Optimistic Design Studio

our approach

Transforming strategies and digital experiences through co-design

As a team of seasoned equity-focused researchers, strategists, and designers, our approach centers on the needs of equity-deserving communities, driving improved outcomes for them and our partners and clients.


From Insight to Action: Uniting Equity-Centered Design and Systems Thinking

We start with the belief in designing with equity-deserving communities. That means engaging with lived experts throughout the entirety of the design process: from understanding people’s context to facilitating participatory design and validation of design approaches. Integrated with this is systems thinking, which acknowledges the need for a holistic view of complex landscapes, and considers multiple leverage points for transformational change.

Through our process, we recognize our power as designers, and redistribute that power through creative participatory methods, challenging conventional research, design, and development processes to facilitate meaningful solutions.


Designing Equitable
Paths to the Future

  • Equity-Centered Research

    We collaborate with partners to reimagine education solutions through equity-centered research that can inform products, systems, and services for all learners. Our approach is participatory, focused on facilitation and alignment between multidisciplinary stakeholders and end users ensuring that learners who have been underserved by technology and services are centered and supported. Our research activities include ethnographic studies, user research, hands-on workshops, and other investigation forms to understand the design problem better.

    Service Offerings
    • Research interviews & contextual inquiry
    • Generative co-creation workshops
    • Stakeholder and partner workshops
    • Insights & ecosystem mapping
    • Reports & positioning briefs
    • Strategic road mapping
  • Strategy + Co-Design

    We help our partners move ideas into desirable products by validating needs using equity-centered design frameworks applied to an iterative process of co-design, prototyping, and testing with end-users. By working through conceptual design sprints to prototype and validate various ideas and strategies with end-users, we help our clients begin actualizing a product vision and detailed design of feature sets, so they can move confidently into implementation.

    Service Offerings
    • Product design strategy
    • Service design
    • Conceptual design sprints
    • Co-design workshops
    • Validation testing
  • Capacity Building and Technical Assistance

    To enhance our partners' understanding of the Equity-Centered Design (ECD) process, we engage closely with their practitioners and decision-makers through workshops, evaluations, and tailored technical assistance. This collaborative approach aims to strengthen their capacity to apply equity-centered processes and practices across research, design, project management, and services development.

    Service Offerings
    • Building teams' awareness around bias and positionality
    • Equity-centered design process diagnostics
    • Capacity building in co-design
    • Program and project management consultation


There’s such a change in approach from a traditional UX research firm to the truly human side of things to lift up voices and have them involved.

Sri Remala, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Part of the positive aspect of working with your team was the upfront communication and ability to adapt and adjust and find shared success.

Jason Barnes, Technical Product Lead, EDUCAUSE

We had a very positive experience and I am so grateful to the team for learning new things.

Elizabeth Horner, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Let’s Design the Future of Learning, Together