Design Thinking: Good or Bad, you decide. It's not OR. It's AND.

During our recent session on Design Thinking (and Design Doing) at Makersbox, our goal was to bust myths of Design Thinking that have been perpetuated in the market. And the underlying theme for the session was:

Design Thinking is not design

Gagandeep Singh Sapra, Founder of MakersBox and SproutBox summarises the session for us:

When you hear the word Design Thinking, your mind hears Design and you talk about design and you think that it only a designer’s job; while had that been a different word, you would have thought differently – the meanings that I attached to it would not have happened.

Design Thinking is NOT Design

Misunderstandings around design thinking are quite common – even (especially?) within the design community. For instance, in her talk ‘Design Thinking is Bullsh*t‘, Natasha Jen, Partner at Pentagram in New York, talks about Design Thinking as being a linear process, and one that trivialises design into a wall of post-its.

If you see Design Thinking as a ‘designerly way of looking at business problems’, it stands to reason that it’s meant for non-designers. Unlike what most businesses expect from ‘methodologies’ and ‘frameworks’ it isn’t a codified, standard process. And that’s another part of the challenge. It isn’t meant to replace actual design, and it doesn’t magically transform business people into designers.

Of the many things it does stand for, Design Thinking balances Business (viability), Technology (feasibility) and Human Interaction (desirability) in defining the products and services organisations take to markets. This key aspect forms a highlight in our recent podcast: Design Talks: Design-in-Tech for the social sector.

Explaining away the tirade

Setting the misunderstanding of the phrase Design Thinking aside, why do designers still resist it? Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at Adobe, answers this in response to Natasha Jen’s skepticism.

Khoi presents an insight into the design community, the wall that designers have built around the discipline, and why the rise of Design Thinking will not undermine design, as most designers seem to fear. He takes the analogy of engineering: the idea that ‘everyone can code’ and the availability of free online resources to learn code have not threatened engineers, or the discipline or trade of engineering.

Words like ‘bandwidth’, ‘beta’ and ‘reboot’ have become a part of our vocabulary — used by those outside of engineering — and has led to a greater understanding (and value) of engineering. This is where ‘design thinking’ presents an opportunity — to broaden the language of design, to help expand the community of design, and to help build a world that values and understands design better than it does today.

Jump into this debate.

Read the speaker notes from Khoi Vinh’s talk: a case for design thinking from a designer’s point of view.


Featured image: A little fun after the Design Thinking Session at MakersBox (Okhla)