Where did design thinking originate? More importantly, where is it headed? In this Long Read, we take a close look at the evolution of design thinking from a niche activity to a large-scale practice.
How Design Thinking Has Evolved
There’s no documented history of design thinking. Despite the contributions of designers and creators over the years, there was, as such, no specific beginning – it’s always been an intrinsic part of human thought.
The term refers to techniques used to create/represent the abstract, though the scope of this definition has widened over time. The system of analysis and synthesis, computer renderings, sketches, and models made in workshops was always about the conceptualization of abstract ideas — only recently have they been labeled as ‘design thinking’.
At the very beginning
Moore’s Law of Technology Adoption illustrates how initial ideas are primarily dispersed by early adopters. Rather than slow adoption of any particular idea, the law details how this incremental, pre-implementation process can be skipped entirely when an individual proves its success to a massive audience.
The original spread of design thinking, in fact, began with the development of design practices. The first organizations to prioritize service design and design thinking quickly gained many benefits. At this point, society began to assign value to services, as well as products.
The increasing popularity of sustainable services and design thinking practices successfully convinced stakeholders that these techniques deserved serious consideration. By the end of 2015, major tech service providers, like IBM, developed their own design thinking methodologies – recruiting a large number of designers across geographies and business units.
By this time, design thinking had been widely adopted and implemented by all major organizations worldwide.
Design Thinking as Strategy for Innovation
Technology is the most prominent sector where design thinking finds application – it plays a huge part in our day-to-day lives and needs to be tailored to fit our convenience and needs.
Unfortunately, the market isn’t always attuned to these requirements. Businesses focus more on engineering teams and less on the final buyer or end-user. The earliest business design plans were all about hypotheses and market predictions, instead of client feedback and adequate testing in co-ordination with those clients.
When it comes to customer satisfaction, ease-of-use and convenience are necessities rather than niceties. Fairly successful with customers, the benefits of design thinking were now obvious to companies that were earlier unfamiliar with the idea. The future of great ideas is therefore as much about trust – between corporates and clients – as well as about the quality and all-round acceptance of the product.
Design Thinking in the Engineering Sector
Design thinking in engineering is primarily responsible for designing the products and services that are sold by companies and used by the society. As a result, engineering makes extensive use of the design thinking process. With design thinking finally enjoying pan-industry acceptance, the onus is on engineering divisions to put the method into practice.
An engineer is responsible for developing the tools, programs, and products that best fit the user experience. This is why the engineer’s design approach to things of practical use revolves around customer feedback and public testing, rather than prototypes and hypotheses – traditional building blocks of product development.
The Revolution of Design Thinking
Design thinking has clearly come a long way. The multiple aspects of our lives are no longer based solely on the whims of corporate individuals whose sole considerations often remain profit and personal success. Now, things are conducted from the perspective of a society that wants to provide the best for its citizens – in the form of designers that want to achieve for the customer’s sake rather than their own.
The primary objective of design thinking is practical and valuable – an emphasis on end-user requirements. With the use of design thinking techniques, you can acquire feedback and rectify problems as early in the development process as possible. Therefore, design thinking has the potential to impact the overarching creation process significantly.
It's Time to Bring Design Thinking Down from On High
Design thinking can no longer be considered optional. The fruits of the design thinking process should be celebrated, and extended to a wider audience. Even though it can be time consuming, the resulting user experience is always worth the investment.
Ultimately, we need to see design thinking as more than a mere process. We need to embrace design in all its avatars — the small details, the way things are delivered, the design of communication, and the design of the ‘feel’ and overall experience. And that’s precisely what we do here at UxD@HCL.