Design thinking: yes or no?

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, a very popular “design and innovation” firm focused on products’ design, on 2009 went to a TED conference and made the Talk “DESIGNERS – THINK BIG!” which had become one of the most mentioned as must-watch for all the designers’ community.

The speech is about DESIGN THINKING, as a method of design meant to make a difference in the world.

Contextualized with the period, he affirms the importance for the society of a transition from design, as a branch of aesthetic focused only on creating pretty and usable products, to design thinking, as a way of thinking to new products with the aim of answering at human necessities.
He shows indeed, as an example, how his career history went from creating modern and fancy products to the awareness of real human changing.

Therefore, he states design must be human-centered and thought for people through a deep understanding of cultures and context of use; a process that starts asking ourselves the right “universal” questions.
Universal because the design process is meant to answer to collective problems, that are true for everybody and which everyone can participate in solving.

“The desing have impact when is taken from the hand of designers to the hand of everyone”

…he says during the conference.
A participatory system is indeed necessary to create the ultimate product, which answers to real needs of the community.
Prototyping helps us to speed up the process of creation; testing in order to get feedback becomes fundamental to learn by making:

“It’s only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really start to understand their strenghts and weakness […] Faster we do that the faster our ideas evolve”


It is, in fact, this last idea that gave me a real boost!
As a human, my inner nature is to be afraid of the judgment of people; being considered in a way that is far from my ideal myself is at least terrifying.
Reluctant to state my ideas until completely certain of the surrounding, I procrastinate in search of the perfect time and the perfect situation.

But according to Brown, the cycle of designing is that tool which allows you to find your own mistakes and correct those for the best results; starting since the beginning with the idea that your work will present errors and can always be improved, is as much obvious as underestimated.
And do this as fast as you can allow a rapid increase of criticism and creativity, which couldn’t be possible if you are focused on finding the perfect solution in your first attempt – afraid to be judged by the client, or by the community, etc.

So, yeah! You will find me now in the same group of people who will suggest this speech ’till the very end of their days.


After nine years from Brown’s Talk, we find commonly associated with Design Thinking an infographic published by Standford d.school which illustrates in more details every step of the creation process:

Eventually, a rough method of designing has become a specific process with a list of tools created in order to achieve the best results in a brief time.

So funny that digging into the same topic and looking online for more recent contents, I came across to 2 different videos with conflicting opinions on the benefit of this structurization.

In the first one Jon from AJ&Smart points out how, in his work experience collaborating with several companies, he found a bad predisposition on investing in design because of negative previous experiences, when a blind belief in the process caused huge wasting of financial resources:

Very similar to the first, in this video Natasha Jen (with a very controversial speech) makes a strong critic about the designers’ attachment to the formula which, in her opinion, produces banalities and bonds criticism:


What is your personal experience with design thinking?
Have you ever found yourself in the same situation as Jon? Do you think Natasha approach is too strict or do you find yourself in agreement with her?

Let me know your opinion or other interesting sources with a comment!
Feedback and suggestion always welcomed 🙂


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