Designing for a new world: Sean Carney’s three approaches for moving the needle
Rotating GIF of a headshot of Sean Carney and a screenshot of his presentation
Sean Carney’s Keynote at DesignThinkers Virtual asked one question: how can we better harness the global power of the design community and use our expertise to improve the world? In his talk, Sean outlined three approaches to answering this question.


As the Chief Experience Design Officer at Philips in the Netherlands, Sean and his team are responsible for transforming healthcare experiences for people around the world through design thinking and creativity. At the core of their mission is to look beyond the realities of today and envision a more positive future for all.


Every designer can help to move the needle by using Sean’s frameworks for understanding their role and work.

The designer with empathy

When we get caught up in the whirlwind of creativity and possibility, we can fall in love with our ideas even when they don’t actually serve the client or user in the best possible ways. Sean notes that designers instead need to immerse themselves in the realities of who they’re designing for and where/how their work will be used.


To do this, designers should get involved in the work their clients or users are doing. By putting yourself in the client’s or user’s shoes, you’re better equipped to provide them with something that’s not only useful, but also helps them grow.

The designer as part of a system

Sean’s work aims to improve the healthcare system globally to ensure all people receive the care they need. Even if you aren’t a designer in healthcare, Sean makes a case for the importance of understanding your role in building new and sustainable systems.


Everything is connected, and our work in design is no different. Instead of creating single or point solutions, we need to think about end-to-end solutions. And by doing so, we can create new value systems that better serve everyone. What big picture questions do you need to be asking when working? How does your work intersect with, add value to or complicate areas of social, racial and environmental significance? By zooming out, we can seek to understand design’s influential part in creating a better world.

The designer as partner 

The problems we face today are complex and interconnected, and no single person or designer is going to be able to solve everything on their own. Sean says that as designers, we’re positioned well to partner with all stakeholders so that we can design experiences that are sustainable and effective.


Our work as creatives spans multiple disciplines, industries and offices, and given the breadth of our reach, we can work with those around us to move the needle. We’re called to leverage the collective strength of the many, and use our craft and expertise with newfound urgency.

In conclusion

With these three approaches in mind, designers can shift and re-imagine their influential role in creating a better world for all. To close with Sean’s question, do you have other thoughts on how we can better harness the global power of the design community and use our expertise to improve the world?



Sean Carney’s Keynote at DesignThinkers Virtual was sponsored by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Toronto.



A word from Anne Le Guellec, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Toronto: “Through their conceptual and researching approach, Dutch designers are able to answer to complex issues with surprising solutions, also in the life sciences and health sector. In his role at Philips, Sean Carney is a great example of somebody who is able to develop these innovative solutions together with his team. That is why, with the world facing some of the biggest healthcare challenges of our lifetime, we are happy that we could support in bringing his inspiring perspectives to the attention of the participants of DesignThinkers 2020.”