10 Takeaways from Design Thinking

Takeaway #1

When designers — especially skilled, successful designers — talk spontaneously about what they do, they talk almost exclusively about the outcomes, not the activities…Their enthusiasm lies in evaluating what they produce, and not in analysing how they produce it.

I find this observation not only relevant for designers, but anyone who wishes to improve their work. Learning isn’t the result of developing the perfect solution; learning happens when you are aware of the journey it took to get there — taking equal note of successes and failures.

Takeaway #2

The creative designer interprets the design brief not as a specification for a solution, but as a starting point for a journey of exploration; the designer sets off to explore, to discover something new, rather than to reach somewhere already known, or to return with yet another example of the already familiar.

In design, there is not one right solution. Rather than getting hung up on finding the correct answer, it is important to be curious, be open to opportunities, and not fear making mistakes.

Takeaway #3

Designing, it seems, is difficult to conduct by purely internal mental processes; the designer needs to interact with an external representation…sketching provides a temporary, external store for tentative ideas, and supports the ‘dialogue’ that the designer has between problem and solution.

As a perfectionist, it is hard for me to put ideas out into the world, if I feel that they haven’t been completely thought through. Even when I was in art school, I huddled over my work, hiding it from public view, until I felt that it was “finished.” This is a nice reminder to not be afraid to put out rough ideas, because it allows me to see it in a different way, and engage in a richer dialogue with the challenge I am addressing.

Takeaway #4

What turns an event from a crisis into an opportunity, it seems, depends upon the way events are construed by the individual rather than the nature of the events per se. Successful designers are optimists, exploring hopefully, dedicated to the task in hand.

Great reminder of how big of a role attitude plays in the design process. You can either feel constantly defeated, when your proposed solutions fail; or you can take it as a learning opportunity, and see yourself as one step closer to reaching an more informed solution.

Takeaway #5

What you need to know about the problem only becomes apparent as you’re trying to solve it.

Similar to #3 and #4, it is important to not fear putting out any and all ideas. It is through the process of exploration that you discover what lies at the heart of the design challenge — and that may be entirely different that what you thought it was at the start.

Takeaway #6

Although we tend to admire designers for their solutions, it is often their ability to find the right problems which distinguishes good from adequate or poor design.

You’ll never be able to discover a successful solution, if you’re working towards the wrong problem. It is the job of the designer to get to the core of the problem; only then can truly elegant design and innovation occur.

Takeaway #7

His [Bucciarelli] thesis is that ‘the process of designing is a process of achieving consensus among participants with different “interests” in the design, and that those different interests are not reconcilable in object-world terms…The process is necessarily social and requires the participants to negotiate their differences and construct meaning through direct, and preferably face-to-face, exchange.

As someone who prefers to work on their own, I need to remember that the power of multiple brains is more successful than one. Especially in the design field, varied expertise and perspectives can bring about more innovative solutions.

Takeaway #8

This seems to be a weakness in the designer’s attitude and approach — investing too much effort into early, perhaps inadequate, ideas of a solution concept; even perhaps being too attached to a ‘favourite’ idea, rather than being more objective, more concerned to generate and evaluate a range of options.

Getting attached to an idea is certainly something that I suffer from quite frequently. Holding fast to a favorite idea creates blinders to all of the other potential solutions out there. It’s good practice to take a critical eye to your work, and open yourself up to exploring alternate solutions — even when you think you’ve found “the one.”

Takeaway #9

All three designers use the problem frame to identify basic design principles that trigger the orientation of their concepts and assist in the detailed development of those concepts. For Victor [Scheinman], it soon emerged that ‘bicycle stability’s an issue,’ and so ‘it’s got to be rigid, very rigid.’

Loved this specific example of zeroing in on a specific facet of a problem. Victor was given the challenge of designing a “carrying/fastening device that would enable you to fasten and carry the backpack on mountain bikes.” After interviews and reflections on his own experience, he narrowed the scope of the problem. By setting up his own parameters — find a solution that addresses bicycle instability — he was able to generate solutions. Sometimes we need to narrow the working space in order to facilitate bigger ideas.

Takeaway #10

Design intelligence involves an intense, reflective interaction with representations of problems and solutions, an ability to shift easily and rapidly between concrete representations and abstract thought, between doing and thinking.

Design is not a linear process. It’s important to not to get stuck in the planning stages, and remember to sketch, prototype, and test solutions (even if they are half-baked). Design is a cyclical process of learning, hypothesising, testing, and observing.