What We Do

Our workplaces: many of us spend most of our lives in them. Often, these workplaces can be drab, dreary spaces in which people may feel anxious, uncomfortable, and unproductive. At DORIS, we help solve this problem by understanding people and empowering them to create spaces that are effective for the unique ways in which people work.

Simply put, we enable people to design, and in our world “design” means “problem solve.” We visit our clients’ offices or invite them to join us in our Design Lab. There, we ask them targeted questions that give us an understanding of who they are and what makes them tick. We solve design problems of all sizes, helping people find innovative solutions from within.

How We Work

First of all, we listen.

Maybe your office has dead zones or wasted space. Maybe your employees are disconnected, each of them working in silos. Maybe employee morale is low because people are uncomfortable. We use an innovative Design Thinking process to get to the bottom of these problems—or opportunities, as we like to call them. It isn’t our job to just provide solutions for people, it is our job to equip them with the tools they need to create their own well-considered workspaces.

Using divergent and convergent thinking, we provide the process, and your people provide the content. This enables your team to move from abstract concepts to concrete ideas.

In short: we collaborate, support, and equip.

Simply put, we enable people to design, and in our world, design means problem solve.

Why This Works

It’s a lesson you’ve learned since you were a kid: teamwork is important. We believe in the power of collective creativity, and we’ve found that when everyone contributes to the process, the results ultimately last much longer.

We don’t want to sound like a bunch of hippies, but at DORIS, we live by an unofficial mantra: power to the people. That’s why we always refer to people as people, and not just users, and we believe that those people, when they are actively engaged in the design process, will be better equipped to use their workspaces to the fullest potential.

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Our Eight Step Process

Eight Step Process

Your employees spend lots of time in the office.

Does their workspace motivate them to do great work?


Our Story

DORIS is the result of a graduate-level thesis project. Our founder, Sam Julka, believed there had to be a better way to create work environments. In her final year of graduate school, Sam worked on a research project that provided people-centered solutions to common workplace woes. In the process, she designed a toolkit of valuable research methods, and DORIS was born.

Because DORIS believes passionately in connecting with and understanding people, it makes sense there is also a face behind the letters: Doris Sodersten, Sam’s grandmother. The legendary Doris was born on a farm in a small Wisconsin town. As a young woman, she moved to the south side of Chicago and lived to the ripe old age of ninety-eight. Doris’ farm girl problem solving skills combined with her big city street smarts embodied a spirit of ingenuity, positivity, and “get it done”-ness that informed and inspired the vision of DORIS as a company.

Our Founder

A graduate of Indiana University’s Herron School of Art and Design, Sam Julka is an enthusiastic and compassionate design researcher who is committed to the belief that design can change the world. Sam is a listener, and she’s incredibly empathetic—two skills that make her incredibly good at what she does.

If you tell Sam a sad story do not be surprised if you see a tear well up. Fear not: she has a firm grip on reality. She is just passionate about her work and thinks the key to making change in a complex world is listening to people’s struggles and enabling them to become positive change agents.

Sam lives in an historic downtown Indianapolis neighborhood with her husband Chris, their twin boys—Jasper and Henry—and their dog, Porter. Though she doesn’t consider herself a professional photographer, she loves taking photos and is never without her camera. She also spends her rare moments of spare time playing golf, shopping locally, and walking to nearby restaurants.

Throughout the course of her education, Sam worked on several people-centered projects that helped inform the collaborative Design Thinking process she uses to this day. With this process, she helps empower people—especially people who don’t consider themselves designers—to improve their workplaces.

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A recent study indicates that creativity is the number one thing CEOs look for in their employees.

What does your workspace do to encourage creativity?


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A Space for Serendipitous Encounters

When a mid-sized sales organization realized that its 50 employees were working in small, exclusionary groups rather than as a unified team, they knew they needed to change some things. Silos like this inhibit the sharing of knowledge between groups and ultimately can stifle creativity and innovation. See how DORIS helped them solve a communication problem by co-creating a new space within their office that allowed for serendipitous, meaningful encounters.

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Sharing our Story

An organization with two recently remodeled office locations needed to determine how their sales team might consistently and compellingly tell their story through elements within their space.

Next Project

We understand that design processes can be lengthy and expensive. But if you find yourself knowing that your organization needs real, carefully considered change from within, we believe that the DORIS approach to design thinking can help move you forward. In fact, we fit best in situations where a “fuzzy” problem has been discovered, but no solution has been found. If you have a general idea of what you want, but you don’t know exactly how to get there, we look forward to working with you soon.


You want to encourage your employees to invest in their work.

What are you doing to promote your internal entrepreneurs?

Become a Client

Who Needs Us

Do we need to work with a company like DORIS? You’re probably asking yourself that, and it’s a fair question. We know that design processes can be lengthy and expensive.

But if you’ve ever found yourself saying something like “we know something needs to change in our space, but we don’t really know what it is or where to start,” then we are your place. In fact, we fit best in situations where a “fuzzy” problem has been discovered, but no solution has been found. Most of our clients have a general idea of what they want, but they also don’t know exactly how to get there.

Who We Are Not

First, let’s get this out of the way: if you’re looking for an interior designer, graphic designer, or product designer, you’ve come to the wrong place. Phew, we got that off our chest. We are a design research organization looking to gather valuable insights from your team. We provide you and your people with an engaging experience that honors your value system and uses it to create lasting, meaningful change.

We are design researchers, not design implementers. At the end of your project, we will hand you a brief or a planning matrix, not a construction document, identity system or product drawings.

Your Commitment

We hope you get it by now: DORIS isn’t for everyone. If you are a small team of executives making decisions for everyone else, we are not your solution. If you like to dictate change to the rest of your organization, we are not for you. If you are interested in excluding people from your design process, you might want to look elsewhere.

We ask for access to everyone within your organization. We like to build trust and engage your people in the process. When you work with us, we are asking you to commit to making the process the best it can possibly be.

It’s a big commitment, but we’ve seen it work. In fact, we believe in it so much, it’s the only way we like to do business.

We provide you and your people with an engaging experience that honors your value system and uses it to create lasting, meaningful change.

Participatory Design Research


Many times your employees have the solutions that move your business forward.

What are you doing to capitalize on the wisdom of your workforce?

The Lab

How it Works

We help people create better spaces, so it is important to us that we have a pretty cool space of our own. We like to call it The Lab. It’s in a 2,000 square foot brick building that was built in the 19th century, and we’ve completely reimagined it to serve as a space where clients can come spend time with us.

It’s one of our favorite tools we use, and it gets used a LOT. Groups collaborate there, white boards wait to be filled with new ideas, and wide open spaces give plenty of space to think and play. It is a great safe space for groups to block out all the noise of their everyday work and focus deeply on the challenges they face.

The lab is open to anyone and everyone. All we ask is that you come in with an open mind and plan on leaving with some great new ideas.

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Research has shown that employee turnover can be very costly.

Does your environment attract and retain top talent?

Contact Us

Check us out! We are easily accessible just how you are. If you’re on foot, just take Market Street east from Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument. If you’re on a bike, just head 4 blocks east of the Cultural Trail on Market Street. Bring your bike inside, we have special bike parking in our courtyard! To catch a bus, the closest bus routes are 11 and 21. If you are driving, we offer free parking in the lot next to our building. Enter the lot west of Park Street, off of Market Street.

Come Visit

Doris Research
535 E. Wabash St.
Indianapolis IN 46204

DORIS is located downtown Indianapolis, just east of Monument Circle. We welcome you to visit us!

Let’s Chat

Office 317.713.6364

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