Thursday, January 26, 2017

Revisiting some thoughts from 2008 "Design Thinking in 10 to 20 years"


In 2008 I wrote a blog post about the future of design thinking (see below). It was a short post and it was primarily predicting design thinking to have a serious and fundamental influence on the structure of higher education and research. I anticipated design to have become an integral part of all areas of academia, not just the traditional design disciplines. Well, I think it is obvious that my prediction were a bit too ambitious (even though we have barely made 10 of the "10 to 20 years" I was discussing).

We are still not where I thought we would be. Design as a distinct activity of inquiry and action is not yet recognized in academia. Design has not become the obvious third culture, next to science and art. However, we are definitely living in a time when design thinking has been recognized as an suitable approach when it comes to creative and innovative change, primarily by business and industry (I have in some other posts warned for the design thinking backlash).

This is all good and well, but I am still worried that my prediction will fail. The main cause for such a failure is, in my view, that design thinking has become more of a slogan, a management fad. It is often presented as a quick fix approach that offers some simple tools that anyone can use with wonderful results. If this is what design will be understood as, it will definitely fail.

If design is to become a true human tradition of inquiry and change, worthy a place next to science and art, it has to become more thorough in its conceptual foundation, more aware of its role, strength and weaknesses. There is a need for deep scholarship and insightful reflection on design practice. And it has to be translated into fundamental ideas and principles that provide conceptual and practical stability. It may be tempting to see this only as a requirement for more theoretical development in academia but that is a misunderstanding. If design is to become a true tradition of change, these requirements are equally need for its professional practice to develop and become sustainably useful.

I still predicting that the future of research and academia will be radically changed when design is accepted as the third tradition next to science and art. We just have to add a few years to my previous prediction....


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Here is my post from 2008:

"Design Thinking in 10 to 20 years

In my class yesterday we discussed the future of design, interaction design and HCI. I asked the students about their view about the future for the discipline, profession and for research in the field of interaction design. Then they asked me about my predictions. Of course, I had predictions but here I will only mention one.

For quite some years I have predicted that the growing interest in design, design thinking, and design research and education will have a profound influence on the fundamental structure and organization of disciplines, schools, and universities. I think it is already possible to see this. When we bring in design thinking as a major component in a field, suddenly it is possible to see simlarities with disciplines that was not there before. We have already seen some new d-schools, for instance at Stanford. Even though these initiatives have not been successful yet, my prediction is that they will.

We might in some years see new academic constellations where we have design oriented "disciplines" from all parts of the traditional university structure coming together. We might as a first step see "old" units change their profile and become more designerly, like Ryerson Business School in Toronto who, as a school, has decided to transform the whole school into a design oriented school. Traditional art and design schools are also changing and opening up and inviting new disciplines, there are traditional technical disciplines that join forces with other design oriented disciplines in new unseen designerly "technical" schools.

Within 10 to 20 years we will see some universities changing their structure based on the notions of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities as the major components. As a part of that structure there will also be a design component (maybe design sciences even though I do not like that name). I am looking forward to this radical change of university organization."

1 comment:

Harold Nelson said...

Thanks Erik. There are probably many reasons for design not getting more traction.The challenge is to find leverage points I think. Everyone likes to follow success ("we want to be like Apple") but few like to be first. Courage is not just a good thing—its required in this case.

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