Good Primers for new design approaches: some good reads in Design and Thinking (don’t underestimate that comma)
One of my friends who working for “Teach for All” asked me today about good readings for a quick immersion on Design. Why? Because design strategies seemed appealing for them as a form of “elicitation of creativity and participatory work among organizations. I didn’t want for him to be trapped in the “Brainstorming/ Post It” cloud, which is usually what consultancies offer. So here are some of the readings that I thought could be more helpful in clarifying the picture on design.
NOT DESIGN THINKING AGAIN!
First a disclaimer. As Lucy Kimbell states (quoting Rylander 2009), “it’s hard enough understanding design and thinking, let alone design thinking. So it is not a surprise that those who support its application to business or more broadly to public services or social problems, have trouble articulating what it is, whether all designers can do it…” The articulation of “Design Thinking” is messy, and yet, for me, OVERUSED! So please do refer to particular aspects of design when you are working within these matters. A bunch of the design thinkers can be categorized as “snake charmers” or “encantadores de serpientes” like we would say in Spanish. The same goes to the so-called “innovation” term.
1. THE DESIGN THINKING BUZZ
Being consequent, I would begin reading Lucy Kimbell’s article “Rethinking Design Thinking“ published on the 3d Volume of the journal “Design and Culture”. In this article she puts forward a lot of the controversies that design practice and recent theory-building (mostly translated to the business world) brings. It highlights the strengths of design and its biggest problem. Also, it touches on the history that most people don’t know about. The pre–IDEO, pre-marketing buzz Design-Thinking term. Read this article in order to get a grasp of what real designers do, and what real design oriented researchers or thinkers have written about in the past. As a researcher and design-anthropologist, I value the critical thinking Kimbell poses and the way she draws a line between management and a more cognitive and culturally sensitive form of design thought configuration.
2. INTERACTION DESIGN
A component that has been critical to design, or at least on how we use design nowadays, is “Interaction Design”. As mentioned before in this blog, interactions “are said to frame the relationship between people and a variety of artifacts like products & systems, which convey the aspect of function, which has always been part of design [Dubberly, Pangaro & Haque, 2009] “. Interaction design has migrated from what was software or Internet design to what is design in products, systems and even social systems. To learn about this I would recommend:
To know about history I would get Moggridge’s (RIP) “Designing Interactions” (The MIT Press), which is an easy to read history compendium of interviews with designers related with this matters. Dan Saffer‘s (ex Adaptive Path) “Designing for Interaction” is an easy recipe-like paperback edition that will give you applicable knowledge on how to use interaction design techniques. So you can think on users and people in general in order to make better design solutions.
Lastly but not least, there is a powerful interaction design tool that is called “Personas”. This is a tool that is used more and more to create empathy between designers and the end-user of their creations. I’ve found that this is the tool that has more potential among organizations as it gives a democratic instrument for everyone to become more empathetic towards their human network. Throughout the years, I’ve realized that students are taught about this method but not really told where it’s application come from (in the interaction design realm, in anthropology it would be different). To know about this I have suggested in this previous post to read about Cooper’s “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity” published in 1998 ” introduced the use of personas as a practical interaction design tool. Based on the single-chapter discussion in that book, personas rapidly gained popularity in the software industry due to their unusual power and effectiveness. “
3. SERVICE DESIGN AND SYSTEMS THINKING
The last two books that I would suggest in reading have to do with two of the most (according to me) interesting developing areas for design nowadays: Service Design and Systems thinking. Both are connected. Systems thinking explains the way service design can be approached. Donella Meadows (RIP) a pioneering environmental scientist has a simple primer called “Thinking in Systems”. In an affordable book, she introduces tools, concepts and ways of tackling problems through this lens. She uses stories and some basic graphs to illustrate her points and also touches on “leverage points” (like information flows, critical nodes, etc.), which are one of the basics for assessments of systems through design. Lastly, I would recommend that you read “This is Service Design Thinking: Basics”. If you are not a design/engineer researcher or an anthropologist writing theory on design, this book should be enough. It is definitely a Primer. With a very cute and useful information design layout, the authors just put upfront basic concepts and useful canvases to work with service design tools. If you enjoyed Alexander Osterwalder‘s Business Model Generation book, you will enjoy this 23 international author’s textbook as it works with the same formula. An application-based visual thinking material that portrays cases that can be replicated or used as learning platforms.