Change Comes from Within: Reflecting on 5 Years at DVXD

Perspective   ·
Jun 21, 2023   ·
4 min read

This June, our studio marked its 5th anniversary. For most of us, the day slipped by almost unnoticed - not because it wasn’t a milestone to be acknowledged, but rather, because our energy and attention are squarely focused on the partnerships we have and the outcomes these collaborations create.

That doesn’t mean 5 years is something to ignore. For a studio like ours, the context of this milestone has to be considered in a few ways.

As an independent studio, founded on the belief that design can be a tool to create collective prosperity, our own sustainability was never guaranteed. Like many working in our profession who share our values, we are operating in a time of great uncertainty about what it means to be socially-centred designers.

As I write this, the world grapples with numerous challenges. 'Unstoppable' forest fires rage across Canada, generative and general AI elicit existential concern, the rights of marginalized people continue to be eroded by inhumane legislation, global political fractures divide nations, unprecedented wealth disparity grows and basic issues like access to housing and clean water persist, even in the world’s richest countries.

Amidst all this, what is the role of our tiny, Toronto-based studio? What currents could we really hope to shift?

It took me a while to realize that our success isn’t determined by how much we could meaningfully impact these issues, as much as we aspire to. We have had incredible opportunities to shape progress alongside visionary leaders who are building more locally-focused resorts, supporting and resettling migrants seeking a better life, or building a news platform to drive civic engagement. Though we’re proud of this work, it isn’t ultimately what will define us.

Reaching the five-year milestone doesn’t come without missteps, failures and learnings. Along the way, we’ve had to say goodbye to people while others continue to grow and thrive in our team. We’ve yet to meet our commitment to gender parity and, like many independent studios, we thought our days were numbered once a recession hit.

I believe what gets you to any milestone is understanding how interconnected your growth as an individual is to the growth of the collective you are part of. That interconnection can take many forms. Over the last five years, many of us experienced a global pandemic together, though separated. Some who were here from day one left and later returned to us. Some faced nearly fatal health challenges. A few of us grew our families. Others found they were ready for new opportunities. We’ve even seen our clients move up and move on. And for me, personally, there are definitely more grey hairs to show.

Given our focus on design for shared progress, guided by values of curiosity, co-creation, craft and community, it makes sense then that the barometer for our success is defined by the lives we shape through collaborating with one another.

This past year has been a remarkable one. We’ve forged new partnerships, expanded our practice, and launched a co-design community called w-th. We have more exciting updates to share soon.

The shape progress takes is gnarly and unpredictable, filled with twists and turns but ultimately it moves us forward. What can be perceived by many as progress today (AI? Spatial Computing? Colonizing Mars?), may not be experienced as progress by many tomorrow.

As we peer into the future, I am filled with hope and inspiration, knowing it’s not about what we aim to change - it’s about how our aspirations transform us.

To our partners, thank you for your trust and belief in our studio as agents of progress for your brands. To our team’s families and friends, thank you for your support and faith.

And lastly, to our team, it’s been a wild ride - thanks for holding on and keeping us moving forward.