Response to Design Thinking.

A written response to two different works describing Design Thinking in preparation for January 11ths Info 200 lecture by David Stearns at the University of Washington, Seattle.

When most people think of design they think about artist. Design could full well be what an artist does, but it is much more than that. It is more of an artisan, as Professor David Stearns pointed out in our last lecture. Design is equal parts aesthetic and usefulness because a product won’t sell if it falls short on either side. The employees of IDEO understand this concept. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, states in his article in the Harvard Business Review, titled “Design Thinking”, that Thomas Edison was one of the first people to truly use design thinking. Edison was smart, but it wasn’t his lone genius that allowed him to be such an influential and successful inventor.

Edison was surrounded by a creative team and together they saw problems in the world and came up with solutions to fix them. Brown states, “Edison wasn’t a narrowly specialized scientist but a broad generalist with a shrewd business sense.” He had the ability to observe the world and recognize areas in need of innovation. Edison started with the problem, and with his team of “gifted tinkerers, improvisers, and experimenters,” began to create a solution that best fit the real people who would be using the product.

IDEO uses this way if thinking today. They were given five days to revolutionize a product most of us use without even thinking, the shopping cart. Now, the first thing they did was come up with the dangers, problems, and under-developed aspects of the shopping cart. Then, they went out and asked workers, builders, and users what types of concerns and issues they had with the product. The team spent a bulk of their time doing user research to ensure that the product they created would not just be beautiful, but it would also be useful. Once they had a good understanding of what the people wanted then they started brain storming. It was chaos, but in the end they came up with innovative solutions that had the potential to revolutionize the shopping cart.

The aesthetically-pleasing designs are great, but if they are not useful, nothing great will become of them. The practicality of a product is underestimated and normally goes unnoticed. The members of IDEO have inspired me to think about designers in a whole new way. More importantly though, they have opened my mind to design thinking.

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