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Many of you will have heard of design thinking, but it also still feels like there’s an air of mystery about this much-quoted subject. Dig a little and you’ll find yourself deep in a rabbits hole of design thinking content. Generally positive, as well as some vocal decenters. If you are completely new to this concept and still curious a great place to start is here at IDEO. One of the pioneers of this mercurial subject.

Personally, I believe if you’ve carved a niche for yourself as a working designer, whether you know it or not you’ll be practising many of the tenets of design thinking. This sentiment is echoed in Jared M Spools brilliant post from a few years ago.

For me one of its most powerful tools is to break the ‘make it pretty’ design stereotype. Giving greater depth and value to design outside of the design community. At Pragmatic we’ve enjoyed a much closer working relationship with our clients when design thinking processes are used to include and excite clients.

Real world investigation

When I chanced upon the opportunity to attend one of General Assemblies workshops my curiosity was piqued. I wanted to find out exactly what’s being taught about design thinking? Who’s wanting to find out more about this? Also to gauge my own understanding and practice against this type of benchmark.

Firstly, the people. It was exciting to see a wide diversity of ages and roles within the room that night. A mix of graduates, designers, product people, start-uppers, a doctor and a CEO. To me this mindset of inclusivity that design thinking is enabling can only be a good thing for the work we do.

After some initial teeing up of the core theory and process from the very knowledgeable instructor Nirish we got into the good stuff of workshopping some of these abstract practices.

Our task

As a group we were given the task to rethink the wallet concept.

Meeting complete strangers and being expected to communicate ideas is something I like to think I’m quite well versed in. So the research phase felt very familiar. We did notice some people in the room were hesitant to probe with questions. To keep asking ‘why’ or ‘what’? It’s fundamental to design thinking process to be inquisitive. Again I think for most designers this skill is honed over time.

The workshop did successfully demonstrate how these processes get to ambitious and exciting ideas, quickly. It sounds like a cliché but it was funny how much we heard the question, ‘does it have to be a wallet’? That’s great, as that’s the point. To use your research to not rely on predictable solutions to a problem. This is how design thinking fosters innovation. After an hour or two of questioning, sketching and rethinking, the group had come up with some great wallet evolutions. Ideas such as vessels using credit cards as its structure. Wearables aligned to payment integrations, and even AI implants.

Design doing

This is also when I got to consider how the term design thinking does it a bit of a disservice. As it implies that it’s all about intense, earnest soul searching (which often happens and is critical), but it’s the output for me which is the most exciting part, the ‘doing’ after the ‘thinking’.

I would highly recommend anyone interested to look a little deeper into these type of workshops. There’s no substitute for practical experience when it comes to design. Whether you’re a complete newbie or a seasoned professional, everyone can benefit from topping up the creative muscle memory.

Our design thinking success

If you’re interested in finding out more about Pragmatic’s experience of working with design thinking, our work with Sage is a great example of how we applied these philosophies. Bringing together two organisation’s separate teams to collaborate creatively and solve big problems. You can read more about this in our case study.

Pragmatic Sage case study