What is Design Thinking Anyway?

16 Feb

Roger Martin form http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=11097

The Design of Business

Design thinking, as a concept, has been slowly evolving and coalescing over the past decade. One popular definition is that design thinking means thinking as a designer would, which is about as circular as a definition can be. More concretely, Tim Brown of IDEO has written that design thinking is “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” [1] A person or organization instilled with that discipline is constantly seeking a fruitful balance between reliability and validity, between art and science, between intuition and analytics, and between exploration and exploitation. The design-thinking organization applies the designer’s most crucial tool to the problems of business. That tool is abductive reasoning.  

Don’t feel bad if you’re not familiar with the term. Formal logic isn’t systematically taught in our North American educational system, except to students of philosophy or the history of science. The vast majority of students are exposed to formal logic only by inference and then only to the two dominant forms of logic — deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. Those two modes, grounded in the scientific tradition, allow the speaker to declare at the end of the reasoning process that a statement is true or false.

Deductive logic — the logic of what must be — reasons from the general to the specific. If the general rule is that all crows are black, and I see a brown bird, I can declare deductively that this bird is not a crow.

Inductive logic — the logic of what is operative — reasons from the specific to the general. If I study sales per square foot across a thousand stores and find a pattern that suggests stores in small towns generate significantly higher sales per square foot than stores in cities, I can inductively declare that small towns are my more valuable market.
Deduction and induction are reasoning tools of immense power. As knowledge has advanced, our civilization has accumulated more deductive rules from which to reason. In field after field, we stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us. And advances in statistical methods have furnished us with ever more powerful tools for reasoning inductively. Thirty years ago, few in a boardroom would have dared to cite the R2 of regression analysis, but now the statistical tools behind this form of induction are relatively common in business settings. So it is no wonder that deduction and induction hold privileged places in the classroom and, inevitably, the boardroom as the preeminent tools for making an argument and proving a case.

Yet a reasoning toolbox that holds only deduction and induction is incomplete. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, American philosophers such as William James and John Dewey began to explore the limits of formal declarative logic — that is, inductive and deductive reasoning. They were less interested in how one declares a statement true or false than in the process by which we come to know and understand. To them, the acquisition of knowledge was not an abstract, purely conceptual exercise, but one involving interaction with and inquiry into the world around them. Understanding did not entail progress toward an absolute truth but rather an evolving interaction with a context or environment.  

James, Dewey, and their circle became known as the American pragmatist philosophers, so called because they argued that one could gain understanding only through one’s own experiences. Among these early pragmatists, perhaps the greatest of them and certainly the most intriguing was Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce (rhymes with “terse”) was fascinated by the origins of new ideas and came to believe that they did not emerge from the conventional forms of declarative logic. In fact, he argued that no new idea could be proved deductively or inductively using past data. Moreover, if new ideas were not the product of the two accepted forms of logic, he reasoned, there must be a third fundamental logical mode. New ideas came into being, Peirce posited, by way of “logical leaps of the mind.” New ideas arose when a thinker observed data (or even a single data point) that didn’t fit with the existing model or models. The thinker sought to make sense of the observation by making what Peirce called an “inference to the best explanation.” The true first step of reasoning, he concluded, was not observation but wondering. Peirce named his form of reasoning abductive logic. It is not declarative reasoning; its goal is not to declare a conclusion to be true or false. It is modal reasoning; its goal is to posit what could possibly be true. (For further information, see “Why You’ve Never Heard of Charles Sanders Peirce.”)

Whether they realize it or not, designers live in Peirce’s world of abduction; they actively look for new data points, challenge accepted explanations, and infer possible new worlds. By doing so, they scare the hell out of a lot of businesspeople. For a middle manager forced to deal with flighty, exuberant “creative types,” who seem to regard prevailing wisdom as a mere trifle and deadlines as an inconvenience, the admonition to “be like a designer” is tantamount to saying “be less productive, less efficient, more subversive, and more flaky” — not an attractive proposition. And it is a fair critique that abduction can lead to poor results; unproved inferences might lead to success in time, but then again, they might not.

Some abductive thinkers fail to heed Brown’s requirement that the design must be matched to what is technologically feasible, launching products that do not yet have supporting technology. Consider the software designers who inferred from the growth of the Internet that consumers would want to do all their shopping online, from pet supplies to toys to groceries. Online security and back-end infrastructure had not yet caught up to their ideas, dooming them to failure.

Other abductive thinkers fail to address Brown’s second requirement: that the innovation must make business sense. Looking back on the dot-com crash, Michael Dell, founder of Dell, argues that little has changed. “Still today in our industry, if you go to a trade show, you walk around and you will find a lot of technology for which there is no problem that exists,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Hey, look at this, we’ve got a great solution and there is no problem to solve here.’ ” [2] Think of the Apple Newton, the world’s first portable data assistant. Launched in 1993, it utterly flopped. According RIM’s Lazaridis, it was a failure of abduction. “It had no future,” he argues. “What problem did it solve? What value did it create? It was a research project. What could you do with it that you couldn’t do with a laptop? Nothing. And everything you could do with it, you could do better with a laptop.” Apple Computer (as it was known then) wasn’t wrong when it inferred that customers would value a small, portable, digital assistant, but it didn’t ultimately deliver a solution that matched the insight.

So the prescription is not to embrace abduction to the exclusion of deduction and induction, nor is it to bet the farm on loose abductive inferences. Rather, it is to strive for balance. Proponents of design thinking in business recognize that abduction is almost entirely marginalized in the modern corporation and take it upon themselves to make their companies hospitable to it. They choose to embrace a form of logic that doesn’t generate proof and operates in the realm of what might be — a realm beyond the reach of data from the past.

That’s a risk many leaders won’t take. Making Peirce’s logical leaps is not consistent or reliable; nor does it faithfully adhere to predetermined budgets. But the far greater risk is to maintain an environment hostile to abductive reasoning, the proverbial lifeblood of design thinkers and the design of business. Without the logic of what might be, a corporation can only refine its current heuristic or algorithm, leaving it at the mercy of competitors that look upstream to find a more powerful route out of the mystery or a clever new way to drive the prevailing heuristic to algorithm. Embracing abduction as the coequal of deduction and induction is in the interest of every corporation that wants to prosper from design thinking, and every person who wants to be a design thinker.
“What is Design Thinking” is an excerpt from Roger Martin’s new book The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Press, 2009).
1 Tim Brown, “Design Thinking. ” Harvard Business Review, June 2008. p. 86.

2 Michael Dell, in conversation with the author as part of the Rotman School of Management’s Integrative Thinking Experts Speaker Series, September 21, 2004.


Learning to Design Without Losing Your Soul

2 Feb

Learning to Design Without Losing Your Soul

By Francisco Inchauste on January 27, 2011

Aspiring designers are failing. They are being let down by their schools and sometimes by our design community. In America, creativity is on a decline. The resources available online are massive; Quality content is hard to find.

“I’m eager to hire the next great class of designers, but to my dismay–and the dismay of many young hopefuls who’ve often spent many years and thousands of dollars preparing to enter the industry–I’m finding that the impressive academic credentials of most students don’t add up to the basic skills I require in a junior designer.” — Gadi Amit1

The design community has a new challenge. It’s not how we push design to the next level. It’s not how we best design publications for the 80 tablets coming out this year. It is something I see as much more critical: Guiding the next generation of designers.

More at: http://www.getfinch.com/finch/entry/learning-to-design-without-losing-your-soul/


Smashing Magazine (@smashingmag)
01/02/2011 16:40
Learning to Design Without Losing Your Soul: good conversation about design education http://bit.ly/exJnSA

I Heart Design

26 Jan

OBlog: Jessica Helfand @ http://observersroom.designobserver.com/oblog/entry.html?entry=24188

Certificate of Approval

My father acquired this print (and several more like it) in a collection he bought from the estate of a friend in France: a certificate of approval for a pharmaceutical product, combining official stamps, labels, and signatures — a visual testament to the due diligence of a battalion of government bureaucrats who were, one can only assume, its intended audience.

It is, of course, so much more than this — a composition of stunning modernity, especially given that it was produced at the end of the nineteenth century. The print is dated 1889 — the same year that marked the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower and the opening of the Moulin Rouge. (Van Gogh painted Starry Night in 1889, too.) A good quarter-century before Saul Steinberg would begin making his mixed media collages, this stunning piece of graphic design gestures at once to the formality of the past and the uncertainty of its future: centered and serious, yet marginally askew and surprisingly dynamic, it’s both classical and modern. It may just be my favorite thing, ever.

The above text is an excerpt from the book I Heart Design (Rockport 2011), the book features eighty different designers, writing about their favorite piece of design. This excerpt appears here with the publishers permission.

Cover of I Heart Design, edited by Steven Heller and published by Rockport (2011)

British Library Visit 26th January

19 Jan

Next Wednesday 26 January for GAMSWEN:

You will Visit the British Library exhibition:  ‘Evolving English – one language, many voices’

We will meet at British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB, reception area inside main entrance at:

10.15 am. Alan Powers and Mark Ingham will be there to greet you.

See http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/quickinfo/loc/stp/index.html for directions.

The British Library is at 96 Euston Road next to King’s Cross and St Pancras International stations, which are served by National Rail, First Capital Connect and London Underground. You can also use the Hammersmith and City, Piccadilly, Northern, Circle, District, Metropolitan and Victoria Underground Lines. Many bus services stop on Midland Road and Euston Road.

You will register for a British Library Reading Card and you will need to bring along with you:

Appropriate forms of identification to provide proof of your home address

You will need to show one of the following, which must bear your name and address:

  • Utility Bill (Gas, Electricity, Telephone, Water)
  • Bank/Building Society Statement (no online/bank branch print-offs)
  • Credit Card Statement
  • Council Tax Bill/Council Rent Book
  • HM Revenue and Customs Statement
  • State Pension Book
  • Benefit/Family Credit Book
  • Passports (where the address has been officially entered by the issuing authority)
  • National Identity Card with address*
  • Driving Licence with address*
  • Home Office permit to stay
  • University Certificate for Hall of Residence (stamped and signed by institution)
  • TV Licence
  • Firearms Licence
  • Home Insurance Policy
  • Pay Slips (where employer’s and employee’s addresses are stated)

Appropriate forms of identification to provide proof of your signature

You will need to show one of the following, which must bear your signature:

  • Passport
  • Driving Licence*
  • Bank Card
  • Credit Card
  • National ID Card*
  • Police/Customs/Home Office/Warrant Card
  • Forces ID card
  • Sea/Air Masters Licence

See: http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/inrrooms/stp/register/stpregister.html for more details

Just in Time

19 Jan

Just in Time, or A Short History of Production

A book printed through a printing chain made of four desktop printers using four different colors and technologies dated from 1880 to 1976. A production process that brings together small scale and large scale production, two sides of the same history.

  • MAGENTA (Stencil duplicator, 1880)
  • CYAN (Spirit duplicator, 1923)
  • BLACK (Laser printer, 1969)
  • YELLOW (Inkjet printer, 1976)
  • 210 x 297 mm
  • 42 pages
  • 100 copies
  • english


What is RSS?

12 Jan

For more information go to:



RSS: Best Design Practices And Icons

RSS is extremely simple and yet so powerful. Not only does every weblog need it for content syndication; the number of RSS subscribers is a metric for weblog’s popularity and its success in the blogosphere. However, although millions do use RSS, hundreds of millions don’t. That’s no good news, since RSS offers a bunch of advantages that can boost your productivity and improve your information consumption in a quite elegant and easy-to-use way.

In this article we give an overview of what RSS is and present best design and usability-practices for design and placement of RSS-buttons on a web site. We also showcase dozens of free RSS-icons and provide you with references to related tutorials and how-tos.

Please notice that

What is RSS?

RSS is basically a family of formats used to publish (not broadcast!) frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts. The main advantage for users lies in the fact that they don’t have to keep up with their favorite web sites checking them manually. Instead, it is done in an automated manner so you get notified automatically once the sites are updated.

RSS content can be read using feed readers such as Bloglines4 or aggregators such as Netvibes5. The user subscribes to a feed by entering the feed’s link into the reader or by clicking an RSS icon in a browser. The feed-reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new content, downloading any updates that it finds — automatically.


To get an instant idea of how it is actually done you should take a look at RSS in Plain English which explains the basics of RSS in 3.5 minutes in Plain English.

Is blogging for me?

10 Jan


Is blogging for me?

By: Andrew Bryant

Online editor of Artsts talking Andrew Bryant addresses some typical concerns about starting a blog

I don’t have time to keep a blog, I’d rather be in the studio making work

A blog can form part of your studio practice by providing the structure for reflexive thought. We all know how difficult it is to ‘think’ about our own work and writing is one of the ways to make thinking more productive, by following a train of thought ‘with pen in hand’. With the added awareness of an audience, no matter how big or small, we have someone in mind to address our thoughts to. Artists have always kept daybooks and journals to reflect on what they are doing, why not write your blog entries in the studio as a way of focusing yourself for a days work?

More can be seen at:


Alan Power’s Brief

5 Jan

University of Greenwich

School of Architecture and Construction Session: 2010-11

PDF: HART 1007 brief

Semester 2: Graphic Design – History and Theory HART1007 (part of GAMSWEN brief to be continued by Mark Ingham)

Course Tutor: Alan Powers  pa34@gre.ac.uk

Learning outcomes

On completing the course, you will have learnt about:

• The application of typographic design in the twentieth century to signage, books and publicity.

• The use of imagination and technique in film and product design in the mid twentieth century

• The use of research material of various kinds


See GAMSWEN brief

Classes and lectures

These are held normally on Wednesdays, 9.30-11, in room H016.

12 January: London Underground and corporate identity

19 January: Jan Tschichold and European avant-garde typography

26 January: Visit to British Library exhibition ‘Evolving English – one language, many voices’ Meet at British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB, reception area inside main entrance, 10.15am. See http://www.bl.uk for directions.

2 February: Charles and Ray Eames – putting fun into function in films and furniture

9 February: Post-war graphic design – Paul Rand, Ivan Chermayeff and Alan Fletcher

Reading List

All books with shelf marks are in the Library at Avery Hill

Edward Johnston and London Transport

Barman, Christian The Man who Built London Transport: A Biography of Frank Pick, Newton Abbot, David and Charles, 1979  (Medway store) 388.40924/PII:BAR

Forty, Adrian , Objects of Desire, Design and Society 1750-1980, London, Thames and Hudson 1986 (Chapter 10: Design and Corporate Identity) 745.44941/FOR

Garland, Ken , Mr Beck’s Underground Map, London, Capital Transport, 1994 388.42904/GAR

Howes, Justin, Johnston’s Underground Type, London, Capital Transport, 2000 388.428/HOW

Johnston, Edward, Writing and Illuminating and Lettering, London, A & C Black, 1994, 745.6/JOH

Lawrence, David A Logo for London, London, Capital Transport, 2000 Oversize 388.409421/LAW

Ovenden, Mark, Metro Maps of the World, London, Capital Transport, 2005

Pevsner, Nikolaus, ‘Patient Progress One: Frank Pick’  in Nikolaus Pevsner, Studies in Art, Architecture and Design, Vol. 2: The Victorians and After, London, Thames and Hudson, 1968 Oversize 709.034/PEV

Roberts, Maxwell J, Underground Maps after Beck, London, Capital Transport, 2005, 388.42809421/ROB



http://www.ejf.org.uk (The Edward Johnston Foundation)

British Library visit

David Crystal, Evolving English – one language, many voices, London, British Library, 2010

Charles and Ray Eames

The work of Charles and Ray Eames : a legacy of invention, essays by Donald Albrecht [et al.], New York, Harry N. Abrams, 2005, 745.40922/EAM:ALB

Eames, Charles, A computer perspective, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1973, Maritime Greenwich 004.90904/EAM

Eames, Charles, Furniture from the design collection, the Museum of Modern Art, New York / by Arthur Drexler, New York : Museum of Modern Art, 1973 749.213/EAM:EAM

Kirkham, Pat, Charles and Ray Eames : designers of the twentieth century, London and Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, c1995, 745.4492/EAM:KIR

Morrison, Philip, Powers of ten : a book about the relative size of things in the universe and the effect of adding another zero, New York, Scientific American Library, 1994 778.31/MOR

Steele, James, Eames House, London, Phaidon, 1994 728.37209794/STE

The Films of Charles and Ray Eames (dvd 6 discs)745.40922/FIL



4 Jan

At the end of this course you have to produce a BLOG  NEWSPAPER or MAGAZINE that is a chronicle of the lectures and seminars that will be given by me and Alan Powers throughout the term. This will mean you will have to take notes on every lecture so you can then write it up for your publication.

Each lecture, seminar or trip will have its own page or pages dedicated to it. As in a magazine or newspaper these will be your ‘ARTICLES’ and will be fully illustrated and referenced*.

You will chose one of the lectures, seminars or trips to make into a ‘FEATURE ARTICLE’ and will be an extended piece of writing of about 1,000 words and again it will be fully ILLUSTRATED and referenced*.

The finished newspaper or magazine will be handed into the Architecture and Construction Office by 4pm on Friday 7th May 2010. It will be handed in with a Header Sheet.

The design, layout and size of the Magazine in entirely up to you. It may be a small PAMPHLET A5 size or a BROADSHEET A1 style newspaper. It may be Black and White, but a colour publication will be encouraged.

You may want to use one of the STYLES discussed during the lecture series or a combination of styles, depending on what you want the publication to look like.

During each session you must take extensive notes, as a JOURNALIST would at a press conference, because this is what you will base your articles on. Each article must be at least 300 words long.

Whenever you use a piece of information in your articles you must REFERENCE them by telling the readers where you got this information from, i.e. the author of a book, website, magazine etc. You HAVE to use the HARVARD SYSTEM OF REFERENCING.

See: http://artdesigncontext1011.wordpress.com/ for last term’s BLOGs…

Below are some examples of previous students work…

GAMSWEN a page layout

GAMSWEN a Front Cover

GAMSWEN Magazine Page

Dissertation 2010