How can I improve visual stories in audits? What does information design mean? Does an objective visual exist? What makes a visual good? With these questions, I started the Master Design Research at the Willem de Kooning Academy in 2016. A big, exciting adventure for someone with a solid research background but without design education. Luckily, I could convince the admissions board by showing my self-taught design skills and sharing my self-proclaimed mission. And what started out as my own small quest (visuals in auditing) in 5 years evolved into a new career path at the Netherlands Court of Audit (NCA). And still continues to unfold…
The NCA left the phase of ‘why design is important’ and enters the phase of the how: ‘how can we add design to our audit work (because it is important)?’ Since I completed the Master Design in 2018 (download my thesis here) my focus broadened from ‘visual stories’ to ‘design research’. Visuals are still an important element of my work, but other elements of design research are just as important in my work: putting the human in the center and working iteratively.
In October 2018, the NCA gave me permission to set up the so-called ‘Design Audit Studio’ (DAS), a unit inside the NCA where we experiment with ways to adapt ‘design’ to the world of auditing. Diny van Est did the setup and joined in 2018, Wiesje Korf joined the DAS in 2019 and Lizet van Tilburg joined in 2020. As a multidisciplinary team, we help auditors to create a shared image, initiate effective partnerships, and discover new perspectives for action. For example, making information visual/tangible helps researchers gain new insights. And knowing the needs of stakeholders, such as members of the House of Representatives, ministers, civil servants, and other stakeholders, ensures useful and accessible knowledge products. The corporate site of the NCA holds more info on design research methods in audits (now in Dutch, soon in English): https://www.rekenkamer.nl/over-de-algemene-rekenkamer/werkwijze/innovatie/design-audit-studio
On several occasions, I shared experiences with design in audits. In 2020 I gave an online presentation to members of the Dutch and San Francisco Bay Area ethnogroups and wrote and presented a paper on the new Auditors Alliance platform (OECD). In 2019 I gave a lecture at the Summer School in public auditing and accountability (Pisa), a four-day workshop at the Cour des Comptes Maroc (Rabat), a workshop at the National Audit Office of Finland (Helsinki), and a four-day workshop at Cour des Comptes Algerie (Alger). At the moment the DAS is working on an e-learning module on visual stories in audits, which we hope to publish in the course of 2021.
Want to know more about my background? See my Linkedin-page.
And follow the adventures of the DAS on Linkedin #DesignAuditStudio: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/hashtag/designauditstudio/