I have a mouse pad on my desk that reads, "Design is a good idea." But for organizations trying to adopt a design-centric approach, what does that mean exactly? John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, recently tweeted "Instead of saying we need to "elevate" art+design's role, we need to instead *reveal* art+design's role." Over the past month, at events with leading design thinkers, I've heard a lot of discussion about the definition and role of design. In the spirit of "revelation," here are some points of consensus I'm hearing from across design disciplines.
Tag: design thinking
What is it about design that makes it so well suited to solving complex problems? Why is design thinking such a promising avenue for business and government tackling seemingly intractable problems?
It's a sign of the times when The Economist, the house journal of the global business elite, holds a conference in London on 'design thinking' (official Big Rethink site here). Having attended the conference, produced in association with The Design Council and held over 11-12 March, I was left wondering one thing: why is design thinking such a hot topic with business leaders, given that it leaves so many designers cold?
That limited, old-school perception of design is missing out on something important: Today's increasingly complex and multi-faceted marketing campaigns are, in essence, design projects. With the splintering of "old" media and the explosive rise of social networking, marketing messages now are constantly morphing and being reinvented--taking new forms that range from highly innovative viral stunts and films (such as Volkswagen's Fun Theory) to branded social networks (Nike Plus) and even sponsored save-the-world movements (Pepsi)'s "Refresh Everything" project).
If you’re a businessperson or someone interested in understanding how to facilitate innovation, you’ve probably heard of “design thinking” by now. Coined by IDEO’s David Kelley, the term refers to a set of principles, from mindset to process, that can be applied to solve complex problems.
Most of the marketing rules we lived by just five years ago are practically obsolete. The industry has faced more changes in the last five years than in the previous 50. Let's face it, there's no point in improving broken legacy models. Since necessity is the mother of invention, let's not waste this recession and instead use it to rethink how we go about branding in this new decade.
Looking back at pivotal events that took place within the business world in 2009, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are five macro trends that will be shaping a New Way to Work in 2010 and beyond. Together, these five trends point to a New Way To Work in which creativity and innovation are more valued by employers than ever before and the traditional notion of work as merely an economic activity is being supplemented by ideas about happiness and well-being.
Fast Company reports that a new book by Warren Berger, Glimmer, poses that basic design strategies can be adapted to everyday issues – at global, social, business and even personal levels. The book’s title captures that moment when one arrives at a new solution to an old problem, and strives to learn how designers solve everyday problems and create alternative solutions.
We've all heard the news that the traditional MBA framework is broken, but adding courses on business ethics and financial crises won't solve the problem. And although Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, and the rest are all considering bringing new ways of thinking into their hallowed halls, a relatively small school in Canada is actually transforming the meaning of an MBA right before our eyes. The Rotman School of Management, helmed by Roger Martin, proposes a radical idea: to develop business leaders who are well-grounded in multiple disciplines. The Rotman faculty aim to mold managers who are equally comfortable and adept at using tools and frameworks from business, popular culture, and design to solve the most urgent challenges of the day--what Rotman calls integrative thinkers and what I call hybrid thinkers. He's a bit of a kindred spirit.
At GE, P&G, and other companies, a design perspective is a problem-solving apparatus that can be applied companywide.
The folks at McKinsey, Bain, and BCG should be happy that Roger Martin likes his job. Otherwise, he could cause them a heap of trouble. As it is, the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is traveling the country, throwing down the gauntlet to companies who hope to analyze and strategize their way out of a recession by bringing in armies of management consultants. You'll get what you pay for, he warns, and it won't be innovation. "The business world is tired of having armies of analysts descend on their companies," he says. "You can't send a 28-year-old with a calculator to solve your problems." The problem, says Martin, author of a new book, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, is that corporations have pushed analytical thinking so far that it's unproductive. "No idea in the world has been proved in advance with inductive or deductive reasoning," he says.
It's the hot design company hired by Apple to create its first mouse, (and by Microsoft to create its second), by the Post Office to rework the postbox, by Muji to create its wall-mounted CD player and by Procter & Gamble to reinvent toothpaste tubes. It made the Nokia N-gage, the Palm V and the Head Airflow tennis racquet. Now IDEO is being retained by Barack Obama's White House to help to reinvigorate the American civil service; by the government of Iceland to help the country to innovate its way out of financial crisis; and by the Kellogg Foundation to reinvent education. It might seem bizarre that a company used to designing products is now solving country-sized problems, but it all comes down to the technique it pioneered and preached to its clients. It calls this philosophy "design thinking".
Whenever I see a business magazine glow about design thinking, as BusinessWeek has done recently with this special report, and which Harvard Business Review did last year it gets my dander up. Not because I don't see the value of design (I started a company dedicated to experience design), but because the discussion in such articles is inevitably so fetishistic, and sadly limited. Design thinking is trotted out as a salve for businesses who need help with innovation. The idea is that the left-brained, MBA-trained, spreadsheet-driven crowd has squeezed all the value they can out of their methods. To fix things, all you need to do is apply some right-brained turtleneck-wearing "creatives," "ideating" tons of concepts and creating new opportunities for value out of whole cloth.
Tim Brown says the design profession is preoccupied with creating nifty, fashionable objects -- even as pressing questions like clean water access show it has a bigger role to play. He calls for a shift to local, collaborative, participatory "design thinking."
Better ballot design could have changed the results of the 2000 election. A better design for information sharing might have prevented 9/11. Now, could design thinking help fix something fundamentally broken in American democracy: how we engage in national debate? Whether the topic is climate change, financial regulation, or health care reform, when asked to "discuss amongst ourselves," the conversation devolves into who can shout the loudest, hurl the nastiest epithets, or pervert the facts to fit their own agendas. Can this process be saved? We spoke to Tim Brown, CEO of famed design and innovation firm, IDEO, and author of Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, (and Fast Company expert blogger) to see what might be done.
For decades, companies from Cisco Systems to Staples to Bank of America have worked to embed the basic techniques of Six Sigma, the business approach that relies on measurement and analysis to make operations as efficient as possible. More recently, in the last 5 to 10 years, they have been told they must master a new set of skills known as “design thinking.” Aiming to help companies innovate, design thinking starts with an intense focus on understanding real problems customers face in their day-to-day lives — often using techniques derived from ethnographers — and then entertains a range of possible solutions.
Design thinking is currently an "It" concept, the topic of countless books and blogs and conference panels. While it can mean a lot of different things to different people, for me, design thinking is a methodology, a tool, a killer app, and a problem-solving protocol to be used on virtually any problem. It can be equally effective in designing a new product or creating a new brand, to envisioning a new approach to health care or to reinventing city management. Mayor Daley in Chicago, where I live, is a pretty effective design thinker. That's right, Mayor Daley.
Well-intentioned engineers often ask me how they can become designers, or how they can "do" design. A typical question might be something like this: "Can you please share guidelines for maximizing user experience while designing a UI? For instance: When should I use radio buttons instead of drop down bars [to minimize clicks] and so on?" Questions like this are tough in more than one way. So I thought I would share a considered response—in the form of a hypothetical e-mail reply—to the well-intentioned engineer:
Procter & Gamble and Google have realized that the more clearly you understand your customer or partner, and their context(s), the more likely you will be able to offer the right solutions, build the right business models and win through global expansion - in India, Mexico, China, Russia, or beyond.
"Design thinking" is all the rage, thanks to Apple, Target, you name it--it's the idea that with a little ingenuity, companies can gear their products and services to what consumers want. But one of the more intriguing applications has been when companies want to engage in the design process. This is when design firms like Ideo and Frog are hired to introduce "design processes" as a way to reengineer the way companies work. For example, the U.K. is partnering with patients to "co-design" its processes for serving the sick.
People have always gravitated to things that are well designed. Design creates desire, but what good design means today is becoming far more than just face value. People expect more of the things they buy and use to serve a purpose; to actually solve a problem or to improve their situation, not just look nice. Good design is human-centric
The smell of ramen noodles wafts over the Stanford d.school classroom as David Kelley settles into an oversize red leather armchair for a fireside chat with new students. It's 80 degrees and sunny outside in Palo Alto, and as the flames flicker merrily on the big computer screen behind him, Kelley, founder of both the d.school and the global design consultancy Ideo, introduces his grad students to what "design thinking" -- the methodology he made famous and the motivating idea behind the school -- is all about. Today's task: Design a better ramen experience.