2. About Thinking

What makes Design Thinking any different than the thinking used in fields like computer science or math? To understand the difference we have to reference a notable figure in Design Thinking history: Christopher Alexander.

Christopher Alexander recognized that logic, a system of thinking more often associated with the maths and sciences, was critical to Design Thinking. Logic provides structure for the creation of form. He also recognized that Design Thinking required more than logic. While logic can parse through the complicated and help structure and synthesize large quantities of information, it fell short in navigating the complex. Unlike the complicated, or problems with quantity of information, complexity describes problems of the unanticipated and that which is not fully understood.

To learn how to Design in context of complex problems we have to look no further than how craft used to be taught. It was taught through a system of gradual exposure and imitation much like a child riding a bicycle. This is in contrast to how we learn math in elementary schools where we learn a set of rules. The reason this method of exposure and imitation is so successful because it allows for us to understand complex rules that we may not even be able to articulate. Just like a child develops a feel for riding the bicycle a Designer learns to develop a feel for visual compositions, typography layouts, and more.

Take a look at Designs that you like. What do you like about them? Try to approach it like an apprentice approaches their master’s work and look to imitate it. Through imitation you will learn aspects of Design that cannot be taught through the learning of rules.

It is important to not to throw out logic in favor of developing the feel of a Designer. Logic is a complement and even a necessary component in learning how to feel. Today’s problems are both complex and complicated. Not only will you need the ability to develop a feel for the problem and apply knowledge too complex to articulate but you will also need to use logic to parse through the various different points of data.

I think it is important to conclude by building a connection for Design Thinking past the Design of visuals or products. It may be easy to limit your understanding of visuals to typography or the materiality of certain plastics but I hope you understand that as Designers we also learn to apply the same kind of thinking and feeling to problems that go beyond craft. As a Designer you are equipped by your experiences working with craft to provide an alternative perspective and understanding to problems like reforming the education system. By applying Design Thinking to how you observe, process, and articulate the problems within the education system you may pick up on details and possibilities that others do not.

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