The Dangers in Design Thinking

Mr. Alun Price
2012 Conference

Over the past few years there has been an increased use of the term Design Thinking (DT). Organisations such as The NextDesign Leadership Institute and its related design consultancy, Humantific have been using the term in various projects such as the ‘Design Thinking Made Visible’ project (Humantific, 2011). The term Design Thinking gained popularity after the Stanford University Engineering School ran a course on it in 2005 (Christoph, Leifer & Plattner, 2011).

Many of the processes used by designers adopting this approach seem to come from non-design disciplines. Much of what has been taught in management schools for many years is used in Design Thinking, for example card sorts (clustering); creative thinking; and formal brainstorming (Hogan, 1999). Design Thinking has been a significant topic in the management field (Woudhuysen, 2011). Another system that has been used successfully in industry, especially in the construction field, is Value Management or Value Analysis (NSW Treasury, 2004). Looking at the Value Management/Analysis process it is possible to draw parallels with many versions of Design Thinking: they all employ a collaborative group approach.

This paper looks at some of the difficulties inherent in teaching and applying Design Thinking and discusses an approach taken in a new unit in collaborative design. It proposes that collaboration is a skill that can be developed. It also details some of the pitfalls such as the problem of identifying what designers bring to the practice that other consultants do not.

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About the author

Alun Price is currently the coordinator for Environmental and Spatial Design at Edith Cowan University. He was a Senior Lecturer in Design At Curtin University and is a former Head of School at Curtin. In 2006 he was employed by the Western Australian Curriculum Council to develop and implement a new senior school Design course and remains as Chief Examiner and Chief Marker. In 2010 he commenced with ECU where he has implemented the new Environmental and Spatial Major. In 2012 he has piloted a new unit in collaborative design to provide skills and abilities for designers in an increasingly complex and interactive workplace. He has published in the areas of photography; design management; universal design and curriculum development.