Design Thinking

Design thinking refers to a process from which design concepts (proposals for new products) emerge.[1] Design thinking encompasses cognitive and practical activities including problem-finding, decision-making, creativity, sketching, prototyping and evaluating.[2] During design thinking, the designer's attention oscillates between their understanding of a problematic context and their ideas for a solution.[3] New solution ideas can lead to a deeper understanding of the problematic context, which in turn triggers more solution ideas.

Design thinking is also associated with various prescriptions for designing products and services within business and social contexts.[4][5] Some of these prescriptions have been criticized for oversimplifying the design process and trivializing the role of craft and making things.[6][7] However, design thinking primarily denotes the cognitive process of designing,[8] rather than any specific technique or method for facilitating that process.

Developing creativity techniques in the 1950s and new design methods in the 1960s led to the idea of design thinking as a particular approach to creatively solving problems. Among the first authors to write about design thinking were John E. Arnold in "Creative Engineering" (1959) and L. Bruce Archer in "Systematic Method for Designers" (1965).[9][10]

Design thinking example video

Solution-focused thinking

Design thinking is a form of solution-focused thinking with the intent of producing a constructive future result.

Design thinking identifies and investigates both known and ambiguous aspects of the current situation in an effort to discover parameters and alternative solution sets which may lead to one or more satisfactory goals. Because design thinking is iterative, intermediate "solutions" are potential starting points of alternative paths, allowing for redefinition of the initial problem, in a process of co-evolution of problem and solution.[11]

Solution-based vs. problem-based

In 1979 Bryan Lawson published results from an empirical study to investigate the different problem-solving approaches of designers and scientists. He took two groups of students - final year students in architecture and post-graduate science students - and asked them to create one-layer structures from a set of coloured blocks. The perimeter of the structure had to optimize either the red or the blue colour; however, there were unspecified rules governing the placement and relationship of some of the blocks. Lawson found that:

The scientists adopted a technique of trying out a series of designs which used as many different blocks and combinations of blocks as possible as quickly as possible. Thus they tried to maximise the information available to them about the allowed combinations. If they could discover the rule governing which combinations of blocks were allowed they could then search for an arrangement which would optimise the required colour around the layout. [problem-focused] By contrast, the architects selected their blocks in order to achieve the appropriately coloured perimeter. If this proved not to be an acceptable combination, then the next most favourably coloured block combination would be substituted and so on until an acceptable solution was discovered. [solution-focused]

-- Bryan Lawson, How Designers Think[12]

Nigel Cross concluded that Lawson's studies suggested that scientists problem solve by analysis, while designers problem solve by synthesis.[13]

As a process for problem-solving

Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking includes "building up" ideas, with few, or no, limits on breadth during a "brainstorming" phase.[14] This helps reduce fear of failure in the participant(s) and encourages input and participation from a wide variety of sources in the ideation phases. The phrase "thinking outside the box" has been coined to describe one goal of the brainstorming phase and is encouraged, since this can aid in the discovery of hidden elements and ambiguities in the situation and discovering potentially faulty assumptions.

One version of the design thinking process has seven stages: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. Within these seven steps, problems can be framed, the right questions can be asked, more ideas can be created, and the best answers can be chosen. The steps aren't linear; they can occur simultaneously and repeat. A simpler expression of the process is Robert McKim's phrase "Express-Test-Cycle".[15] An alternative five-phase description of the process is described by Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer: (re)defining the problem, needfinding and benchmarking, ideating, building, testing.[16]

The path through these process steps is not strictly circular. Meinel and Leifer state: "While the stages are simple enough, the adaptive expertise required to choose the right inflection points and appropriate next stage is a high order intellectual activity that requires practice and is learnable."[16]

Wicked problems

Design thinking is especially useful when addressing what Horst Rittel referred to as wicked problems, which are ill-defined or tricky (as opposed to wicked in the sense of malicious).[17] With ill-defined problems, both the problem and the solution are unknown at the outset of the problem-solving exercise. This is as opposed to "tame" or "well-defined" problems where the problem is clear, and the solution is available through some technical knowledge.[18]

Attributes

Principles

Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer, of the HPI-Stanford Design Thinking Program, laid out four principles for the successful implementation of design thinking:[16]

  • The human rule, which states that all design activity is ultimately social in nature, and any social innovation will bring us back to the 'human-centric point of view'.
  • The ambiguity rule, in which design thinkers must preserve ambiguity by experimenting at the limits of their knowledge and ability, enabling the freedom to see things differently.
  • The re-design rule, where all design is re-design; this comes as a result of changing technology and social circumstances but previously solved, unchanged human needs.
  • The tangibility rule; the concept that making ideas tangible always facilitates communication and allows designers to treat prototypes as 'communication media'.

Methods and process

Design methods and design process are often used interchangeably, but there are significant differences between the two.

Design methods are techniques, rules, or ways of doing things that someone uses within a design discipline. Methods for design thinking include interviewing, creating user profiles, looking at other existing solutions, creating prototypes, asking questions like the five whys, drawing issue maps or issue trees or mind maps, and situation analysis.

Design process is the sequence of phases of actions used in designing. Because of design's parallel and iterative nature, there are many different paths through the phases. This is part of the reason design thinking may seem to be "fuzzy" or "ambiguous" when compared to more analytical methods of science and engineering. For example, Koberg and Bagnall wrote The Universal Traveler in 1972 which presented a circular, seven-step soft systems approach to problem-solving in daily life[19] that can be followed linearly or in feed-back loops. Many other expressions and models of design processes have been proposed. Hugh Dubberly's free e-book How Do You Design: A Compendium of Models summarizes a large number of design process models.[20]

Use of visual analogy

Ill-defined problems often contain higher-order and obscure relationships. Design thinking can address these through the use of analogies. An understanding of the expected results, or lack of domain-related knowledge for the task, may be developed by correlating different internal representations, such as images, to develop an understanding of the obscure or ill-defined elements of the situation. The process involves several complex cognitive mechanisms, as the design task often has elements in multiple cognitive domains--visual, mathematical, auditory or tactile--requiring the usage of multiple "languages", like visual thinking.[]

The languages of design

Conventionally, designers communicate mostly in visual or object languages.[13] Symbols, signs, and metaphors are used through the medium of sketching, diagrams and technical drawings to translate abstract requirements into concrete objects. The way designers communicate, then, is through understanding this way of coding design requirements in order to produce built products.[21]

The process

As an approach, design thinking taps into innate human capacities that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices.[22] The process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps: inspiration, ideation, and implementation;[23]or alternatively: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.[24] Projects may loop back through inspiration, ideation, and implementation more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions. Therefore, design thinking can feel chaotic, but over the life of a project, participants come to see that the process makes sense and achieves results, even though its form differs from the linear, milestone-based processes that organizations typically undertake.[25]

Inspiration

Generally, the design process starts with the inspiration phase: understanding the problem or the opportunity. This understanding can be documented in a brief which includes constraints that gives the project team a framework from which to begin, benchmarks by which they can measure progress, and a set of objectives to be realized--such as price point, available technology, and market segment.[25]

Empathy

Both Tom and David Kelley have stated that Design Thinking begins with empathy. [1] Designers should approach users with the goal of understanding their wants and needs, what might make their life easier and more enjoyable and how technology can be useful for them. Empathic design transcends physical ergonomics to include understanding the psychological and emotional needs of people - the way they do things, why and how they think and feel about the world, and what is meaningful to them.[24]

Ideation: Divergent and convergent thinking

Ideation is idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of "going wide" in terms of concepts and outcomes.[24] The process is characterized by the alternation of divergent and convergent thinking, typical of design thinking process. To achieve divergent thinking, it is important to have a diverse group of people involved in the process. Multidisciplinary people--architects who have studied psychology, artists with MBAs, or engineers with marketing experience--often demonstrate this quality. They're people with the capacity and the disposition for collaboration across disciplines.[25]

Interdisciplinary teams typically move into a structured brainstorming process by "thinking outside the box". During this process participants' ideas should not be judged and participants should take on generative roles.[26] Participants are encouraged to come up with as many ideas as possible and to explore new alternatives. Good ideas naturally rise to the top, whereas the bad ones drop off early on. Every member of the team needs to possess a depth of skill that allows him or her to make tangible contributions to the outcome, and to be empathic for people and for disciplines beyond their own. It tends to be expressed as openness, curiosity, optimism, a tendency toward learning through doing, and experimentation.[22] Convergent thinking, on the other hand, allows for zooming and focusing on the different proposals to select the best choice, which permits continuation of the design thinking process to achieve the final goals. After collecting lots of ideas, a team goes through a process of synthesis in which it has to translate ideas into insights that can lead to solutions or opportunities for change. This approach helps multiply options to create choices and different insights about human behavior and define in which direction the process should go on. These might be either visions of new product offerings, or choices among various ways of creating interactive experience.[25]

Complexity and mindset conditions

More choices mean more complexity, which can affect organizations' decisions to restrict choices in favor of the obvious and the incremental. Although this tendency may be more efficient in the short run, it tends to make an organization conservative and inflexible in the long run.[22] Divergent thinking is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation, and a way to diverge is to define a mindset of condition in which people are encouraged to produce lots of ideas. The most notable themes fall into three general traits: open-minded collaboration, courage, and conviction.[27] Open-minded collaboration accepts new ideas and contributions. Courage is also fundamental because innovative ideas are characterized by a high risk of failure. Conviction is the mindset which permits people to pursue a process or an idea even if there are constraints or obstacles.

Implementation and prototyping

The third space of the design thinking process is implementation, when the best ideas generated during ideation are turned into something concrete.[22] At the core of the implementation process is prototyping: turning ideas into actual products and services that are then tested, iterated, and refined. A prototype helps to gather feedback and improve the idea. Prototypes speed up the process of innovation because they allow one to understand strengths and weaknesses of new solutions. Prototyping is particularly important for products and services destined for the developing world, where the lack of infrastructure, retail chains, communication networks, literacy, and other essential pieces of the system often make it difficult to design new products and services.[22] Prototyping, testing, "failing many times but quickly and cheaply in order to succeed"[28] are different existing methods to test solutions, but the earlier users can give feedback, the lower the costs for the organizations and the higher the level of adaptation of the solution to customer needs.

Application

In business

Historically, designers tended to be involved only in the later parts of the process of new product development, focusing their attention on the aesthetics and functionality of products. Many businesses and other organisations now realise the utility of embedding design as a productive asset throughout organisational policies and practices, and design thinking has been used to help many different types of business and social organisations to be more constructive and innovative.[29][5] In the 2000s there was a significant growth of interest in design thinking as a catalyst for gaining competitive advantage within business,[30] but doubts around design thinking as a panacea for success have also been expressed.[6] Designers bring their methods into business either by taking part themselves from the earliest stages of product and service development processes[31] or by training others to use design methods and to build innovative thinking capabilities within organisations.[32]

In computer science

Design thinking has been central to user-centered design and human-centered design--the dominant methods of designing human-computer interfaces--for over 40 years.[33] Design thinking is also central to recent conceptions of software development in general.[34]

In education

All forms of professional design education can be assumed to be developing design thinking in students, even if only implicitly, but design thinking is also now explicitly taught in general as well as professional education, across all sectors of education. Design as a subject was introduced into secondary schools' educational curricula in the UK in the 1970s, gradually replacing and/or developing from some of the traditional art and craft subjects, and increasingly linked with technology studies. This development sparked related research studies in both education and design.[35][13][36]

In the K-12 sector, design thinking is used to promote creative thinking, teamwork, and student responsibility for learning. New courses in design thinking have also been introduced at university level, especially where linked with business and innovation studies. A notable early course of this type was introduced at Stanford University in 2003, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school. It draws students from several Stanford departments, including engineering, medicine, business, law, and education, utilizing the d.school approach to design thinking to develop innovative solutions to problems. Also, the REDLab group, from Stanford's Graduate School of Education, conducts research into design thinking in K-12, secondary, and post-secondary settings.[37]

History

John E. Arnold was one of the first authors to use the term 'design thinking'. In "Creative Engineering" (1959) he distinguishes four areas of design thinking.[9] According to Arnold, design thinking can yield (1) novel functionality, i.e. solutions that satisfy a novel need or solutions that satisfy an old need in an entirely new way, (2) higher performance levels of a solution, (3) lower production costs or (4) increased salability. Thus, according to this early concept, 'design thinking' covers all forms of product innovation, including especially incremental innovation ("higher performance") and radical innovation ("novel functionality").[38] Arnold recommends a balanced approach: Product developers should seek opportunities in all four areas of design thinking.

It is rather interesting to look over the developmental history of any product or family of products and try to classify the changes into one of the four areas. It might be a good idea for each one of you to do that for your own company's products. Your group, too, might have gotten into a rut and is inadvertently doing all of your design thinking in one area and is missing good bets in other areas.

-- J.E. Arnold, 1959/2016, p. 119[9]

Another early author to use the term 'design thinking' was L. Bruce Archer in his book "Systematic Method for Designers" (1965).[10] The notion of design as a "way of thinking" in the sciences can be traced to Herbert A. Simon's 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial,[39] and in design engineering to Robert McKim's 1973 book Experiences in Visual Thinking.[15] Bryan Lawson's 1980 book How Designers Think, primarily addressing design in architecture, began a process of generalising the concept of design thinking.[12] A 1982 article by Nigel Cross on Designerly ways of knowing established some of the intrinsic qualities and abilities of design thinking that also made it relevant in general education and thus for wider audiences.[13] Peter Rowe's 1987 book Design Thinking, which described methods and approaches used by architects and urban planners, was a significant early usage of the term in the design research literature.[40]Rolf Faste expanded on McKim's work at Stanford University in the 1980s and 1990s,[41][42] teaching "design thinking as a method of creative action."[43] Design thinking was adapted for business purposes by Faste's Stanford colleague David M. Kelley, who founded the design consultancy IDEO in 1991.[44]Richard Buchanan's 1992 article "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking" expressed a broader view of design thinking as addressing intractable human concerns through design.[45]

Timeline

pre-1960 The origins of design thinking partially lie in the development of creativity techniques in the 1950s. Harold van Doren published Industrial Design - A Practical Guide to Product Design and Development, which includes discussions of design methods and practices, in 1940. John E. Arnold began teaching about creativity at MIT in 1951 and began teaching at Stanford in 1957.
early 1960s The first notable books on methods of creativity are published by William J. J. Gordon (1961)[46] and Alex Faickney Osborn (1963).[47]

The 1962 Conference on Systematic and Intuitive Methods in Engineering, Industrial Design, Architecture and Communications, London, UK, started interest studying design processes and developing new design methods. [48]

Books on methods and theories of design in different fields are published by Morris Asimow (1962) (engineering),[49]Christopher Alexander (1964) (architecture),[50]L. Bruce Archer (1965) (industrial design),[10] and John Chris Jones (1970) (product and systems design).[51]

1965 L. Bruce Archer argues that design is "not merely a craft-based skill but should be considered a knowledge-based discipline in its own right, with rigorous methodology and research principles incorporated into the design process". He is also perhaps the first author to use the term 'design thinking', in a limited sense, in his book "Systematic Method for Designers", in the comment "Ways have had to be found to incorporate knowledge of ergonomics, cybernetics, marketing and management science into design thinking".[10]
1967 Archer develops the relationship of design thinking with management: "The time is rapidly approaching when design decision making and management decision making techniques will have so much in common that the one will become no more than the extension of the other". [52]
1969 Herbert A. Simon, notable for his research in artificial intelligence and cognitive sciences, proposes a "science of design" that would be "a body of intellectually tough, analytic, partly formalizable, partly empirical, teachable doctrine about the design process."[39]
1972 Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall pioneer a 'soft systems' design process for dealing with the problems of 'everyday life' in their book The Universal Traveler.[53]
1973 Robert McKim publishes Experiences in Visual Thinking,[15] which includes "Express, Test, Cycle" (ETC) as an iterative backbone for design processes.

Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber publish "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning" showing that design and planning problems are wicked problems as opposed to "tame", single disciplinary, problems of science.

1979 L. Bruce Archer extends inquiry into designerly ways of knowing, claiming: "There exists a designerly way of thinking and communicating that is both different from scientific and scholarly ways of thinking and communicating, and as powerful as scientific and scholarly methods of inquiry when applied to its own kinds of problems."[54]

"Design Studies", the first research journal focussing on design processes begins publishing.

1980s Systematic engineering design methods are developed, particularly in Germany and Japan. The International Conferences on Engineering Design (ICED) is formed.

Several books on engineering design methods are published, by Hubka (1982),[55] Pahl and Beitz (1984),[56] French (1985),[57]Cross (1989),[58] and Pugh (1991).[59]

In the USA, the National Science Foundation initiative on design theory and methods led to substantial growth in engineering design methods in the late-1980s. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) launched its series of conferences on design theory and methodology.

The 1980s also sees the rise of human-centered design and the rise of design-centered business management.

1980 Bryan Lawson publishes How Designers Think about design cognition in the context of architecture and urban planning.[12]
1983 Donald Schön publishes The Reflective Practitioner in which he sought to establish "an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes that [design and other] practitioners bring to situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflict."[60]
1986 The business management strategy Six Sigma emerges as a way to streamline the design process for quality control and profit.
1987 Peter Rowe publishes Design Thinking, focused on architecture and planning.[40]
1988 Rolf Faste publishes "Ambidextrous Thinking", extending McKim's process of visual thinking to design as a "whole-body way of doing."[42]
1991 The first symposium on Research in Design Thinking is held at Delft University, The Netherlands.[61]

IDEO design consultancy formed by combining three industrial design companies. They are one of the first design companies to showcase their design process, which draws heavily on the Stanford University curriculum.

1992 Richard Buchanan's article "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking" is published.[45]

Eugene S. Ferguson's book Engineering and the Mind's Eye is published.

1999 Pierre Sachse and Adrian Specker publish the book "Design Thinking" at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - ETH Zurich.[62]
21st Century The start of the 21st century brought a significant increase in interest in design thinking as the term becomes popularized in the business press. Books about how to create a more design-focused workplace where innovation can thrive are written for the business sector by Richard Florida (2002),[63]Daniel Pink (2006),[64]Roger Martin (2007),[65]Malcolm Gladwell (2008),[66] Tim Brown (2009),[67] Thomas Lockwood (2010),[68] Vijay Kumar (2012),[69] Larry Keeley (2013),[70] and Kim Erwin (2014).[71] This shift of design thinking away from the creation of products into the business sector sparked a debate about the hijacking and exploitation of design thinking.
2001 The UK based design consultancy firm livework opens up for business on the basis that the design approach should be extended and adapted to tackle the design of services, marking the beginning of the service design movement.[72]
2005 Stanford University's d.school begins to teach engineering students design thinking as a formal method.[16]
2007 Hasso Plattner Institute for IT Systems Engineering in Potsdam, Germany establishes a design thinking program.[16]
2008 IIT Institute of Design launches Design Camp, premier executive education program offering frameworks and tools for practicing innovation in a variety of industries.[73]
2015 Jenna Leonardo, Katie Kirsch, Rachel H. Chung and Natalya Thakur from Stanford University's d.school founded Girls Driving for a Difference[74] to teach design thinking to young girls across the United States.[75]

See also

References

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  73. ^ "Design Camp". IIT Institute of Design--Beta website.
  74. ^ "Girls Driving for a Difference". Girls Driving for a Difference.
  75. ^ Cole, Samantha (3 March 2015). "How four women in an RV plan to change young girls' lives: this summer, four Stanford students will bring design-thinking workshops to middle-school girls at summer camps across the country". Fast Company. Retrieved 2015.

Further reading

  • Cross, Nigel. Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work. Oxford UK and New York: Berg, 2011.
  • Martin, Roger L. The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, Harvard Business Press, 2009.
  • Mootee, Idris. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation. Wiley, 2013.
  • Di Russo, Stefanie. "Understanding the behaviour of design thinking in complex environments" . PhD thesis, Swinburne University, 2016
  • Faste, Rolf. "The Human Challenge in Engineering Design." International Journal of Engineering Education, vol 17, 2001.
  • Kelly, Tom. Ten Faces of Innovation. London: Profile, 2006.
  • Lawson, Bryan. How Designers Think. Oxford UK: Architectural Press/Elsevier, 2006.
  • Liedtka, Jeanne. Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit For Managers. Columbia University Press, 2011, ISBN 0-231-15838-6
  • Liedtka, Jeanne. Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works. Columbia University Press, 2013, ISBN 0-231-16356-8
  • Lockwood, Thomas. Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience and Brand Value. New York, NY: Allworth, 2010.
  • Lupton, Ellen. Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-56898-760-6.
  • Martin, Roger L. The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win through Integrative Thinking. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2007.
  • Nelson, George. How to See: a Guide to Reading Our Man-made Environment. San Francisco, CA: Design Within Reach, 2006.
  • Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future. New York: Riverhead, 2006.
  • Plattner, Hasso et al. Design Thinking: Understand, Improve, Apply. Berlin; Heidelberg: Springer, 2010.
  • Rittel, Horst, and Melvin Webber. "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning." Policy Sciences 4.2 (1973): 155-69.
  • Sachse, Pierre; Specker, Adrian: Design Thinking: Analyse und Unterstützung konstruktiver Entwurfstätigkeiten. Zurich: vdf ETH, 1999.
  • Schön, Donald. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action. New York: Basic Books, 1983.
  • Schön, Donald. Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1987.

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