Thursday, May 26, 2011

Live Blog from ICSE: Exciting New Trends in Design Thinking

The keynote this morning was called Exciting New Trends in Design Thinking by Bill Dresselhaus.

He started by giving a little background about himself, pointing out that he discovered that he was not so interested in Chemical Engineering, in which he had a Masters degree, but really liked drawing, so we went back to do another masters, in Industrial Design. He taught design in South Korea for a year and  settled in Silicon Valley as a consultant. He became the design lead at Apple, working on the Apple Lisa ("Mother of the Mac"). He later worked for InDesign, and wrote a well-known book "Return on Innovation". He is now back teaching design thinking in Korea.

He addressed the question, what is design: It is not only fashion, styling, etc. he said. He cited Victor Papenek who said "All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all human activity".

He distilled the concept of design to "Giving form and order to things (plus more)."

He stated that design objectives are: Utility, usability, emotion and innovation.

He discussed several people who have criticized industrial design, or design thinking, stating that it has failed or is dead, or is a commodity (e.g. China has Industrial Design parks where they have thousands of people working on products.)

He contrasted small design from big design, the latter being of systems that have lasting value.

He pointed out that there are many categories of design including, educational, UI, software, etc.

Design thinking is a kind or way of thinking and seeing and perceiving things. He drew an analogy with business thinking.

Attributes of design thinking he gave were: Process, tools, results, human-centred and visual.

He cited the book Blue Ocean Strategy, which states that innovations come from putting existing things together in new ways: Innovation from within.

He cited the Stanford, in which several academic units collaborate in the area of design.

He suggested that engineers need to get back to the 19th century attitude towards design thinking and product design, where engineers used to do wonderful drawings.

His current passion is "design education for everyone". If everyone knows how to design, then everything will be designed better.

He teaches at Hongik University in Seoul, and IDAS.

He discussed with enthusiasm the courses he teaches. For example, teams work on designing guitars. They have to learn about guitars in general, in addition to design issues surrounding guitars.

He says you can teach everyone to draw well enough to design. He says, however, that making mockups is particularly easy for people.

He teaches courses in the law school: Masters of Intellectual Property.

He does design thinking corporate workshops: Participants go into the surrounding city to 'find problems' and then come back to solve them. People in his courses are so excited that they actually come early.

He thinks that design should be taught in all schools, not just specialized schools, "just like we teach personal finance". Actually, I wish we did do the latter everywhere too.

He talked about convergence: Design + Business + Innovation.

He talked about "medical experience design" where a doctor has combined a clinic with a café in a relaxing context, so people's blood pressure readings are real, among other benefits.

He discussed the fear professional designers may have if everybody learns how to do good design. He actually thinks that the more expansive design is, the more work there will be for these people.

If everybody does design, there will both be schlock and value. He showed examples of ordinary people and small companies doing innovative design and prototyping. You can go to and buy a relatively cheap rapid prototyping tool. He suggests that such devices may become available everywhere in stores that now offer photocopying services.

He discussed social design: For example has a project to do design to help developing countries.

He gave an example of how a group of students studied then improved the design of the workflow of cleaning staff in a building.

He suggested that AutoDesk software for digital sketching is excellent.

He said that better software is needed from software engineers for various types of design, such as user inspired and generated design in 2D and 3D that is easy to use and  highly accessible. He also suggested there is a need for tools for design for the environment (DFE); these tools require integration of scientific knowledge.

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