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Design Thinking

This article explores the design process, and is based on the work of various known inventors, professors and scientists.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is difficult to define. It can be an idea, a strategy, a method, and a way of seeing the world. We often described it as a method or approach that designers use to solve complex problems. Many of the problems we face in the world today are multifaceted, dynamic, and inherently human. Design thinking offers an approach for addressing these.

Traditional problem-solving methods are often linear: you analyse and then draw conclusions. Design Thinking is a practical and iterative (going back and forth between different stages, almost the opposite of working linearly) process of understanding users, challenging assumptions, redefining problems, and creating innovative solutions that can be prototyped and tested.

An essential aspect of design thinking is that it is human-centred: it focuses on those who will use and benefit from a solution. Involving users early in the design process means that we gain valuable insights into needs and behaviours that form the basis for visualising and materialising ideas and concepts.

Designing production systems can be helped by design thinking. Think back to the previous step. The Design Specification part of the framework is all about Design Thinking!

The design process

The design process is a series of steps with activities to reach the goal of a project, for instance. A general design process can be used for many situations. For example, for design projects focusing on processes, systems, products, services, and environments.
The design process Planning A design project is a delineated task that has access to resources of some kind. In the start of a project, clarifying aspects like stakeholders, purpose, and division of work tasks is a good first step. The project plan is however a plan, and things will change along the way, often requiring replanning.

Does this sound familiar? This is what we do in the Management and Control as well as the Preparatory Design steps in the Framework.

Exploring the context To be able to develop solutions that are functional and work satisfactory, we need to develop an understanding for the existing prerequisites, the context in which the solution is to exist, and most of all the needs and preferences of the users and stakeholders of the solution.

In this step, information is gathered and analysed regarding current questions and problems, user needs and incentives, and existing solutions. This phase is most often iterative and the activities will be repeated throughout the project to be able to develop a really good solution.

This should also sound familiar to you. It is the second step of the Framework.

Creating ideas In order to develop new solutions, you need creative processes. These processes are rarely straightforward and linear, but rather a seemingly chaotic search for answers to the identified questions. Creative methods are tools that support this process. You use these tools to work your way towards a solution by generating many ideas and refining and selecting among them.

This is what we do in the Design Specification step of the Framework. The specification of requirements can help you come up with ideas. It will also help you refine and select among your ideas.

Prototyping Prototyping describes the experimentation of different models and methods to develop an understanding of the fit of the solution, gather knowledge for further refinement, and to communicate a solution. Common prototype types are e.g. sketches, physical models, simulations.

Think about it: What can our conceptual production systems be in the Design Specification step of the Framework? Sketches, physical models and simulations!

© Luleå University of Technology
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