Debunking the myth.

I hate to burst your bubble, but design has never been about making things pretty. I’m lying, I love to burst that bubble.

This misconception has been around since ancient times and, unfortunately, it’s still present.

What designers do, what designers always have done, is give form to things by shaping abstract ideas into the material and lately the digital world.

We do so by:

  • Sketching
  • Evaluating concepts before going to mass production
  • Thinking about the users and obtaining their feedback to analyze, test and compare different ideas

We envision the product in real-life conditions, imagine future scenarios, predict possible issues and problems, and then iterate the whole process a couple of times.

In essence, we think.

Debunking the myth, again

Even though the process described above has, with some practical variations, always been applied to design work, design as a way of thinking was first presented by a scientist Herbert Simon and an engineer Robert McKim who wrote a book “Experiences in Visual Thinking”. The phrase “design thinking” has since been adopted by architects, design schools, exterior and interior designers and so forth. Adding the word “thinking” to the word “design” helped change the perception that design is just about decoration and color. This is especially true today when designing digital products is definitely not about making interfaces pretty.

However, popularization of the term created another dangerous misconception. A new myth that designers possess some magical superpowers and think in mystical ways to do their work. Once again, I hate to burst your bubble - we don’t.

Design thinking isn’t magical, it’s a device. A device that is not reserved for designers, but a device that can be used by all teams involved in the creation of a digital product to help us create quality products with higher user adoption. At least this is how we use it at Codelitt.

So what is design thinking, anyway?

It’s about taking a step back and seeing any problem as a part of a larger whole, and acknowledging that the solution requires an understanding of the entire system it belongs to. This understanding is achieved by taking into account:

  • The needs of people
  • The possibilities of technology
  • The requirements of the client,

This is always best done in groups as interdisciplinary teams bring different things to the table.  Collaboration often brings about a level of insight that cannot be achieved by just one person.

Design thinking offers an understanding based on a human-centered approach. We empathize with the users and understand their pain, we define their problems, challenge long-held assumptions, and redefine problems to create new strategies and solutions. We do so by mapping the customer journey and exploring different design concepts like form, function, feature, style, and usability. We test out different experiences and assess risks by interviewing, analyzing, and comparing user feedback

Then we use all of the information we get to reiterate our solutions and test again.

All of this is done by asking questions so that we:

  • Understand the subject matter
  • Know the system the problem belongs to
  • Understand the users
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Provide solutions

To do all of this the designer must ask questions.

Let me quickly tell you a joke.

A woman is making her first big dinner for her husband and tries her hand at her mother’s brisket recipe, cutting off the ends of the roast the way her mother always did. Her husband thinks the meal is delicious but asks, “Why do you cut off the ends — that’s the best part!” She answers, “That’s the way my mother always made it.”

The following week, they go to visit the woman’s mother and she prepares the famous brisket recipe, diligently cutting off the ends. The young woman is sure she must be missing some vital information, so she asks her mother why she cut off the ends. Her mother replies, “Darling, that’s the only way it will fit in the pan!”

Good human-centered design thinking starts with understanding the hows, questioning the whys, and challenging assumptions instead of accepting them as “the ways our mothers have always made it." This way, we create space for innovation and growth, we increase user satisfaction, product effectiveness, and thus, develop products that delight both their business owners and customers.