Having a browse through my Google Drive, I found my final essay for open university U101. enjoy.
1. What is Design Thinking?
“The design thinking process has seven stages: Define, Research, Ideate, Prototype, Choose, Implement, Learn... The steps aren’t linear; they can occur simultaneously and can be repeated”
I don’t believe that the design process is necessarily about churning out hundreds of ideas. The designer might have a flash of inspiration leading to a single idea, which is the best possible result for the defined problem. To me, Design Thinking is pretentious. David Carson, in his TED talk, discusses intuition and ‘gut feelings’ and uses this quote to illustrate his point.
“The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness – call it intuition or what you will – and the solution just comes to you, and you don't know from where or why.”
Albert Einstein, (Open University U101 (2010))
More problems may become apparent as he works on his solution. This can be where innovation emerges as that single idea evolves and improves. If that idea fails, it might have led to further inspiration. The designer will hypothesise on the information he has. He will make drawings or 3D models to prototype his ideas, which he will reflect on to see which can be taken forward as a possible solution. During this reflection his ideas and research might alter the very problem he is trying to solve. I think that good design should be adventurous and the designer should not be afraid to take a risk. Design thinking is the key to a door behind which is the very thing you need, but you’ve no idea what it will be until the door is opened.
Good design is recognisable, for example: Norman Foster’s tower at 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin) or the Gill Sans typeface, designed in 1927-30 by Eric Gill for The London Underground.
It should be innovative but also be durable. Concrete, glass and steel are widely used today but were also very popular with the designers of Bauhaus, founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius.
It should be fit for purpose. The ‘product’ should do exactly what it needs to, without frills or unnecessary decoration. Louis Sullivan said, in 1896:
“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heard, of the soul,
That the life is recognisable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.”
I don’t believe in “The Process”. A client doesn’t care why their designer chose to write with a red pen. They are paying for a solution or a product. All the client needs is a ‘thing’ that will do what they need it to. All the designer needs to worry about is whether the client likes what they’ve ‘designed’ and whether it performs. If he shows them their product and they tell him they don’t like it, the reasons why it isn’t liked are discussed and he makes a new ‘thing’. Design should not be over-complicated. Eva Zeisel is a self-proclaimed ‘maker of things’ she makes things that look good to her, she makes things because she enjoys it.
2. Your work in OpenDesignStudio
I only participated in online activities such as ODS and the forums when I absolutely had to. Open University work does not lend itself well to collaborative activities. It is the ‘university’ people turn to when they don’t have the option of going to a ‘real’ university. The work is supposed to fit in around a person’s normal commitments. If I haven’t had time to visit the forums or ODS for a few days or even a couple of weeks I find that threads are old, everyone has moved on and it isn’t useful to add anything to those discussions. Asynchronous communication is all very well if used in a context where the user gets regular access to check for updates. For one of our assignments I set up a Google Wave account. I found it much easier to follow than the single ‘comments thread’ we were given on ODS as I was able to see, at a glance, the different topics discussed. I also turned to other Web 2.0 areas later in the same assignment: I asked my followers on Twitter and Blogger for feedback and ideas in the Creative Session, as I don’t have people offline to work with.
Because I find it so difficult to come up with more than one idea for a given brief, It is nearly impossible for me to comment on other students’ work by suggesting improvements and I don’t believe “I like the blue bit” is a useful comment.
I have a terrible memory and it was very tough, finding comments I might have left in ODS but I do remember one: I posted on Peter Sadler’s T-shirt design back in block 1 (ODS, 2010). He had used the ‘thumbs up’ gesture teamed with an Arabic style script. In my research, having gone for the same gesture, I discovered that, in some Middle Eastern countries, the raised thumb is a highly offensive gesture, the equivalent of a raised middle finger in the UK.
One comment I received was useful to me: In posting the three images for TMA04, someone suggested that the broken down food waste could be used for compost, which I had mentioned in my documentation, but had forgotten to put on the final third sheet.
I have assisted other students where I’ve felt able to.
If I’ve held an opinion that is contrary to the opinion popularly held on a forum thread, I’ve kept it to myself. I’m not one for confrontation. I suffer from Social Phobia and depression and forced collaborative work with people I'm only going to know for eight months is not helpful. Hilary Cottam seems to be all about social integration and what seems like enforced jollity. This is not something I agree with, If people don’t want to get involved then making them do it is not going to be productive; they’re more likely to be overly cynical and contrary to prove their point.
I think perhaps that it’s just that I “don’t play well with others”. I am perfectly capable of working by myself. I’m accountable for the work and there’s no one else around to spoil the end result.
3. Design Thinking in Context.
I’ve gone back to TMA11 and I can safely say that I haven’t changed a bit. I’m still no good at writing. I get my ideas through inspiration and intuition, which generally leads to a single thing I’m happy with rather than lots of ideas to wade through. U101 has jaded me. I sounded so excited at the beginning of the course. Not any more.
As I have described, I’m an intuitive ‘designer’. I will continue to solve problems in this way. I don’t like to dwell on problems, it gets me nowhere. During the course I’ve spent more time staring at the brief than actually ‘designing’. I find that nearly as soon as I start doing something else, away from and usually not thinking about the problem, an idea will come to me, fully formed.
When it comes to prototyping, if I do any, I prefer to sketch until I know exactly what needs to be done to make a final piece, I don’t like wasting materials that I might need later to build my ‘product’. At this stage too my Process is largely intuitive.
I have “Used computing tools and online environments to aid design thinking.” I have a very small group of friends and couldn’t use them for ‘creative sessions’ so I had to turn to Twitter and Blogger for assistance.
I can now say that the one thing I’ve learned since February is that I never want to do any ‘Design’ courses again. Since choosing my options for GCSE in 1995, I wanted to work in graphic design or architecture. Whenever I design anything now or find myself in a situation which means I need to find a solution to a particular problem, following U101, I will always be painfully aware that I’m doing it wrong. I’m supposed to come up with a great number of rubbish ideas, cover half my house in post-it notes, walk ‘round with my pen scratching constantly in a diary, then go over my superfluous time-wasting and choose an idea. All I ever manage to do is see the finished design in my head, at a time when I’m not even thinking about the problem, which I’m mostly happy with. I can’t articulate how I come up with the ideas, they just appear: “That’s what I saw in my head” isn’t a valid explanation. It’s all about The Process, apparently.
Sadly, I’ve not learned to “initiate an attitude of playfulness” I’m a cynic.