Without even knowing the terminology for it, design thinking has been what I’ve wanted my design process to look like for quite some time. While I love some of the grittier details of design, like typesetting or meticulously keyframing an animation, I often find myself longing for my design work to meet a need in peoples’ lives. Will a carefully kerned headline really make a difference in somebody’s everyday life? Or does my work need to go beyond that?
In “Design Thinking for Social Innovation,” Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt explore the middle ground that design thinking creates between analytical thinking (the gritty side) and human-based feelings (the human side) as a means of effective problem solving, and how it can be incredibly beneficial as an agent for social change and improvement. Traditionally, designers have been more focused on “enhancing the look and functionality of products,” but with the rise of design thinking, are changing their focus to a broader look at the human experience and how it can be better engineered.
Brown and Wyatt continuously reiterate through case studies that effective design thinking is a process that needs to be incredibly responsive to the client or customer’s needs, rather than isolated to what the design team thinks is best. This requires careful observation, prototyping, and revisions, especially if major cultural differences exist. What seems like an obvious solution to a problem to a designer might not actually be beneficial if it doesn’t take into account how the user actually lives and interacts with the product, and what their needs actually are.
Design thinking allows room for a new kind of innovation – innovation that isn’t always flashy. A high tech product isn’t actually innovative if the user doesn’t know how to use it, or doesn’t want to use it, while a solution that seems simple enough for an elementary schooler to think of might actually be more innovative if it solves a problem more effectively. In this way, the design process is user-centered, which, if implemented correctly, can produce results far superior than traditional design thinking.
I found several diagrams put out by IDEO, one of the pioneers in design thinking that illustrate quite cogently the tenants of design thinking, two of them are below.
Brown, Tim, and Jocelyn Wyatt. “Design Thinking for Social Innovation.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 2010: n. pag. Web. 07 Apr. 2015
“What Is Design Thinking?” University of St. Gallen. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2015.