Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is Design Thinking a Myth?

Don Norman (left), one of the most prolific writers on design (right), has a piece saying Design Thinking is a myth at the popular web site Core 77. (Click on the heading above to read the entire piece and see public reaction.)

Some designers have become weary of the overuse of the term "Design Thinking" and fear that it encourages the idea that anyone can be a designer. They are all too familiar with businesses choosing to have their website or brochure designed by someone's cousin rather than hiring a professional designer.

Norman's article is a good starting point for a discussion about design, design education and design thinking. He questions the idea that "designers possess some mystical, creative thought process that places them above all others in their skills at creative, groundbreaking thought." Norman says that creative thinking and breakthrough ideas have occurred throughout history and have come from a wide variety of disciplines. He says, "Design thinking is a public relations term for good, old-fashioned creative thinking."

Then he goes on to say "Exploit the myth" just don't believe it. Using the term Design Thinking will help spread the word that designers can add value to almost any problem, from healthcare to pollution, business strategy and company organization. The emphasis on thinking helps make the point that design is more than making things look pretty but has structure and substance.

Norman says design thinking "means stepping back from the immediate issue and taking a broader look. It requires systems thinking: realizing that any problem is part of a larger whole, and that the solution is likely to require understanding the entire system."

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