines, and enable more people on the margins to flourish. We have a strong ethical base and an interdisciplinary methodology brought to life by a team of ~25 service designers, ethnographers, sociologists, film-makers, community organizers, even a former popsicle maker, who are spread out across Canada.

More about InWithForward

Most days bring something surprising. We may be living outside for a week to understand the experience of homelessness (yes, we go immersive). We might be running a workshop with refugee families in their homes to explore emotional landscapes. We could be taking over a mall for a month to prototype new interventions that increase hope and connectedness. Or we might be in Ottawa working with civil servants to visualize and re-frame a social policy area.

We’re often described as radical, but we prefer the term grounded. We’re grounded in lived experience, in prototyping, in academic literature, and in a value set best described as humanistic. Our role is to show what an alternative future looks and feels like. That means, we’re often going against the grain, challenging dominant ideologies (including those about design & innovation) and advancing different logics. Success isn’t nicer, better, more efficient or digitized services. Success is people leading fulfilling lives in connected families and convivial communities.

We came to Canada four years ago, forging partnerships with four non-profits who shared our vision. After more than a decade of international efforts to scale our inventions, we realized that implementation takes way more than great design. True innovation can only happen if the underlying conditions are ripe: if there are trusting partnerships, deep intelligence, bold leadership, and robust capacity to act. That’s why we focus on three things:

    1. Grounded Data: we collect, package and aggregate ethnographic data for policymakers and social sector leaders. Our goal is to translate people’s lived experience of marginalization into usable and actionable data. In 2019, we’re building a digital platform to house our data.
    2. Grounded Space: we build social research & development teams within and between non-profits to move from research into next practices. We then support those next practices to grow and spread. In 2019, we’re co-creating next practices in the immigration & refugee space.
    3. Writing & advocacy: we work with funders and thought leaders to shift mindsets and create space for experimentation. In 2019, we want to re-design our website & comms offers.

We’ve had some successes. Three inventions are now growing: Kudoz, Real Talk, and Meraki.  All three represent next practice in the developmental disability sector. Kudoz is a learning platform on which volunteer hosts offer interest-based experiences to people living with developmental disabilities. Real Talk sparks honest conversations about sex, love, dating, and relationships. Meraki is a subscription box service bringing joyful disruptions to the every day.

Not only are these interventions growing — we have particularly ambitious plans for Kudoz — but we’ve also helped to catalyze a new funding stream with a government funder, one that starts to recognize the importance of time & money for development.

In 2019, we continue to support the teams behind each of these three inventions, as well as two new R&D teams in the immigration & refugee space. In the spring, we’ll start prototyping a suite of interventions for newcomers to Canada. We’re on the search for a Design Director who can’t wait to contribute to this emergent space and feels ready to hit the ground running.


About the role

Are you a versatile and experienced designer who can deepen InWithForward’s design capacity and help us mature? As Design Director, you’ll collaborate with Sarah, the Lead of Social Impact, to set and sustain the direction of our on-the-ground teams across Canada. That means you’ll guide teams on design mindsets, methods, strategy and products — and jump into the fray to model and demonstrate iterative practice.

Over a couple of months, you might be:

  • Prioritizing design deliverables & writing briefs before the Monday huddle
  • Working with the Kudoz dev team to re-organize their design process to get more user input into the early stage of a release
  • Hosting a design jam for the team based on an intriguing article
  • Checking-in and giving fresh inspiration to team members on their design research prompts
  • Paper prototyping an intervention in the immigration space, and modeling how to mock-up touchpoints to designers and non-designers
  • Facilitating a workshop for funders to visually map their funding pipeline and identify opportunities to increase R&D
  • Creating a new kind of measurement tool to test
  • Initiating a partnership with a design school to set-up a fellowship program
  • Sketching a structure for an improved IWF website & managing resources to execute
  • Helping to put together a funding proposal and framing a new project

About you

We’re looking for someone who is ready and able to shape an organization who feels a lot like a toddler starting kindergarten. We are age 5 after all.

  • You are an energetic maverick (with strong interpersonal skills!) who can draw on concepts and methods from a range of design, social science and business disciplines.
  • You have at least 10 years of experience with design research, service design and systems design — all from a human-centered perspective — resulting in great products & services with your fingerprints all over them.
  • You intimately know all stages of the design process from scoping to design research to prototyping to blueprinting, and are comfortable making just about anything (be it gantt charts, presentations, posters, digital mock-ups, brochures, journey maps, infographics, physical spaces). That means you can expertly toggle between high-level strategy and concrete details.
  • You’re a humble design leader with a track record of inspiring and mentoring teams with your listening ear, thoughtful perspectives and  constructive feedback.
  • You’ve worked with social, public and private sector organizations before, appreciate the different contexts, and know how to shift your tactics to garner good results.
  • You’re a charismatic and confident communicator, able to share why design matters to a range of audiences: from people in power to folks on the frontlines.
  • You’ve got a strong design aesthetic and an expansive set of reference points and can clearly articulate what is good and why.
  • You’re a pragmatic idealist. You can see the big picture and how to chisel away to get closer to it. You are adept at creating realistic project plans, managing resources, and moving through bottlenecks and conflicts.
  • You’ve got dynamic networks and aren’t afraid to tap into them to attract new talent and leverage cutting-edge expertise. Where you lack connections, you go out and make them.
  • You’re entrepreneurial and are always spotting opportunities to further projects, teams, organizations and ideas.
  • You still love to get your hands dirty with sketching, visualizing and building tangible products across digital and face-to-face channels.
  • You like fast-paced environments and revel in a diversity of tasks. Having lots of balls in the air doesn’t scare you, in fact, it’s your preference as an antidote to boredom!

Why us?

It’s a big role, we know. So why take it on? Well, quite simply, because there is no one else quite like us. We’re a spirited and ambitious group of humans who truly put our all into making trampolines. Whether we’re running a 5:30am hot chocolate pop-up for street-involved adults in the snow or taking three days to reflect on what we do and why, we make big ideas happen.

While we certainly don’t always get it right, we’re honest about our fuck-ups and missteps. We are committed to learning and to growing as individuals, as a team, and as an organization. And, luckily, we’re in control of shaping who we are and what we become. We can guarantee that the work won’t be easy — some days, it will be downright exhausting –but we can guarantee it will feel meaningful, rich, even liberating. The Design Director will work closely with InWithForward’s partners to set and execute the vision going forward. This is a role with real agency and real impact.

How to apply?

Yup, we’re looking for a pretty special person, willing to make a commitment to be on-the-ground in Vancouver, with regular travel to Toronto and across Canada. Since we’re all about finding that great fit, we’re open to sponsoring your visa to Canada and helping with moving expenses. We will consider applications on a rolling basis. Please send us:

  1. Your resume, portfolio, and any writing samples you have. Highlight  the piece of work you’re most proud of AND the piece of work you’re most disappointed with, and why.
  2. Make us something visual that tells us why you, why now for the role of Design Director, and that describes the leadership approach you’ll bring.
  3. Show us you know about us: send along 10 questions & curiosities about IWF, based on what you’ve read/heard/watched. (Hint: our blog and YouTube channel has lots of material!)
  4. Email your package to or snail mail it to our studio: 790 E 14th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5T 2N3, Canada

If we think we might be a match, we’ll schedule an initial interview. Before we make a final decision, we will invite  you to work with our team for a few days. We think that’s the only way to mutually determine if we can go steady!