TRACING OUR IMPACT: The Last Year and a Half at ATÖLYE

There are two ways to think about music: vertically and horizontally. In the vertical dimension, harmonies are created; different sounds, pitches, and registers come together; resonate in unique ways and sound richer. In the horizontal dimension, there is rhythm; the expectation of what is approaching or disappearing into the past.

2020 was a break in our rhythm—to say the least. It challenged us in many expected and unexpected ways, but it was important that we kept marching forward at a certain pace. Taking the time to pause and reflect, but also to keep a beat going. It was also equally important to try and harmonize with other organizations who brought unique sounds, modes, and ideas that are left behind as artifacts of our collective impact.

After such an unusual year, we took the first days of January as an opportunity for reflection and put together below some of these moments that have enriched our journey in the past year and a half. We thank our team for their dedication and creativity, as well as our partners for their collaborative spirit.

kyu Collective

ATÖLYE after kyu

In April of 2019, ATÖLYE joined the kyu Collective by acquisition of its majority shares. kyu is a collective of the world’s leading-edge creative organizations and it was an immensely proud moment for all of us to join the ranks of IDEO, SYPartners, Sid Lee, BEWorks, Kepler, Red Peak, and C2 at the time. The Collective later enriched its explorative edges with Godfrey Dadich and Public Digital.

kyu member organizations are companies that are designed to understand, connect, and explore the edges of what our societies need now and what they’ll need in the decades to come. In this light, what attracted kyu to ATÖLYE was the symbiotic relationship between our Community and our Strategic Design practice—offering a new way of collaborating on impact-focused projects.

Since joining kyu, ATÖLYE has been able to expose its thinking to new audiences both within and without the Collective. We were also greatly inspired by other kyu members through project collaborations—some of which you’ll see demonstrated below.


New ATÖLYE Space in Dubai

To some, ATÖLYE may have been characterized by its physical space more than its other components. However, one of the first bits of our philosophy that we shared with the outside world was to “Build Community, Space Will Come.” Thus, our exploration for our Dubai space followed the same suit.

After a year of explorations in community-building in Dubai and the surrounding region, the ATÖLYE Dubai Creative Hub is finally taking physical form. The ATÖLYE Dubai space, which will be opening its doors in two months, is a place for creative individuals, teams, and organizations across the Middle East to connect, collaborate, and create long-term impact through design.

You can read more about our Dubai Creative Hub on this page and sign up for updates from ATÖLYE considering our initiatives in the region here.


ATÖLYE Academy: A space for
exploration in learning design

In early 2020, right before the pandemic hit, we were on the brink of adding a new area of exploration next to ATÖLYE’s Strategic Design Studio and Creative Hub: ATÖLYE Academy. Despite all the challenges of adapting to the virtual world the global pandemic brought upon us, ATÖLYE Academy was launched and impacted the lives of over 1000 people in its first year.

The question ATÖLYE Academy set out to tackle was this: How might we share our learnings in creative leadership, radical collaborations, and systemic design while exploring new ways of learning with our Community?

In response, the Academy created new event series with a strong following, hosted many thought leaders, and collaborated with organizations from all over the world in order to design future-proof learning programs to ignite systemic change. Finally it ran a massive online experiment by creating an internet-native, 400-person learning community. More on this below.

Learning Community

Navigating Ambiguity with a 400-person Learning Community

In 2020, the ATÖLYE Academy team designed an internet-native, free learning experience under the theme “navigating ambiguity.” 400 people were selected to participate from among three times as many applicants. The result was a digital-first, experiential, and social learning journey—and it was an absolute blast!

Together with a diverse group, our team ran experiments to make sense of and navigate the world. The experience included five specifically-designed programs where participants could practice or deepen their skills by journeying into others' experiences against common challenges. It made us proud to see hundreds of people invest their time and thoughts into this experiential learning space. In 2021, we are determined to keep exploring the edges of social learning experiences. To learn about the next manifestation of the “Learning Community,” subscribe updates from the Academy team at this link.


Awards and recognitions

In 2020, our body of multidisciplinary design work was recognized by leading institutions across industries and has received global design awards.

Our ongoing transformation project with the Private Sezin School won the World Architecture Award in the interior design category. It was also featured by FRAME magazine.

“This school would encourage students to collaborate, interact, and feel very much a part of the learning environment. I appreciate the sensitivity toward sustainable materials and ergonomics.”
—Zaiba Mian, Professor, Interior Design, Humber College

Our learning design project Turkcell CX Lab was among the 4 projects out of nearly 1000 recognized for its rigor and impact and won a Notable Mention in the Design Education category at the prestigious Core77 Design Awards. We were happy to have received our first global award in the area of learning design. One piece of commentary by the award’s jury captured our transformative approach in these words:

“These teams who went through this program will never be the same.”
—Core 77 Design Awards Jury

Another first for ATÖLYE was the global recognition of our service and product design scope for TEB (BNP Paribas in Turkey) where we designed an app specifically for small- and medium-sized businesses. So far, the project received 6 globally recognized awards in the categories of banking, product, and innovation from institutions such as The Banker, Financial Times, Global Business Excellence, and others. The app averaged a score of 4.5/5 after over 15.000 reviews by users.

Projects and collaborations

Long-lasting impact through
transformative collaborations

At ATÖLYE, in order to skillfully meet the challenge of tackling complex problems that our clients face, we always provide diverse breadth and depth within our offering and use a wide array of design disciplines in order to provide a more holistic approach. Recently, we reframed our offering to steer further away from siloed thinking and to avoid drawing distinct lines between design disciplines. Instead, we defined our offering based on the impact that needs to be achieved through strategy and design in five main areas: “Strategizing for Impact, Enhancing Experiences, Transforming via Spaces, Developing new Capabilities, and Catalyzing Communities.”

Strategizing for Impact

Strategizing for Impact - Sezin School Transformation Project

“Thanks to ATÖLYE, we went beyond simply redesigning our spaces and learned more effective ways of how to do business while constantly developing new skills. The mutual trust between our organizations is the main reason for the continuation of our cooperation.”
—Muattar Saydam, Board Member, Private Sezin School

ATÖLYE’s history of collaboration with the Private Sezin School in Turkey started with the goal of transforming this educational institution via incremental architectural interventions. The first fruits of this example of deep collaboration resulted in the design of award-winning spaces for the schools Open Roof Space and later the Kindergarten and Primary School areas—both designed with extensive user research heavily bolstered by co-design sessions with students, teachers, parents, and school management.

ATÖLYE and Sezin School later went on to collaborate on a learning and organizational design journey through periodical workshops with the school’s leadership—aiming to transform the institution’s vision and strategy into one that is rooted in values and culture.

The impact of this deep collaboration was visible over the years with the school doubling its success.

Developing New Capabilities

Developing New Capabilities -
Design Gov

“We are so happy to see a project like this in the government, something that will actually change human beings and change the lives of humans.”
—His Excellency Abdulla Bin Touq Al Mari, Cabinet Member and Minister of Economy

“I was able to redesign myself as a human, as a mother, as a director, as someone who would contribute to the UAE government. I feel that I am going to build myself more and more through design.”
—Shaima Al Mansoori, Director of Research, Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation

In 2019, ATÖLYE joined IDEO and Palmwood, to design a transformative learning journey for the government of the UAE with the project “Design Gov.” The project addressed the nation’s goal of human-centered transformation by empowering future leaders and had set out to embed creative leadership mindsets and skills into the ways government officials think and work.

The project was one of the UAE government’s initiatives to permeate itself with human-centered design mindsets, and it deeply impacted the ways in which the UAE government employees collaborated. Moreover, the project helped form long-lasting ties between seemingly different government entities and created a circle of “design practitioners” within the UAE government.

To date, Design Gov graduated 36 people on track to become Chief Design Officers, who embarked on an ongoing learning journey to transform into creative leaders and agents of change within the government.

We are proud to have played a part in helping a nation shape its future by putting design at the core.

Enhancing Experiences

Experiences - TOGG

In 2020, ATÖLYE partnered with TOGG, one of Turkey's most ambitious organizations. Our challenge was a part of the country's most anticipated project: Building Turkey’s first battery electric vehicle—which is also going to be the first mass-produced Turkish road car.

The ATÖLYE and TOGG teams joined in creative collaboration to imagine and design the interactive experiences within the TOGG vehicle. On top of this large project collaboration, ATÖLYE and TOGG built a strong relationship and further imagined, ideated, and prototyped around the challenges within the larger EV ecosystem in Turkey—focusing on the holistic journey of future TOGG users and the surrounding community.

This first partnership opened up many other great collaboration opportunities between TOGG and ATÖLYE for 2021 and beyond.

We are happy to have found such an impact-focused partner that puts design-led leadership first. We are also proud to be contributing to the emergence of the EV ecosystem in Turkey with all our creative force.

Transforming via Spaces

Transforming via Spaces - Dubai Future Accelerators

“The space has reinvented the way we work.”
—Abdulaziz Al Jaziri, CEO, Dubai Future Foundation

In 2020, ATÖLYE partnered with Dubai Future Accelerators to imagine, design, and build a space where startups would come together with government and private sector entities to foster creative collaboration opportunities.

ATÖLYE set out to build a space that is built on a holistic experience and is never underutilized. Ultimately, with the right interventions, the Dubai Future Accelerators Space has turned into a one-of-a-kind space, offering startups, government, and the private sector a holistic spatial experience in a flexible and future-proof environment, allowing different modes of interactions to occur.

Read more about the project here.

Catalyzing Communities

Catalyzing Communities - kyu Graph

“This will be a profound tool for all of us.”
—Keith Yamashita, Co-Founder, SYPartners

At ATÖLYE, our thinking on the concept of communities has always been modeled after networks of flowing and growing relationships. We always thought a “garden” metaphor was more fitting rather than an image of “building blocks.”

Following the same idea of thought, and in order to map out the network of kyu’s wealth of knowledge, talent, and experience, ATÖLYE took on the challenge to create kyu Graph, a platform that houses extensive data from all kyu companies and lets users create dynamic maps to uncover previously unseen connections—between people, projects, clients, or companies.

As a result, kyu Graph has turned into a rich source of information capturing key information on kyu’s 2500+ talent with 486 skills, and 988 projects carried out for 327 clients across 76 industries—all still counting in numbers. Much more than a directory of employees, or a projects roster; the kyu Graph is a living network that builds on layers of information to generate insightful relationship and collaboration maps.

Creative Hub

Giving back to the Community

Before stepping into 2020, our Creative Hub had already set out to prioritize digital interactions over physical ones within our community. 2020 was generous on that end and provided us with an unforeseen testbed of digital interactions.

Our community explored new ways of coming together and building trust by learning, playing, and doing in the digital realm, continuing to nurture creative communities with more than 100 online events. The community has become tighter-knit, demonstrated by our highest member retention ever. ATÖLYE’s first EU-funded project, Connect for Creativity, aiming to bolster intercultural dialogue amongst creative individuals and hubs across Europe, came to an end.

In remedy of the pandemic of 2020, our team joined global efforts as design and network partners such as EUvsVirus and Dubai Ideathon, and also designed initiatives such as Hack the Crisis and Hack the Normal from the ground up, aiming to mobilize the impact-oriented communities in our network. Additionally, ATÖLYE’s capacity-building program titled COVID-in-Residence supported independent creative individuals who were affected by the pandemic and helped 6 new projects develop.

Collectively, these initiatives reached tens of thousands of people; resulting in over 200 projects that are picked up from the idea stage and supported throughout their journey.


ATÖLYE Insights:
A place to think, reflect, and share.

In 2020 alone, our team of designers and strategists authored 16 articles, subjects ranging from service and business design to future thinking and remote collaboration, to freely share experiences around leadership, design, learning, and many other areas of exploration.

Our thanks go to those who read, shared, and built upon our ideas. In sharing our thinking and know-how with our community and larger network in an open-sourced manner, we find the will to probe more unexplored territories.

Follow our thinking on our ATÖLYE Insights publication here.

Looking ahead...

Now, more than ever, human collaboration stands out as the only way to progress. Moreover, we believe that only the partnerships that aim for long-term positive impact have the power to achieve true change in the world.

Going forward, our resolution is to hold true to our purpose of using our capabilities for people, communities, and organizations to thrive together for the better.

Follow us below to learn more about ATÖLYE’s projects and other initiatives. To learn more about ATÖLYE, visit our website at this link and subscribe to our newsletter here.

Follow us below to learn more about ATÖLYE’s projects and other initiatives.