Design Thinking and Experiential Graphic Design

The idea of design as a way of thinking has its origins in Herbert A. Simon’s 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial. Simon noted that design can be thought of as the process of transforming existing conditions into preferred ones. Design thinking is a process aimed at creating the preferred condition through a structured process. This idea of separating the craft or making part of design from the thinking process of design was further elaborated in the context of using design thinking in business by Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Business in his books "The Design of Business" and "Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works" Martin has been very successful in introducing the idea of using design thinking as an alternative process to analytical thinking into business schools across America.

The design thinking process involves multiple steps which you will recognize as the design process, including: 1) identifying the problem that needs to be solved; 2) researching the history and existing conditions through immersion in the subject, defining user needs, and questioning existing thinking about the opportunities and challenges; 3) ideating, or exploring multiple perspectives and creating and considering many possible solutions; 4) refining and prototyping the most promising concepts; 5) choosing the best solution; and 6) implementing it.

Why is design thinking an important concept for Environmental and Experiential Graphic Design? It is a very useful framework for designers to help business leaders to understand how design works and how it can be used to address many of a businesses problems. It empowers designers to sit at the strategy table with business leaders and to work with them to tackle the larger problems/opportunities these businesses confront and that their clients encounter when interacting with spaces. In this way, the methodology has been adapted as a general method for problem solving outside the design world, particularly in businesses that aim to achieve a more creative or human-centered approach to the way they operate.

Tim Brown the CEO of design firm, IDEO, wrote an interesting thought piece entitled "How Might We Improve the Health & Wealth of Cities?" that provides some pointers as to the type of problems that Experiential Graphic Designers could tackle. In general the type of problem goes from tactical problem solving to business opportunity to social problems as the scale of the questions being tackled increases. Urban living is clearly the movement of the 20th and likely to be the direction of development through the 21st century. Improving the quality of the built environment will bring benefits for hundreds of millions around the globe.

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