We looked at how design can inform and aid business development and what my understanding of what design thinking and strategy can provide beyond the old idea of design as aesthetic. But what are these concepts exactly and how can they actively help in business?

‘Design Thinking’ as a concept is often associated with David Kelly, a Stanford professor and the founder of IDEO, one of the leading design firms established in 1991. It draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be, and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user or customer. A design mindset is not problem-focused, but solution focused, and action oriented. It involves both analysis and imagination.

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

Design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem solving concept that any business or profession can employ to achieve results. Combining creative and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved, and knowledge to be gained.

As an example that gives us a good insight into how design thinking works in practice, John Rheinfrank of Fitch Design showed Kodak that its disposable cameras didn’t exist to replace traditional cameras, but instead to meet specific needs, like weddings, underwater photography and others.

What he achieved was simple, that rather than trying to provide an immediate solution to what was a perceived problem, he showed, through a human analytical approach that, it not only wasn’t an issue, but that a market already existed for the product that meet customers needs.


Defining the idea of Design strategy


The term Design strategy builds on the idea of design thinking and is best defined as “a discipline which helps firms determine what to make and do, why to do it and how to innovate contextually, both immediately and over the long term. This process involves the interplay between design and business strategy.”

The term strategy adds greater scope to the idea of what design thinking can provide through every aspect of a particular business model. Not only can it provide creative logical and innovation reasoning, but can inform the long term goals of the firm.

At Hewlett-Packard their global design division moved the focus of design that simplified the technological experience. This new approach in connecting design efforts to an organization’s business strategy helped reduce manufacturing costs across the company portfolio and aided to put HP back on the map as one of the tech industries leading innovators.

“Design is the action of bringing something new and desired into existence—a proactive stance that resolves or dissolves problematic situations by design. It is a compound of routine, adaptive and design expertise brought to bear on complex dynamic situations.” —Harold Nelson

This is where the idea of a design led business really helps to drive a business on. Rather than providing a immediate solution to a companies supposed problem, design thinking should take the necessary steps to understand not what the problem is, but whether in fact there is an actual problem at all. Only by understanding fully the companies idea behind why the believe they have a problem, can the design thinker provide a truly informed and useful opinion on what that solution should be.

Whether it’s understanding, like in the case of Kodak, that there is no actual issue. Or as in HP’s idea that design can lead technological innovation rather than simply provide the finishing touches. To put simply,  it’s best to identify and define the problem first before looking to form the right solutions around it.

Design thinking can become a provider of real innovation across numerous areas in our interconnected world, to aid organizations to create more sustainable products and services, to engage with people and places in better ways,  to help people adopt a healthier lifestyle. The framework of design thinking can be used to transformational tool.

Design lets us not just see the issues as they arise, but gives us the opportunity to think about the possibilities that could be.

And for me, that’s a good place to be.