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September 18, 2013 / cbkingston

Welcome to Design Thinking?

This blog will keep you informed of the latest assignments and progress of the business teams in MACE. It’s quiet now, but will be a hive of activity once the module is underway.

What is Design Thinking?

Design is a wide and varied term with many interpretations, and is often used to describe activities in several disciplines. Designer/author Steven Heller found that a fixed definition of design can be problematic:

The practice of design eludes concise definition. Design is a complex and vague process conjoining information analysis and aesthetic intuition. It is at once rational and inarticulatable. Objective and subjective. It makes objects and communications that are both beautiful and useful…design is both problem seeking and problem solving (Heller, 2001, p. 186).

Heller considered design was about seeking and solving problems. Historically however, designers are not sought for their problem seeking skills, and are more often valued for their tangible problem solving skills—such as designing a poster or improving the identity of a brand. Tim Brown, CEO of global product and design firm IDEO and prominent writer on design, discussed the shortcoming of an object-oriented view of design:

Historically, design has been treated as a downstream step in the development process—the point where designers, who have played no earlier role in the substantive work of innovation, come along and put a beautiful wrapper around the idea.[…]

Now, rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires. The former role is tactical, and results in limited value creation; the latter is strategic, and leads to dramatic new forms of value.

Moreover, as economies in the developed world shift from industrial manufacturing to knowledge work and service delivery, innovation’s terrain is expanding. Its objectives are no longer just physical products; they are new sorts of processes, services, IT-powered interactions, entertainments, and ways of communicating and collaborating—exactly the kinds of human-centered activities in which design thinking can make a decisive difference (Brown, 2008, p. 85).

Brown explains that design has evolved from the isolated ‘beautiful object’ view, to also include an approach of design thinking, which is concerned with the people and the experience surrounding that object.

Design is human-centred. It may integrate technology and economics, but it starts with what humans need, or might need. What makes life easier, more enjoyable? What makes technology useful and usable? But that is more than simply good ergonomics, putting the buttons in the right place. It’s often about understanding culture and context before we even know where to start to have ideas. (Brown, 2009).

Design author Jorge Frascara expanded on this view stating that, ‘the solution to a client’s need is not the production of the visual communication; it is the modification of people’s attitudes or abilities in one way or another’ (Frascara, 1988, p. 25).

What is Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship: the art or science of innovation and risk-taking for profit in business.

What are the possibilities if an entrepreneur—who organises a business venture and assumes the risk for it—uses design thinking?

Design Entrepreneurship: the art and science of innovation and risk-taking for the benefit of people through a business venture.


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