Design Systems Thinking Post 1

Once again its a new quarter and the content of my blog will be switching gears. For today’s post I read an article called Design Thinking for Social Innovation by Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt that you can find here.

They talked about how traditionally designers focused on improving the look and functionality of their product and how instead, design thinking “addresses the needs of the people who will consume a product or service, and the infrastructure that enables it.” It is meant to solve the problems that would have been overlooked with typical problem solving.

Rather than a sequence of steps to follow, the design thinking process is better thought of three different spaces that overlap one another. These are: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. 

“Think of inspiration as the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation as the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and implementation as the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.”

Once the designer has identified the inspiration, often the next biggest challenge is figuring out what is needed. I thought it was really interesting that the article described just how hard that was. They talked about how often, focus groups and surveys don’t actually help you address a need, but rather the wants of the people. If you only address that, you are only going to make small incremental change rather than something truly innovative and ground breaking. I loved their example of Henry Ford, and how he said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me faster horses.”

The next thing to consider is research. Lots and lots of research. The article gives several examples of solutions that could have been good, but missed the mark in an at first subtle, but very significant way. The first example was of a village in India that relies on drinking water from a well. There is a family that lives closer to a well that is not as safe as the treatment center and even though the treatment center is a great resource, the design has a tragic flaw. It was designed in a way where families who live too far do not have able means of transporting 5 gallons back to their home. This highlights the importance of researching different cultures and really trying to look at all the different angles. I also loved the quote they pulled from Linus Pauling, which is, “to have a great idea you must first have lots of ideas.”

And then finally, implementation is pretty straight forward. Its committing to your idea and putting it into action. The most important part of this design space is prototyping. The purpose of prototyping is getting your ideas into motion and testing them before you have to make a final draft. It allows you to find the flaws in your system before it’s too late.

Works Cited: Brown, Tim, and Jocelyn Wyatt. “Design Thinking for Social Innovaton.”Stanford Social Innovation Review (2010): 31-35. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.


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