An Introduction to Design Thinking

A design is a description or a plan for the arrangement of an actual object or structure or for the execution of an action or procedure, or the outcome of that plan or specifications in the shape of a model, prototype or finished product. The word ‘design’ in this context should be understood to refer generically to any creative arrangement of matter on which the output is based. The word ‘modelling’ indicates a specific kind of design, and ‘finished product’ refers to a manufactured object ready for sale. In the broadest sense, a design could also be called a technique (a set of instructions) for creating an object.

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For example, a designer who works with sculptors to create new designs for a client’s home may use a variety of techniques and processes. Each technique or process is an expression or a way of expressing the designer’s creativity. A sculptor may use a large chisel and heavy hammer to make a basic, functional design. However, when that initial design has been refined by the sculptor’s feelings of empathy for the client and his ability to perceive the material’s qualities of colour and texture, the resulting product will have a more personal beauty and deeper emotional meaning.

The importance of empathy in design thinking is evident in the common problems of “ducking”. Dueling, in which designers compete to produce the most aesthetically appealing design, occurs when two or more designers are trying to present the same concept. In more technical terms, it involves “faking” or “copying” the other person’s design so that it appears to be better than what they originally presented. When you “duck” a concept, you better understand its emotional meaning and how to express that in better detail than if you had not pondered these issues.

A second key component of good design thinking methodology is the need to collect user feedback as early as possible in the design process. User feedback provides designers with information early on about their users’ needs, thoughts, ideas and feedback. This allows designers to understand more clearly their audiences’ requirements and how best to meet them. This enables them to explore more intricately their conceptual designs and generate more efficient and effective prototypes. Additionally, user feedback also helps designers come up with solutions or revisions that were previously thought to be impossible.

The third key component of a well-designed innovation is ideation. It refers to the transformation of any original idea into a design that is able to solve a problem or go beyond a previous design’s functionality. It is an important step in the designing process as it allows designers to investigate the constraints of current practices, to find creative solutions, and to refine their thinking about future directions. ideation also contributes to the quality and quantity of the final product.

Designing is an ever-changing discipline. The meanings behind many design objects change dynamically as we become aware of more about how they work, their multiple uses, and their cultural and technological influences. As designers become more knowledgeable about their craft, the impact of our knowledge on the way we do our work also changes, making our practice increasingly diverse. To make the most of design thinking, designers need to develop an ability to appreciate the multiple types of meaning that our objects have in society today.