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  • Design Thinking

    Here is an interesting article about "Design Thinking", a word that is being tossed around quite a bit these days.

    What IS Design Thinking? The author lists his thoughts:

    • A Focus on Customers/Users. It's not about the company and how your business is structured. The customer doesn't care about that. They are care about doing their tasks and achieving their goals within their limits. Design thinking begins with those.
    • Finding Alternatives. Designing isn't about choosing between multiple options, it's about creating those options. Brenda Laurel speaks of her love of James T. Kirk's "third option" instead of two undesirable choices. It's this finding of multiple solutions to problems that sets designers apart.
    • Ideation and Prototyping. The way we find those solutions is through brainstorming and then, importantly, building models to test the solutions out. Now, I know that scientists and architects and even accountants model things, and possibly in a similar way, but there's a significant difference: our prototypes aren't fixed. One doesn't necessarily represent the solution, only a solution. It's not uncommon for several prototypes to be combined into a single product.
    • Wicked Problems. The problems designers are used to taking on are those without a clear solution, with multiple stakeholders, fuzzy boundaries, and where the outcome is never known and usually unexpected. Being able to deal with the complexity of these "wicked" problems is one of the hallmarks of design thinking.
    • A Wide Range of Influences. Because design touches on so many subject areas (psychology, ergonomics, economics, engineering, architecture, art, etc.), designers should bring to the table a broad, multi-disciplinary spectrum of ideas from which to draw inspiration and solutions.
    • Emotion. In analytical thinking, emotion is seen as an impediment to logic and making the right choices. In design, decisions without an emotional component are lifeless and do not connect with people.
    What are your thoughts on Design Thinking?

    And not to burry it but has anyone taken at look at the site linked in the article for Stanford University's Institute of Design?

    In a way it's kind of exciting to see design being taken so seriously, at long last, and finally starting to be seen as an engine for business growth and innovation. However, it's clear that this new design thinking will create new design thinkers and I reiterate my point that all -- or most -- of those thinkers don't necessarily have to be designers.

    Also, to what extend should the popping up of all these design and design thinking schools signal a failing of the conversation of design thought and methodology in our industry? Why would it be necessary to establish NEW schools of design thinking? Why shouldn't these folks simply be attending existing design schools? Why do we designers dedicate so much time on our GD forums to discussions of software and production techniques and so little to design thinking?

    We complain that clients think all we do is push buttons and that it's all about the software but I suspect that if a client were to visit one of our GD forums, they'd see far more discussions about "how to get this effect in xyz program" or "having this issue with respect to abc production technique" than much thoughtful discussion about design/innovation methodoligies or best practices.
    Chris Gee
    http://www.thepreparedmind.com

  • #2
    About that Stanford site...

    You know what?
    You should work in a custom fabrication facility for one week. All this Design Thinking is old hat to us. My company's been doing it for 15+ years. There are others older than us all over the country been doing it for up to 25 years. How to get a group of people to work on one big hairy project, get it designed and to turn out as the client wants while staying under budget.

    Good old "working together to become greater than the sum of the individuals" is something that is being rediscovered recently. Wow. Gee. Whiz. Good luck - with the total ME generation we have up and coming.

    BTW-putting it all on a napkin is somehow very appropriate seeing as they don't actually have the d.school up and running yet.
    Last edited by PrintDriver; 08-15-2005, 05:52 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by PrintDriver
      You know what?
      You should work in a custom fabrication facility for one week. All this Design Thinking is old hat to us. My company's been doing it for 15+ years. There are others older than us all over the country been doing it for up to 25 years. How to get a group of people to work on one big hairy project, get it designed and to turn out as the client wants while staying under budget.
      Why would I ever want to work in a custom fabrication facility????

      I think the jist of the point I was making with respect to design thinking is that at some point, design production began to dominate the debate amongst design professionals, rather than design thinking.

      For instance, we often give more thought to HOW we do things as opposed to WHY we do things.

      For instance, views and click-throughs for online banner ads have declined steadily for a decade, yet many interaction designers still pump out banner ads with no thought to WHY they're doing it. There is also little debate as to what might constitute a better way of solving the broader challenge that people thought would be solved by banner ads.

      But like many solutions, banner ads represent an instance of "thin-slicing", where the best solution we came up with in a new medium was a similar solution we were already familiar with in a completely different medium. Once the inition thinking and solution -- or so we thought -- was arrived at, it then became a question of better PRODUCTION of those solutions, even if data suggested that the solution was no solution at all.

      Good old "working together to become greater than the sum of the individuals" is something that is being rediscovered recently. Wow. Gee. Whiz. Good luck - with the total ME generation we have up and coming.
      Well creative collaboration was never something that designers did in teams or groups as much as is required today. Especially with respect to multi-disciplinary teams.

      The old "crit" method of putting things up on the wall and finding fault with what was produced is not a workable model for fostering team/organizational creativity and the moment we designers are forced to lead multi-disciplinary teams to solve "unframed" challenges, this becomes quickly apparent.

      The following graphics from the NextD.org website represent visually what I'm talking about:









      BTW-putting it all on a napkin is somehow very appropriate seeing as they don't actually have the d.school up and running yet.
      At some point, every school was in it's beginning stages. I don't fault them for being in the beginning stages.
      Last edited by CHRISGEE; 08-15-2005, 06:15 PM.
      Chris Gee
      http://www.thepreparedmind.com

      Comment


      • #4
        how come the diagrams all use pentograms?

        I think design thinking might be against my religion.
        "It's never too late to be who you might have been." - George Eliot

        Comment


        • #5
          I heard that morea! yikes!
          I blog, you blog, we all blog!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by morea
            how come the diagrams all use pentograms?

            I think design thinking might be against my religion.
            LOL! I hear ya.

            The mindscapes are a great idea and the full set of mindscapes are worth a look.

            I can relate to many of them because in my own practice, having come from the old school way of doing things, I've had to shift methodologies in order to be able lead multi-disciplinary teams through design processes. In the old days, I could just get an assignment, go off to my desk and start sketching. I'd audibly growl if anyone came too close to my desk before I was ready to show my concepts, might have even snapped off a finger or two.

            Now the process isn't like that. As the mindscapes indicate, it's far more transparent and inclusive. I must get programming teams up to speed on the first day and workflow doesn't resemble the old "baton race" type style it did in the past, where deliverables got handed off once one professional was done with it.

            Since I design interaction and behavior, I am wedded to the development process once design "ends". This is why we are seeing so much confusion as to whether designers should know HTML or coding. We design behavior and interactivity and as such, our job doesn't begin or end with sketches and graphics. HOW the user interacts with a product we produce is just as important -- if not more -- as the "look and feel" of the product.

            This is best illustrated in the mindscape below:

            Chris Gee
            http://www.thepreparedmind.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Chris,
              I couldn't agree more in that many designers tend to discuss and/or validate themselves with production techniques and software, barely highlighting on the crucial thought processes that separate a designer from a button pusher. Prior to this posting I had never heard the term "design thinking," but it is a discussion that is long overdue. I think if every true designer could go into an interview or proposal with the bullet points (or ammunition, if you will) listed above, perhaps it would create recognition that there is value to what the designer brings to a business model. I think that the value of design thinking has been taken for granted ever since the advent of computers and desktop publishing/design. Hopefully this discussion will shift the emphasis away from the button pushing and back to where the real value is. Our industry is going to continue to erode if this shift doesn't occur.

              Comment


              • #8
                Interesting discussion Chris. I'm currently analyzing/developing a sales and marketing strategy for our firm. The basic goal of the program we're developing is to increase the demand for our creative services, rather than our technical services. We've got a good idea that will act as a starting point for our program, but our leadership is becoming lost in the details as usual and not condesing this nebula of information and details into a cohesive star. Hence my "unauthorized" analysis of the situation and subsequent visit to this thread.

                I'm beginning with an in-depth analysis of our current situation, and am attempting to define with pinpoint accuracy what the problem is, how it developed, and what we can do to solve it. The answers to these questions have to be sought before we develop an entire program, however clever and detailed it may be. I think this thread may hold some keys to reaching the answers I'm looking for.

                That demand for the creative services of our firm has declined is obvious. What is not obvious to me, is if this is representative of an industry trend, or if we are just being beat by the competition when it comes to creativity. I would suspect the former to be true, if this forum is any indication of current trends in graphic design. My general line of thinking at this point is that economic slowdown and focus on technical aspects of design has created the lack of demand for creative services.

                I propose the following model based on our recent discussions and thinking.

                Graphic design is a polar aligned, with "hot" art and emotion at one end, and "cold" science and logic at the other.

                My employer utilizes "hot" philosophy - graphic design is a creative process, much like a painting that continually evolves over an undeterminate period of time until the artist "feels" it is complete. In this pole, "design thinking" is the focus.

                The opposition to this school of thought is the "cold" philosophy - graphic design is a scientific process of solving problems, and success of the solutions is measured by how the design fulfills a specific set of criteria in the most efficient manner possible. The focus of this line of thinking is to "design production".

                In reality, most designers lie somewhere in the middle of these two schools of thought, with a few occupying the extreme poles. We've seen a shift away from "design thinking" in our projects, and are trying to develop a program that brings us back to that creative end of the spectrum. What is being suggested here, if I'm not mistaken, is the emergence the importance of cross/inter/multi-disciplinary teamwork, whichever prefix you elect to employ - and how this new teamwork is related to the polar model of graphic design.

                I have to admit, I had some trouble grasping what you were referring to with references to "inter-disciplinary" management in other posts. I beleive now, I see what it refers too. I first saw this concept addressed in much simpler terms at my job at the bronze art foundry. My mentor at that time had told me of his previous job, where the individuals associated with each step of the process had little communication with others involved in later, or previous stages. People in the intial stages of the process were concerned only with getting their job done, and any problems they caused would have to be solved by others involved with the later stages. This business failed, and my mentor was part of founding a new business. He saw this lack of communication as a problem, and saw the solution to be: everyone involved talks to each other. What you are calling cross-disciplinary teamwork.

                So we have a polar model of graphic design in which we have currently dropped ourselves toward the cold end. Cross-disciplinary teamwork is a relatively new phenomenon that takes place on the hot end - that is its a tool employed in development of new concepts and creative ideas. Where before creative thinking was the forte of one individual or a group of individuals from a single discipline (or area of expertise), it now derives from a group of people representing multiple areas of expertise. So if we want to increase the prominence of the creative role in graphic design, we not only need to downplay its technical aspects - we also need to push the creative aspects, and learn how to SHARE the concept development with others. This will be extremely difficult for graphic design to accomplish, as the egos of those most involved with traditional concept development will hinder the sharing process. Those who can put aside their egos, or at the very least mask them, will have a distinct advantage over the competition.

                Is there anything substantive here, or am I just rambling?
                . . . in bed

                (.)(.)™

                You can fry an egg on the devil's hiney, but it ain't never gonna come out sunny-side up, A-men!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by morea
                  how come the diagrams all use pentograms?

                  I think design thinking might be against my religion.
                  They're right side up - so its just Wiccans - they might by a little goofy, but they're pretty harmless.

                  Watch out for those upside down pentagrams - thats Satan's turf.
                  . . . in bed

                  (.)(.)™

                  You can fry an egg on the devil's hiney, but it ain't never gonna come out sunny-side up, A-men!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Leftbrain, I think you are on the right track. John also made a great observation as well.

                    With respect to the problem you and your group is trying to solve, can you tell me which problem-solving tools you are currently employing? I've found that in tackling "fuzzy", unframed problems like the ones you face, tackling the problem with a good session of "Challenge Mapping" helps to shed great insight. Are you familiar with that method?

                    That demand for the creative services of our firm has declined is obvious. What is not obvious to me, is if this is representative of an industry trend, or if we are just being beat by the competition when it comes to creativity. I would suspect the former to be true, if this forum is any indication of current trends in graphic design. My general line of thinking at this point is that economic slowdown and focus on technical aspects of design has created the lack of demand for creative services.
                    The demand for creative services has not waned. What's happening is that now more and more businesses are offering those services as part of packaged services. PR firms, consulting firms, ad agencies, marketing firms, printers, tech firms all offer creative services. And in many cases, they are just better at convincing the clients that they can better solve their business problems than a traditional design studio can.

                    And since we're seen as largely "making things pretty", then why shouldn't any serious businesses who value design as a business tool go with the "strategists" rather than the "decorators"?

                    And even though we resent that comparison, in too many cases there is little to refute that characterization. Heck, just take a look at the topics on this forum, the HOW forum and any others you can think of.

                    What's the ratio of threads like this vs. "How to get xyz program..." or "Know any really cool fonts?"

                    A couple of weeks I asked the question, "with all this talk of a new design heyday going on, why aren't DESIGNERS capitalizing on it in terms of our pocketbooks?" The answer is "because the business community doesn't believe that we are up to the challenge of being more than decorators" and we really haven't shown them otherwise.

                    Take a look at most designers' websites. We are used to the old print portfolio method of simply sticking work up there for people to look at. We should be moving toward the "case study" model where we introduce what the problem was when we started, our solution and how the solution solved the problem. That REALLY resonates with clients!

                    When we designed the Jell-O brand site a few years back, we created a case study highlighting the project and it's solution, which increased traffic by 300%. For a time, that was the most heavily trafficked page on our site and for about 4-5 months, Google searches for "Jell-O brand" yielded that page #1!

                    It resonated with clients because not only was it an elegant solution but it solved a concrete, well-defined business problem.

                    Of course, this comes back full circle because in order to solve business problems, we have to first (a) understand business and (b) have a process that allows us to DEFINE business problems.

                    Those are the two areas where designers struggle and that Design Thinking must address.
                    Chris Gee
                    http://www.thepreparedmind.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      This is exactly what I'm talking about.

                      Custom fabrication. For audience draw and participation.
                      But your diagrams lack a hub.

                      Take a museum exhibit. We manage interdisciplinary scheduling, your little pentagram chart if you will, but with us in the center, where we have a client with a concept. We hire an architectural exhibit designer to create the framework of the exhibit based on his portfolio of work. We hire a graphic designer to design graphics that integrate with the architecture of the exhibit, we hire copy-writers and image searchers (or do it ourselves), we have AV specialists to do video introductions, mini-movies and slideshows based on the overall graphic design, and we have the the game programmers to create educational interactives to teach and inform based on design and concept. To back that up, we have the shop - carpenters, metal workers, painters, printers, millwork, motion control, CNC, and most important, Management that can handle all these different artists to create a single work that the audience will enjoy and interact with.

                      It isn't a handoff situation. Everyone working on their piece concurrently after the major concept is hammered out with progress meetings and directional meetings as often as necessary.

                      Does that qualify as Design Thinking?
                      It certainly is interdisciplinary.

                      One thing you, as designers, have to realize...not everyone can handle all the major tasks it takes to build an exhibit like this. Or even the perfect website. You have to cooperate. Build a team you can work within if you want the pentagram model to work. Or find a project manager that can help keep all the threads going in the right directions and put him in the middle.
                      Last edited by PrintDriver; 08-16-2005, 12:14 AM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by PrintDriver
                        This is exactly what I'm talking about.

                        Custom fabrication. For audience draw and participation.
                        But your diagrams lack a hub.
                        I still don't get it, but maybe I'm slow. My wife says that happens sometimes.

                        Does that qualify as Design Thinking?
                        Not really. Your example pointed out the multi-disciplinary team but didn't tackle the other aspect which is the complex problem solving that occurred within that team. (see below)



                        How was your team able to DEFINE the problem? How was your team able to ensure that the problem, as defined, was the real problem, prior to finding a solution for it? What brainstorming methods did your team use? Which tools? There are many.

                        PrintDriver, I'm not really asking YOU these questions, just pointing out what doesn't get said or discussed by graphic designers on these boards.

                        Most of us will link to a finished piece, or maybe relate a problem that we encountered along the way with Illustrator or Flash, but the underlying problem-solving tools and techniques employed are not discussed.

                        This is a mistake because if we're not good at discussing it with each other, we'll never be able to discuss it with clients or teams of individuals.

                        For an interaction designer hoping to take their fledgling business to the next level, one day they will be faced with their first BIG project. How will they handle it? How will they go about getting the clients' in-house tech team to sign on? How will they solve the complex problems and break them down?

                        There are methodologies and processes that we each employ in our projects that help us to do these things, even if we're not aware. Others of us have trained in various methods of design thinking, innovation management and problem-solving and we need to share them.

                        Maybe we need to every once in a while share a case study that outlines the problem we faced, how we arrived at a solution and the result of that solution? I shared the Jell-O case study but maybe others wish to share some?

                        Doing more of this type of sharing of case studies and discussing design thinking will (a) help edify other designers, especially newbies. (b) Get us used to speaking in these terms to clients and communicating with them on a level that interests THEM.
                        Chris Gee
                        http://www.thepreparedmind.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You are right.
                          There is a lot of problem solving that goes into one of these shows. Unfortunately, it's a case by case issue and not easily brought up for discussion as what worked yesterday for one thing, may not work tomorrow for something similar.

                          There is a decision making process. However, collective 'brainstorming' doesn't normally happen though. Design by committee is very difficult and very time...uh...intensive. Someone always takes the lead, whether it is us as the client rep or the client themselves depending on their sophistication. Sometimes, if we are hired rather than hiring, the "architectural" design firm will take the lead. The firms that are most successful at it have those Project Managers I spoke of whose single focus is to make sure the job comes together.

                          You are trying to get designers to bite off too much. The graphic designer isn't the hub of the universe all the time. Neither is the AV designer or the Web designer...

                          You speak of two different issues. Design as part of a team and design as creative problem solving. I could bet that almost everyone who has posted in the Showcase here had at one point or another to solve a particular problem be it logo or layout. Maybe if a few more of them had put down what their thought process was in solving the particular problem at hand, others would say, "I see" more than shred it out of ignorance. Or offer other points of view.
                          Last edited by PrintDriver; 08-16-2005, 01:28 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PrintDriver
                            You are right.
                            There is a lot of problem solving that goes into one of these shows. Unfortunately, it's a case by case issue and not easily brought up for discussion as what worked yesterday for one thing, may not work tomorrow for something similar.
                            Not the solutions but the process would work over and over again. If we outline the typical design and development process with the 5 D's: Discovery, Definition, Design, Development and Deployment, I'm sure that your project and most others like it, utilized most or all aspects of those development stages.

                            You are trying to get designers to bite off too much. The graphic designer isn't the hub of the universe all the time. Neither is the AV designer or the Web designer...
                            True. But the designer is the person who is best able to create a unique experience for the user. Companies are now beginning to understand that the design of a product, like an interactive website for example, isn't merely about bringing in the designer at the end of the process to "decorate" the interface. They are realizing that interactive websites are far more effective and create better experiences when designers are brought in from the beginning and lead the process of designing that site and all aspects of interaction.

                            I've worked in advertising and seen projects where the motion graphics designer was brought in once the concepts were already decided beforehand by the ad guys and I've seen the results of projects where the motion graphics designer was brought in from the beginning and was able to bring their creativity, insight and input into the entire process. BIG difference! LOL!

                            I don't think designers should rule the world but designers should absolutely lead design projects. I see slowly where projects that weren't always seen as design projects are now seen that way. Not that long ago, interaction design projects were seen as "tech" or "IT" projects and now they're seen -- rightly -- as design projects.

                            You speak of two different issues. Design as part of a team and design as creative problem solving. I could bet that almost everyone who has posted in the Showcase here had at one point or another to solve a particular problem be it logo or layout. Maybe if a few more of them had put down what their thought process was in solving the particular problem at hand, others would say, "I see" more than shred it out of ignorance. Or offer other points of view.
                            I agree 100%! That's why I never participate in online crits. A very beautiful final piece could be an ultimately unsuccessful piece because it failed to solve the problems it was supposed to address. How can we know? How should we judge?

                            I think for many, showcases and critiques are basically some folks' excuse to get out their frustrations.
                            Chris Gee
                            http://www.thepreparedmind.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              [QUOTE=PrintDriver]You are right.
                              You are trying to get designers to bite off too much. The graphic designer isn't the hub of the universe all the time. Neither is the AV designer or the Web designer...

                              PrintDriver,
                              I am curious now, as I have seen you play the devil's advocate in several threads, as to what it is that you do for a living? Are you a designer?

                              Comment

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