Theory Final – Larry the Lobster

For our last project in theory we were asked to read 6 articles from a variety of designers that discussed what is involved with being a designer as well as the process of design.

We live in a time where design is maturing into a discipline which is being recognized to stand alone. Design is gaining more of a seat at the table if you will and influencing companies and organization from the ‘C’ level. This is partially due to the fact that design is being recognized as a universal and flexible solution to a number of problems. Design firms such as IDEO and Frog are helping push this understanding into the public.

Richard Buchanan argues that “design problems are ‘indeterminate’ and ‘wicked’ because design has no special subject matter on its own apart from what the design conceives it to be. Subject matter is potentially universal in scope, because it could be applied to any area of the human experience. But in the process of application the designer must discover or invent a particular subject out of the problems and issues of the specific circumstance.” This brings up an interesting topic of whether or not design is its own discipline due to the fact that it is 100% dependent on other subject matter. I would side with the fact that this argument facilitates design being it’s own discipline even more so since it can be so ubiquitously applied.

Jocelyn Wyatt take an approach to explaining design thinking targeted towards those who don’t have much exposure to design. To break it down to assist these individuals to get on board with design thinking she describes it as three spaces to avoid direct linearity: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Inspiration is the space of identifying an opportunity where a potential solution could be applied to improve a problem. Ideation is the process of generating, developing and testing ideas. Implementation is the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives. The primary purpose of breaking down the definition of design thinking in this way is to prevent process focused individuals from picking apart the fact that design thinking is not concrete.

Chris Pacione takes a similar stance as Jocelyn in the fact that by breaking down complex topics, in this case design thinking, into a digestible format that it affords the idea of establishing design thinking to be as ubiquitous as mathematics. He states, “design is too important to be left to designers.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. By having a basic understanding of design thinking it would allow people to thrive in a day to day experience. This is due to the fact that the skills design thinking would provide would allow people to step back and ask why more consistently. They would start to pick apart why the way things are and inherently want to improve them.

Nigel Cross explains that a level of intuition is how design research can make broad generalization with a small sample. After all design research isn’t trying to predict behavior, but it attempts to empathize behavior. Along these lines the intent of the design process is to make something new, and by doing so you help change the problem, not just solve it. He also discusses the idea that design has to happen in real time, you can’t read it but you have to do it. This provides an incremental build up into something “magical” that doesn’t happen instantly. This is the reason why it’s called a process.

Edward De Bono primarily discusses process and acknowledging the default way the brain operates does not afford creative thinking, which is where this magic can happen. This creative thinking is also referred to as lateral thinking, in contrast to linear thinking. The logical part of the mind is based on what it’s seen before which prevents opportunity. One of the more simple ways De Bono proposes to get around this limitation is the use of a random word. The idea is to apply a random word into the problem space, regardless of how crazy it feels or how it doesn’t make sense. This generates a new frame around the situation that normally wouldn’t have been explored. The random word works because it is genuinely abductive. After the application of lateral thinking he argues that a valuable idea will be logical in hindsight, but needs a catalyst to arrive there.

To summarize these points of view around design thinking, I’ve created a video. Please enjoy.