What is Design Thinking?

Place, Product

Design Thinking is a very popular and widely used term that I think is a half full half empty metaphor about the power struggle between the designers and the business leaders. In its core, it is a manifesto saying that design should be part of the strategy and problem solving, and you should have a holistic and systematic approach including design thinking process in your business as a team.

Smarter companies have finally realized that design is not cosmetics; it is a strategy for making remarkable things happen. – Brian Collins

by Fraulein Shiller There was a very interesting article on the Communication Arts magazine last month (Design annual edition) about this subject which makes me think if there is anything new about this topic and how you can apply design thinking to your processes in your business. I don’t stuck too much with the terms, definitions and the labels because they mean different things to different people, and the bottom-line what matters is always how you apply that to your work. Strategic thinking is at the core of any ‘smart’ company and when you ask me what is the difference between design thinking, I am not 100% sure. But I strongly agree that any architect/entrepreneur should have a killer design instinct while building her team and product. Whatever we do, touch, like, want is mostly influenced by design decisions made by others so any person who claims to be a designer should have the responsibility to join the strategic thinking process in the business.

Image above by Fraulein Schiller – another perspective on design thinking.

I am happy to see more and more universities and programs started giving more importance on the strategic thinking along with the aesthetics and function. Here is a case study by a student at Pratt named Susane Galarza; She is a citizen of Venezuela, and wanted to help her impoverished homeland.

The big picture - Galarza developed a design methodology as a visual thinker. Her goal was to first understand how people work and what were the factors that they cannot get out of poverty by analyzing the human behavior and external factors.

Analysis – She realized after analysis that the missing part was the lack of social connections. The people had the other skills necessary like job skills, services but it all needed to be connected. So she started changing her framework and design it again from scratch.

Connecting the dots - She created a map of sticky notes and connected the dots to understand all the relationship in the problem. By redefining the problem, she realized that it was not only that she needs to have them access to the right opportunities and products but also she needs to create a social connection for the region.

Create the plan – She based her design on creating two way relationships. The weakness in this case was that the people were unreliable. In order to overcome that problem, she designed a website, a uniform (for group identity and empowerment) and made contracts that people would sign with the hope that it would increase their credibility. These all seems very minor details, but as we all know, small differences can trigger major changes (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point)

Here is a series of notes on design thinking by Paul Hughes presented in David’s blog, I highly recommend you to check this blog out.

Designers want to get more responsibility in not only designing products but also shaping the future of the companies – and they deserve it.

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