07 March 2010

Wicked problems. Also known as "the things that seem too big for us to solve." I stumbled across this old Adidas ad campaign and have adapted it to craft a contractual agreement with said problems. It isn't comprehensive but offers a helpful icon when I consider how my creative thinking process permits the "willing suspension of disbelief" in order to face something that seems too big or impossible. Thanks to Twitter feeds, I came across this 1992 article by a great writer and design thinker, Richard Buchanan:
To gain some idea of how extensively design affects contemporary life, consider the four broad areas in which design is explored throughout the world by professional designers and by many others who may not regard themselves as designers:

1) the design of symbolic and visual communications

2) the design of material objects

3) the design of activities and organized services, which includes the traditional management concern for logistics, combining physical resources, instrumentalities, and human beings in efficient sequences and schedules to reach specified objectives

4) the design of complex systems or environments for living, working, playing, and learning. This includes the traditional concerns of systems engineering, architecture, and urban planning or the functional analysis of the parts of complex wholes and their subsequent integration in hierarchies.

Reflecting on this list of the areas of design thinking, it is tempting to identify and limit specific design professions within each area - graphic designers with communication, industrial designers and engineers with material objects, designers-cum-managers with activities and services, and architects and urban planners with systems and environments. But this would not be adequate, because these areas are not simply categories of objects that reflect the results of design. Properly understood and used, they are also places of invention shared by all designers, places where one discovers the dimensions of design thinking by a reconsideration of problems and solutions.

Buchanan's work reminds me that "design thinking" isn't a buzzword. And it's exciting to see these programs emerge to create an educational outlet for developing these ideas further (as my educational experience didn't include this type of conversation):
Austin Center for Design

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