What Is Design?

Sun, Sep 12, 2010

Design, Interviews

What Is Design?

Something well designed is compelling; we are drawn to its efficiency, effectiveness, elegance, beauty, and often it’s cleverness and humor. You’re a designer when you arrange your clothes in an order that gets you out the door faster in the morning, or when you plan a route to the office.

Then why is “design thinking” so hard for so many to understand?

In my view it’s because we have a tendency to think things more complicated than they are; the enigmatic isn’t routinely unpacked but rather labeled something else or believed to be something we understand easier or perhaps ignored completely. Maybe we find the easiest remedy for complexity is to go to the end result and call it design: an iPod, Ferrari, or the elegant kitchen utensil.

Great designers design great things from information architecture to artifacts for living, but the truly great designer finds the right problem to solve that makes a difference and connects emotionally to the end user. They advance humanity by forward thinking with the support of observation and research, empathy for the end user and serendipity in the process.

I put together this 13 minute video with the help of 5 great design thinkers; Matt Munoz, David Burney, John Loftin, Jonathan Opp and Todd Coats.  In it they help us to understand design thinking.

To paraphrase David Burney in this video: Design is a way of life. Designers find solutions to the right problems through the balance of science, analytics, and math + art, spirit and intuition.

[Via Wikipedia:]

Design thinking is a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result.[1] It is the essential ability to combine empathy, creativity and rationality to meet user needs and drive business success. Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking is a creative process based around the “building up” of ideas. There are no judgments early on in design thinking. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation in the ideation and prototype phases.

Design, Design Thinking, Innovation, Inspiration, Problem Discovery, Video

4 Responses to “What Is Design?”

  1. Shea Naer Says:

    Art students (across all mediums) would benefit by the guidance here. Perhaps university design instructors would want to include this as part of their curriculum.

    The key issues which are highlighted by these men offer philosophical implications that reach far beyond art and design.

    To sum it up: this piece is enlightening + makes good sense, and it is thankfully free from dogmatism.

    Thanks Bruce, and to all who were involved.

    • Bruce DeBoer Says:

      Thanks Shea – funny what happens when you ask smart people simple questions; the questions doesn’t turn out to be all that simple if answered correctly.

  2. Woody Holliman Says:

    Terrific video, Bruce! Refreshing to hear folks talk thoughtfully about the problem-solving process in design without either trivializing or romanticizing what we do. Thanks for making this!


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