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“Design Thinking” as ipecac

I had the opportunity to chat with Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram and former president of the AIGA, at the Design Observer/Speak Up party last night. I asked him what he thinks of the “design thinking” meme. He remarked that, if he started talking “design thinking” within Pentagram, Paula Scher, another partner, would throw up. He actually stated it twice, for effect. Paula Scher throws up at the notion of “design thinking.”

Which makes me respect Paula Scher all the more.

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  1. Hi Peter,

    … any chance to be more precise on that? I would love to read some critical notes on this issue and I agree with Victor that it is still in its infancy. After all, coming from the business side and not being a native speaker I might have a different perception of the term in general. Therefore it would interest me what the ‘Design’ side is criticizing here …

    Thanks after all, Ralf.

  2. shib·bo·leth (shĭb’ə-lĭth, -lĕth’)

    1. A word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another.
    1. A word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a catchword.
    2. A commonplace saying or idea.
    3. A custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider.

    This post just depressed me.

  3. I first discovered GK VanPatter and Elizabeth Pastor about two years ago. Last summer, I participated in NextDesign WorkshopONE. The experience further informed my beliefs that most graphic designers and many industrial designers focus too heavily on navel gazing. The strategies NextDesign taught me have a direct impact on the way we have structured our undergraduate and graduate programs in design at Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University. In August 2006, we will launch a new graduate degree in design thinking and innovation leadership. This program will seek to contribute research methods to the growing body of knowledge in design thinking.

    While there is definitely a major emphasis in design in the popular business press, it’s outrageous that many think that “design thinking” is NEW.

    NextD acknowledges that these ideas are not new. NextD freely quotes Charles Eames.

    In an interview filmed for his 1969 Paris exhibition, Qu’est-ce que le Design? (What is Design?), at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Charles Eames was asked: “What are the boundaries of design?” His famous response was: “What are the boundaries of problems?”

    If this perspective doesn’t inform design as thinking and problem solving, I do not know what does.

    I’m sure that Michael Bierut was just being catty, but stil it is worth asking Paula Scher if she becomes nauseated when she thinks about Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra or George Nelson? Or Ralph Caplan? Jay Doblin?
    Maybe we are more comfortable with Herbert Matter as a source of inspiration?

    Now that AIGA has initiated leadership in the production of the Aspen Conferences, one hopes that graphic designers will be introduced to models of design thinking that inform today. Quoting the AIGA web site:

    “Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke founded the International Design Conference in Aspen more than fifty years ago. He and his wife Elizabeth envisioned Aspen as a place where leaders from throughout the world could gather to share ideas. Their vision was first realized in 1949 when the Goethe Bicentennial celebration attracted more than 2,000 people to Aspen to honor the 200th birthday of Goethe, the great German humanist. Albert Schweitzer opened the convocation.

    In 1951, two years after the Goethe Bicentennial, Paepcke established the IDCA as an opportunity to bring together designers, artists, engineers, business and industry leaders. That first June, some 250 attendees and their families assembled for four days of presentations on the theory and practice of design. The title, “Design as a Function of Management,” was chosen to ensure the participation of the business community.”

    Conference themes:
    1965 The New World
    1964 Directions and Dilemmas
    1963 Design and the American Image Abroad
    1962 Environment
    1961 Man/Problem Solver
    1960 The Corporations and the Designer
    1959 Communications: The Image Speaks
    1958 Design and Human Problems
    1957 Design and Human Values
    1956 Ideas on the Future of Man and Design
    1955 Crossroads: What are the Directions of the Arts?
    1954 Planning: The Basis of Design
    1953 Design as a Function of Management
    1952 Design as a Function of Management
    1951 Design as a Function of Management

    While design thinking and leadership in the 21st century is quite different than in 1960, an understanding of past skills and experiences can pave the way for deeper adoption of design thinking today.

    How is it that so many graphic designers cannot build on the theories and methods that have come before? Why must they continually reinvent the wheel, all the while losing professional ground to other disciplines and losing the respect of clients and collaborators? Do designers have the fortitude to be relevant? I hope that enough designers are interested in leadership thinking to at least populate the few graduate and post-graduate programs in design that have emerged in the last decade. Hopefully designers will seek out new skills. Other professionals are already on the wagon.

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  • Perspective September 24, 2005

    Everything but the kitchen sink

    Catching up on reading after three days away from my system was exhausting. It seemed as though there was so much going on out there to comment on, think about, ponder over that I ultimately threw my hands up and