Saturday, May 01, 2010

Book review: "Change by Design" by Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the CEO and President of the famous design company IDEO. In his new book "Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation" Brown explains his own view on the notion of design thinking. Brown has a long and successful experience as a designer and has many great stories to tell to support his claims about the benefits and nature of design thinking.

As we all know, design and especially design thinking has received extraordinary attention these last few years. It seems as if design thinking is seen as the solution for almost anything from modern product design, the new field of service design, organizational design, etc. Design thinking is in Brown's new book defined as the way to think as a designer but he also describes what that means when it comes to the process and activities.

I really like this book. For people who have heard about design thinking and do not really know what it is, I think this book is a great first introduction. It is easy to read, ideas are illustrated with great stories from real cases. For people who already have a good understanding of design thinking, the book does not really offer anything new and it does not really go into any particular aspect of design thinking in depth. Brown is aware of this and he writes that if you already understand design thinking maybe the mind map he offers is the only thing you need to understand his perspective. Even though I found this to be true, the real design stories he offers are valuable also to those who already "get it".

Even though I really like this book and it is obvious that Tim Brown has a deep understanding of design and design thinking, as a design researcher I would really like to see him go much deeper into some (or one) aspects of design. Maybe just focus on one of the aspects he covers in the book and see what he can do with that particular aspect if he devotes time and energy and focus to it. I would expect to see some really interesting thoughts and probably theoretically interesting ideas emerging. That would of course not necessarily be of interest to the broader audience but would appeal to graduate students in design, design researchers, and advanced practitioners. There is a need for that kind of more precise and in-depth analysis. However, I am also happy with what Brown is actually doing, which is to spread a good understanding of design thinking amidst all the present hype and popular writings that are unfortunately not always based on a solid understanding of design.

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