Posts Tagged ‘Design Thinking’

Cusp 2013 and the Design of Everything

Friday, September 27th, 2013


Patrick Lynch, City of Chicago Pipe Band and 2013 U.S. National Champion

Chicago is a design city. It is the cradle of mid-century modern architecture. It buzzes — constantly.

I attended the Cusp Conference there a week ago. It had everything from Constance Adams, NASA space architect; to a sword swallower; a Canadian researcher hoping to gaze at the actual edge of the universe from a balloon above the Antarctic this year; to Dave Carroll, the guy who produced the viral video United Breaks Guitars; and — oh, yeah — a bag piper and a teenage rock band. This melange was about the “design of everything”. For the attendees (I would estimate about 90% non-designers) it was an eye-opener to what is going on right now in design. The hackneyed term “Design Thinking” (with apologies to Bruce Nussbaum) has permeated the awareness of the business folks who are shaking things up. What we have called “thinking out of the box” is given a framework and process through design thinking (this time no caps, on purpose).

Maria Giudice of Google

Maria Giudice of Google

There is no magic bullet, no acronym-laced corporate efficiency model here. It’s about thinking outside of comfortable paradigms and just flippin’ doing things differently. And, as Maria Giudice from Google puts it, it’s just plain GSD (Getting Shit Done). Business models are changing. No longer are the good companies looking for cost-efficient ways to do the same thing more cheaply. The good ones are looking for ways to get new things done, to create something that helps their customers, helps the world and is valuable enough that people want to pay for it. It’s about adding real value, not taking away. As Marsha Sinetar says:

Do what you love and the money will follow.

And that doesn’t just apply to individuals. If you put heart into what you manufacture, into the services you provide, people feel it. You have a clear idea of who and what you are as a company. You know your story.

Story telling is what I am most interested in for my work. I love finding the stories that are sometimes buried deep inside companies and bringing them into the light. A good story attracts good employees, good customers, good suppliers — good stuff.  And a good story is the way for people to understand you and become followers, promoters of your company.

I’ll be at Cusp next year, looking into the future of business.

Design Thinking Will Be at the Core of Innovation in the Not Too Distant Future

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

“Designers are the ones best situated to figure out how a kit of parts can become something more — they’re the ones who can figure out the human interface for a vast chain. If they do their job right, the result — a working ecosystem — is a far better platform for innovation than an isolated product.

This article in Fast Company, October 2012, Why Good Design Is Finally A Bottom Line Investment explains, with the broadest brushstrokes, how much Design and Design Thinking have changed in 40 years. When IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. first said  in 1973 that “good design is good business”, he was still talking about skilled craft in aesthetics. He wasn’t wrong, but I think he would be gobsmacked by where design is now headed.

The innate ability that allows designers to “think outside the box” and to blend deductive and inductive reasoning with abductive reasoning (that intuitive leap of faith that designers can take), is the skill that allows design thinkers to help organizations innovate. And when I say innovate, I don’t mean tweaking the sweetener in a soda, I mean creating entirely new ideas; disruptive ideas — ideas that can, potentially, break down the wicked problems we struggle with today.

How can we turn the giant tide of consumerism around before we destroy the planet? How are we going to pay for the health care of an aging boomer bubble with a young workforce far smaller than that aging population? Or, one of my personal missions, how can we convince the BC forest industry that creating and owning businesses that use and refine the resources they harvest could actually give them far greater profit margins, create jobs and improve the lives of everyone in the province.

There will always be design, and my fondest hope is that it will only ever be great design. But I see the mental toolkit available to designers as being much more far-reaching than beautiful posters, logos and chairs. There will be a new subset in the profession that will not simply have access to the C-suite. It will drive the innovation of business. It will be a profession armed with post-graduate degrees in design as well as business administration. It will look beyond the reliable algorithms of business success to new and better ways for us to manage our planet and to live in it more happily. That’s where I want to be.

We shall step back into the shadows and don our cloaks…

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Design Currency: Icograda Design Week In Vancouver is wrapping up today. It has been a stimulating infusion of ideas about the currency of design with all that entails — its meaning, its value and its influence in the world today.

I just read the well-written summary of Design Week in Vancouver, by the ever articulate Isabelle Swiderski:

“…according to Collins, it may be time to embrace mystery once again and tap into the true creativity we possess and have been desperately trying to quell for fear of our disapproving business counterparts.”  Read more….

We subsequently had a discussion in the office this morning about the world of design and the world of business and the seeming antipathy between them. The two would seem to need each other, but business remains highly suspicious of design at worst, and patronizingly indulgent of it at best. The business world continues to speak the name of design pejoratively, seeing designers as the fixer-uppers that swing in after the heavy lifting has been done by the “business thinkers”. It was interesting to note that, Helen Walters’ (editor of innovation and design at Bloomberg/ BusinessWeek) keynote address surrounded this very issue:

I’ve seen firsthand as executives who should know better dismiss design as styling, or as an indulgence that’s somehow unrelated to the bottom line. And I’ve listened to designers who should know better bemoan the fact that another client hasn’t understood them or that once again their genius has been diluted or ignored. Read more

Many communication designers now have some 4-8 years (or more) of university training, often with complementary degrees in psychology, sociology, business and leadership, often far surpassing that of their clients. We have been taught to analyze problems, reframe them and solve them in ways that traditional business training has not been able to master. Hence the creation of places like at Stanford.  We have fought for many years for the coveted “seat at the table” in the corporate world, but for most it has been elusive.

Enter the idea that perhaps we were better off when we intimidated with our “artistic mystery” and could wave our arms in creative fits of pique and demand exorbitant amounts of money as compensation for having to deal with block-headed clients. We might have been considered flaky, but at least we were scary. Personally, I’ve never really been able to pull off that sort of theatre, but perhaps I can learn?

What do you think?

Using Design Thinking

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I’d like to share a link to a Ted Talk by Tim Brown of IDEO. It beautifully illustrates what design has grown up to be, or is starting to grow up to be. Design thinking is transferable to problem solving in every realm and, in fact, is a way to break down old paradigms and think far more creatively. Design thinking is special, and it’s this thinking, not any lovely artifact or output produced by it, that makes design one of the most important professions of our time. In Tim Brown’s examples, “big” problems of hunger, thirst and poverty are illustrated. But shortcomings in our western world can also be solved by design thinking. When we think outside of artifacts — products, books, posters — and think about culture and understanding, we solve meaningful problems, produce less junk and make people’s lives richer if not better.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.