Design Designers & Research

Design As A Continuum

March 9, 2009

According to Jess McMullin, Most Designers Aren’t Design Thinkers Yet.

“The shorthand of “design thinking” gathers a set of skills and perspectives that correlate to increased design maturity (23kb PDF) – framing and solving problems, instead of designing function, form, and style.


However, most designers, particularly graphic designers, are practicing at the level of form, function, and style. We see this level of maturity reinforced through industry design awards that are largely about novelty and aesthetics and are often incremental innovations of existing solutions.

This isn’t to say that these professionals aren’t doing good design – but they are limited in their view of the world, and their practice. A few don’t even think that design extends beyond a cosmetic layer. In gaining greater design maturity in practice, designers don’t need to leave behind style, form, and function. But refusal to work on anything but those levels will see design relegated to irrelevance as other practices adopt design methods and develop their own ways of problem solving and framing.

In the end, I think the best thing about design thinking may be increasing the maturity of design practice. I don’t know that the term “design thinking” will actually make an impact in the boardroom, but I’m hopeful it will help elevate the practice, and practitioners.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Peter Thomson March 9, 2009 at 2:10 am

    To be generous, maybe most designers are at the level of unconcious competence in terms of their processes and thinking so that they can’t really see or articulate the way they frame and solve problems.

    Your idea of using industry awards as an indicator of whether the profession has realised the value of design thinking is interesting. Wonder if there are any awards for design thinking in business?

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