May 9, 2018

Judgement Day for Design Part 2: Boiling Point

Judgement Day of Design - Part 2: Boiling Point Design Thinking Process

My idea for this article was sparked by a conversation on the This is HCD podcast. The podcast discusses the concept of design hitting a “boiling point”, and if we are approaching the singularity of design.

Let’s review the first step of the design thinking process: Empathise.

We believe that creating impactful design and better experiences (and ultimately a better world) requires an intimate understanding of the people engaging with them.

To truly meet the needs and challenges of today, knowledge and observation are no longer enough—and the solutions that have worked in the past may not work in the future. We must go below the surface and bring research and unseen insight to the design process.

In recent years, businesses and organisations have begun adopting and applying Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design in their products and services.

But have these methodologies arrived too late to have any great impact on a faster changing world?

Are we too focused on creating new and innovative products, that we neglect to improve and redesign older, outdated products and services?

Let’s once again use the street sign (mentioned in Part 1 of this series) as an example. It’s clear to me that no level of the design thinking process was applied when creating and installing the signs around the city.

There was no high-level goal to improve the experience of drivers; no thoughtful planning around their needs, which creates outcomes of unnecessary stress and frustration. If the designers behind the signage better understood and empathised with their audience, they could have designed to meet their needs and not for the sake of “just doing it”.

Another example of a system that needs redesigning is our education system. The modern public schooling system is still run according to archaic learning, teaching and testing methods. Some argue that it was designed to mass-produce workers trained to work long hours and follow orders.



Now, with the advancement of technology, globalisation and the shift away from producing goods to generating information, our schools must change to meet the needs of today’s society and economy. Guided by user research (of students, staff, and their families), the system needs to develop better ways of engaging young people in their educational experience, to foster lifelong learning that will follow them on any path they pursue.

By understanding the context of how the skills taught in schools will be applied after graduation, it makes it easier to design for those needs and requirements.

Current research into both of the above examples has the possibility to provide key insights that would help change each of them to meet the needs of today’s society.

We should be cognizant of the ways in which design thinking can reform old and archaic ways of creating services, systems, products, and be advocates of change.

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