Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Design thinking revisited by Norman

Don Norman has in some earlier writings been quite critical to the notion of "design thinking", however now he argues that he has changed his mind. I agree with the new Norman. He makes the case that if we see design thinking more as a tool or method then he is ok with it. And he is also careful with stating that it is not the case that all designers are engaged with design thinking, or that all design schools do teach it. I could not agree more. Working with designers all over the world I know first hand that design thinking is not necessarily understood everywhere where the label design is used. Even worse is that a deeper understanding of design as a human universal approach (much broader and critical than design thinking) is almost completely lacking still. But hopefully this is changing in the years to come.

I have one problem with Norman's new position though. He writes "Two powerful tools of design thinking summarize the approach: the British Design Council's "Double-Diamond, Diverge-Converge Model of Design"; and the iterative process of Observation, Ideation, Prototype, and Test called "Human-Centered Design." I think it is dangerous to substitute a way of thinking with a couple of formalized and standardized methods with their own structure and process. Design thinking to me means a critical stance that makes it possible to engage with a situation in a way that is suitable to the context and circumstances. I am sure there are many design situations that would not be suitable to approach by the Human Centered Design process that Norman describes. I have seen numerous design process carried out in an excellent way that in no shape or form resembles that process. So, design thinking, is about thinking, not about particular tools or methods, it is the thinking itself that is the tool!


Peter Dalsgaard said...

I am also encouraged by Norman's new stance, even if the focus on the two methodologies struck me as a bit odd. I couldn't help but think of Early Wittgenstein vs. Late Wittgenstein when I read it; maybe we're seeing the beginning of Late Norman renouncing Early Norman :-)

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