Book review – Change by design, Tim Brown

Every once in a while you come across a book that completely changes the way you see a specific subject. This was the case for me with Change by Design.

One of the biggest takeaways from this book for me as a graphic designer is that design, as a broad concept, is not necessarily related to products, nor something you can see or feel. In particular, design thinking is an interdisciplinary practice, that can combine strategy and tactics, approaching problems from an economic point of view all the way to the emotional.

I first learned about this approach in UX Design. For instance, one of the key considerations as part of the UXD process is to gather information from the relevant participants in every phase, whether that be company stakeholders, legal advisors or end users. The UXD process cannot be carried out in isolation, lest it result in something nobody but the creator wants to use.

In the same way, design thinking really needs to occur “outside the box”, and be synergistic, if the end goal is to create solutions and not simply appealing objects.

What is Design Thinking?

In abstract terms, design thinking is a set of principles that can be applied by diverse people to solve a wide range of problems. It can involve thinking about strategy, tactics, ergonomics or even business viability, in order to create products that solve problems in more than one way, making them more valuable overall and resilient. This will make more sense as you read the following key takeaways.

Key takeaways

1. To be a design thinker, taking an integrative approach to projects is crucial.

  • Innovation is like inventing new technology.Design thinking offers you a 3 methods called ¨spaces¨ to approach and understanding of innovation.
    • First: Inspiration; consider a problem or opportunity and work on how to solve it.
    • Second: Ideation; develop ideas and theories and put them to the test.
    • Third: Implementation; introducing an idea to the market.

2. Revolutionary design solutions stem from observation and letting consumers take the lead.

  • A designer´s job is to convert the need into a demand. Observation provides meaningful insights into pressing needs.
  • Consider that each person has different needs and aspirations.
  • Design thinking invites people to engage in creating solutions to their own problems.
  • The unique experiences for each consumer will be more significant for themselves. 

3. Think with your hands, not just with your head – a prototype will get your idea out there faster.

  • If we build an idea and use our hands, we quickly learn its limitations and many possible directions to take. Create prototypes – it’s the best way to start.
  • With the prototype, you can quickly put it out on the market and observe how people use it.
  • The prototyping occupies all three spaces of innovation at once.
  • A prototype gives birth to new ideas and potential improvements.

4. Design thinking uses storytelling to make ideas and products more relatable to consumers

  • Storytelling has been an important role in how we understand ideas and concepts.
  • Design thinking uses stories to make a product relatable to customers.
  • The origin of a product and how the customer will use it is the beginning to develop a good story.
  • The most meaningful stories are those which customers can write themselves.
  • If the customers are participants in a product´s story, they are more likely to use the product.

5. Smart teams and an inspiring work environment are the basis of successful innovations.

  • Experimentation and accepting failure in life is where Innovation starts to grow.
  • A smart team, diverse and interdisciplinary is necessary to start the innovation in an organization.
  • The companies should provide a space where the smart team works; in the same company or by internet.
  • Each member of the team will contribute different ideas, perspectives and points of view.
  • Creativity and innovation will be the product of a good and consolidated team.

4. A good design thinker always asks, ¨why¨ and is willing to take her ideas to the masses.

  • The word “WHY” help us to understand and discover what happens around us.
  • We must ask whether a current solution to a problem is the optimal one.
  • If an idea is shared freely, it will quickly improve.
  • If we are possessive about ideas it will be terrible for innovation.
  • A good design thinker always asks “why”.

5. Design thinking promotes change by encouraging customers to adopt more sustainable behaviours.

  • Design thinking has the potential to increase public awareness, about ¨human-made global climate change¨ for instance.
  • The designers and companies have to find ways to inspire people’s sustainable habits.
  • The production process is the base that design thinkers need to focus on.
  • The impact can be powerful if sustainability is more accessible.
  • There are no excuses not to find opportunities for innovation.

Closing thoughts

Hopefully these key points have demonstrated the wide scope of design thinking. To think in terms of design is not equivalent to think like a designer. A designer might think only in terms of appearance and a design thinker might not know anything about aesthetics or usability. So, to think in terms of design is a skill set that can be learned and adopted by anyone who wishes to innovate in a holistic way, in almost any context.

Where to find the book

You may find the hardcover book in most popular book stores, but it is also available as an ebook for kindle.

Change by Design - Tim Brown

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