DOTI Fest 2019

Creating a more human festival
DOTI Fest, main hall, Oval Space

A bigger event to tackle big challenges

Snook first started organising DOTI (Design on the Inside) as small breakfast events. People working in business, charities and the public sector got together to share their experiences of using design to make the world more human. As Snook nears its 10th anniversary our focus has broadened. DOTI is becoming more about addressing larger, more complex problems, including how we can address climate change.

We wanted to extend the reach and impact of the good ideas that emerge when great minds get together. A larger event would enable more people to have access to some of the innovative and inspiring people we’ve worked with and share their experience. The energy, optimism and ideas can spread and have more impact.

Walking the walk on tackling climate change

We’ve already committed to ‘design like there’s a climate crisis’, working with other agencies to develop a design-led approach to creating a more sustainable future. So when designing a day-long conference, it was vital that we walk the walk and didn’t leave a mountain of plastic cups and air miles in our wake.

We chose the Oval Space to host it because they’ve committed to becoming one of the most environmentally-conscious organisations in the country. The decorations that we designed to make the space feel friendly and Snook-themed were all made from recycled materials and will go on to be used again. Even the name tags were made of paper embedded with wildflower seeds to be put in the ground to provide some bonus natural joy next summer.

Three women in discussion at DOTI Fest 2019
Doti Fest posters
Signage from DOTI Fest

We wanted to cover a lot of ground in the space of a day and chose 3 key themes to explore:

People — how to create services that are tailored to every individual, so they are able to live fulfilling lives in an empowering environment.

Place — how to create sustainable and participatory places that harness technological change, resulting in more liveable spaces.

Business — how to help organisations build business models that favour people over process, and enhance our communities and environment.

Fan of folded flyers
Folded flyer
man walking past DOTI Fest poster
Woman laughing during table discussion

We had talks in the main Oval space from Lou Downe, Shanti Mathew, Steve ‘Buzz’ Pearce, Alastair Parvin and Indy Johar. But we also wanted to ensure we maintained space for smaller-scale conversations, dialogue and group activities.

There was a smaller venue across the courtyard called the Pickle factory. We hosted panel discussions there in the morning and ‘fireside chat’s in the afternoon. There was no actual fireplace, but the warmth and intimacy of these talks captured the feeling of informal, in-depth dialogues that we were after.

Crowd at DOTI Fest 2019
Snook volunteers checking people in at DOTI Fest 2019
Two women laughing during fireside chat at DOTI Fest 2019


DOTI Fest 2019 took place on Thursday 31st October. 250 people came and one of them brought their dog.

In the morning there were talks covering topics ranging from better designed, more accessible services, transforming planning for the 21st century to how to put transparency and accountability at the centre of leadership.

Across the courtyard in the Pickle factory, there were panel discussions about inclusive healthcare and the power of collaboration for charities working together as collaborators rather than competitors.

There were delicious vegan bao buns at lunchtime and we were lucky with the weather. It was mild enough to sit on the veranda overlooking the canal in the autumn sunshine.

People discussing something at DOTI Fest 2019

After lunch, in-house Snooks hosted two workshops in the Oval Space. The first, on inclusive recruitment, was kicked off by Daniel Sintim, Inclusion and Talent Specialist at GDS. Then Dr Debbie Martin from Extinction Rebellion introduced the workshop on designing for the climate crisis.

In the Pickle Factory, there were discussions on topics ranging from housing, grass-roots activism, designing with communities and the ethical and environmental impact of fashion supply chains.

The closing keynote was a call to arms by Indy Johar on the pivotal moment we find ourselves at in history. He talked about the necessity to think bigger about how we can design a future that’s best for the planet and everyone on it. There was a party afterwards, making full use of the venue’s giant glitter ball and our SEO Sarah Drummond’s DJ-ing skills.

We’ve written elsewhere about our top takeaways from the day. And attendees have been sharing their impressions and feedback on social media and via our feedback forms. We’re still processing our learnings about planning and executing an event of this size but judging from the enthusiasm a repeat event next year this attempt at scaling seems to have succeeded.

Person presenting at DOTI Fest
Laptop with DOTI Fest stickers