Why Design Matters

Image Courtesy of  ThinkPublic

Image Courtesy of ThinkPublic

There is a growing anxiety amongst design professionals that the world of business and technology are encroaching on their discipline. However, professional designers have nothing to fear.  One need only look around to see how we are exposed to examples of bad design on an almost daily basis. Such failures illustrate how difficult it is to get design right.Yet design still does have the potential to provide us with a platform for innovation and growth. Concepts such as empathy, ideation, integration, iteration, development and prototyping all have their origins in the field of design, but are increasingly becoming part of the business lexicon.

Innovation is a multifaceted concept that goes beyond product design to encompass business model innovation, service design, operations, marketing and strategy. Design Thinking provides a problem-solving methodology that allows businesses to apply the creative skills of designers to generate innovation based on a human-centered design ethos. Design Thinking has rightly become a global phenomenon and is practiced by some of the world’s largest companies such as SAPAppleGENike and P&G.  What makes design thinking companies unique is their willingness to continuously redesign their businesses. Integrating design thinking with business strategy ensures technology solutions are viable, feasible and desirable. Stanford’s D-School and the Rotman School of Management demonstrate the multidisciplinary scope of design thinking and its application to business education. Many other institutions have followed suit since their inception. Likewise, initiatives such as “Design Thinking for Educators” highlight the importance of exposing students to design thinking concepts at an early age.

Inevitably the rapid ascent of Design Thinking has caused many to wonder is design thinking a fad?  Indeed, some have already moved onto the next big thing. However, historical examples such as the Edison invention factory  and the Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) show how design thinking principles were being used  successfully long before the popularisation of the term.  Indeed, a quick review of the myriad design methodologies that exist, show that they all share many characteristics regardless of whether they are called design thinking or not.  Sure, some of the early advocates of design thinking may re-brand and package the term. But then again, designers were always good at branding!