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Design thinking: Design for the future

Posted by Chad O'Connor  March 7, 2014 06:00 AM

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[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]

Over the years as a marketer and always a strong advocate for 'good design,' I have observed and discussed the substantial topic of the many ways of describing design and design processes. Incorporating novel approaches and thinking into the design process has been in use since the mid-20th century. In the 1980s the notion of 'design thinking' began to bubble up in design and academic circles. However it wasn't until the early 2000s that we have seen such a surge in the now buzzword design thinking. Simply put, design thinking is a human-centered process applying the principles and practices to solve problems in a creative, non-linear and inclusive fashion. It is a way to help discover unmet needs and opportunities and to create new solutions. While it is certainly not new, itís of growing interest in a range of fields, including the business, education and public sectors.

Roger Martin, a pioneer in the design world, inspired and provoked conversations by suggesting that the best leaders integrate left-brained, analytical thinking with right-brain intuition. Tom Kelley's book, The Art of Innovation, was published in 2001 and set off a launching point for ideas and cases that demonstrated the impact that design can have on reshaping businesses. A barrage of books soon followed for forward-thinking executives on ways to create a more design-focused workplace where innovation can thrive. Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things, is one of many design leaders who have since debated the use of the term and stated, "Design thinking is a public relations term for good, old-fashioned creative thinking." The spotlight on design continued to rise and excite many while in 2005, Stanford University began teaching design thinking and is widely known now as the popular d.school. Myriad business and graduate schools arrived on the scene and have integrated design thinking programs including The Institute of Design, Stanford, Northwestern, Harvard, MIT, and University of Cincinnati, among others.

This shift towards innovation isn't just for those who are interested and motivated to use design thinking methodologies as an approach for problem solving. Design has become a movement from the periphery to the heart of businesses. Companies expect strategic design and itís becoming a part of the corporate agenda, demonstrating its robust potential. However, the details of effectively adopting these practices should be carefully considered for it to have continued applicability. Businesses can commit to successful design thinking when appropriate, but both business and design need to further clarify the best approach of roles and techniques for varied situations in which they operate. Leaders who are comfortable with framing problems in new ways understand that the objective is to involve consumers, designers, and business stakeholders in an integrative process that involves an uncertain, ambiguous and complex space.

That said, CEO's and other business leaders who appreciate the need for innovation see that design plays a significant role and can begin to articulate its value. These individuals understand that design thinking can be used as a tool and an organizing structure to envision a better future and to bring products, services and experiences to market. They also happen to be the people that continue to push the creative boundaries with applying it on the ground.

Danielle Perretty is Marketing Director at Essential Design.

[We are thankful for Global Business Hubís support of the Creative Industries. Please note: This article does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development or its Creative Economy Industry Director for the Commonwealth, nor is it an endorsement of any views, products, or opinions contained therein. The author is solely responsible for the content.]

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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