Thursday, September 3, 2009

Design Skills

What is 'design thinking'?
"We believe design thinking is a catalyst for innovations and bringing new things into the world."
Design thinking is the glue that holds the community together. Having worked with hundreds of organizations to design products, services, and environments, we believe true innovation happens when strong multidisciplinary groups come together, build a collaborative culture, and explore the intersection of their different points of view. Many talk about multi-disciplinary collaboration, but few are actually successful at sustaining attempts to see what will happen. Even strong partners often lose interest because they cannot get along well enough or long enough to see the fruits of the collaboration. We believe having designers in the mix is key to success in multidisciplinary collaboration and critical to uncovering unexplored areas of innovation. Designers provide a methodology that all parties can embrace and a design environment conducive to innovation. In our experience, design thinking is the glue that holds these kinds of communities together and makes them successful.
-Stanford Institute of Design (a portion of their Big Picture)
I really like Stanfords IoD statement in describing their approach to design thinking. Although it's not a definition, they focus the term on collaboration between designers and design teams. They also expand out to other parties to build a community of innovators. I think collaboration is a huge part of design thinking, but is also something that needs to be learned and practiced in order to produce a successful design process. 
As with design, there’s probably no one definition of design thinking everyone will agree on. The word design can refer to nouns such as designers, physical products, and style. The word can be a verb, as in process, create, and make. For example, Charles Burnette in his IDeSiGN curriculum calls it, “…a process of creative and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved, and knowledge to be gained."Lately many more people are talking and writing about the application of design thinking to intangible problems, design not only as a verb but as a way of — as Herbert Simon wrote — improving situations. I felt a need to review what has been said and define the term for myself before I could put it into use. Ways of thinking are always difficult to define, but I’m reminded of how Lao Tzu said “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” yet he still managed to write a book about it.Based on a review of writing on the topic, I have synthesized for myself what I understand design thinking to be…
•Collaborative, especially with others having different and complimentary experience, to generate better work and form agreement
•Abductive, inventing new options to find new and better solutions to new problems
•Experimental, building prototypes and posing hypotheses, testing them, and iterating this activity to find what works and what doesn’t work to manage risk
•Personal, considering the unique context of each problem and the people involved
•Integrative, perceiving an entire system and its linkages
•Interpretive, devising how to frame the problem and judge the possible solutions
I’m sure one could play with the language and categorization to find more or less characteristics, but I’m happy with just those six.
 -Noise Between Stations, website
I also liked the way this site described design thinking in more of a process. It starts with collaboration and the thinking continues until the problem is solved and executed. They also touched on being personal with design and I think that is a major part of design thinking...without it there would be no passion to design.

What is it meant by 'design skills'?
To me, design skills can be classified in three ways: cognitive, perceptual and motor.
  • Cognitive: requires thought process. This would be the skills to look at an issue or a problem and think and/or collaborate on how it can be solve using design. Design requires communication with other designers, companies, clients and citizens. I feel designers/artists have a unique cognitive skill than any other field, because we think with visualizations, inspirations, personal experiences and foundation knowledge.
  • Perceptual: This is the skill of taking what's in your mind, and placing it onto paper. Interpreting what someone says, collaboration, the human senses and presented information and excecuting it in a visual manner.
  • Motor: This is the physical skill of design skills, the practice practice practice of using tools to create a physical design. The movement and muscle control to create something and also the physical and mental stamina is takes in the design process.

What is creativity?
Wow, that's like asking a neurosurgeon what the central nervous system does! Creativity to me, is the core of an artist/designer. Without it, well, you wouldn't make it in the field. It's innovation, motivation, the ability to turn a vision into something real, the ability to expand ideas and solutions into other fields. It's a drive inside every artist to express something, whether is be a feeling, a problem, a solution, a visual or an improvement. It's courage and the willingness to fail, be wrong, confused, hated, stupid, insane, and weird. "It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.", Edward De Bono. Creativity is to blame for inventions, history and technology. Without it there would be chaos..."Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order", Virginia Woolf.

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