Design, Design Thinking, & Designers

Home  >>  Value of Making  >>  Design, Design Thinking, & Designers

Design Thinking is PROBLEM SOLVING!!!!

Student using Little BitsOne of the things I find frustrating in indoctrinating new folks to the makerspace revolves around debunking pre-conceptions around what design thinking, design, and acting as a designer involves. There are a lot of fantasies that design is about fluttering theoretical situations. This is not the case.

Design solves practical problems. Check your chair. It was designed for sitting. Feel your shirt. It was designed for wearing and being seen wearing. Everything created by people was designed. Sometimes it was designed poorly. Other items were designed for a time that did not include current uses. Design is about thinking….”How might we solve….”, “How might we build….” “How might we….?” Design is about solving real problems and probing “wicked” problems.

Wicked problems are problems where the exact problem and solution are ill defined. Designers need to seek additional information to resolve these problems. They become empathetic and try to discover the extent of the problem. Instead of jumping to the obvious solution, discover the innovative solutions. Find answers that surprise and solve problems at a deep level.

Rather than continuing a one-sided discussion of design, check out these links:


Free Websites

Stanford’s (with Empathy at the center) Design Thinking Process – Personally I tend to speak of the exploration phase as being a stance of empathy.

IDEO’s Design Kit for Educators – Educators who like structure and a map towards understanding will probably appreciate this. Definitely love human-centered design.

KNCT and a Synthesis of the Stanford Model – Generally I love reinterpretation and synthesis. This is clear based on the Stanford model. Check it out for a quick overview and definition of terms.

Research Articles:

Check out wicked problems!:

Buchanan, R.. (1992). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5–21. (You’ll need either an institutional subscription or buy the article).
Rivka Oxman, Think-maps: teaching design thinking in design education, Design Studies, Volume 25, Issue 1, January 2004, Pages 63-91, ISSN 0142-694X, (Buy or subscribe)


Design Thinking Workshop: The 12 Indispensable Elements for a Design Thinking Workshop – Pauline Tonhauser

101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization – Vijay Kumar