I was only one third of the way through IDEO CEO Tim Brown’s recently released book “Change by Design” by the time of his lecture on design thinking methodology at the California College of Arts. But the talk and the organization innovation tome–which I’ve enjoyed more, even given the beauty of the school’s Timken Hall–both have me thinking about the role of design in the lives and work of “non-designers.”
Image from “Change by Design.”
As a design enthusiast and observer, I sometimes wonder if I’ve missed out on formal design education, art theory and hands-on creation with the time I’ve spent writing on the web. Torn-out descriptions of design appreciation classes at UC Berkeley Extention and product modeling courses at the SFAI aren’t hard to find in my apartment, but my hesitation in taking them seems to reflect a sense that I can enjoy and take part in design without working specifically in graphic arts or another role that indicates design proficiency.
Brown has lots of thoughts about the role that untrained “designers” can have in impacting ways that organizations can work better. “We don’t tell people that they can’t use math if they aren’t trained mathematicians,” he said in describing the importance of appreciation for good design among laypeople. And as the head of a firm that went through post-bubble restructuring and now employs specialist across ~50 different disciplines (and, yes, a poet was mentioned as having been brought on for a project in the past), he should know. Design thinking as Brown introduces it is a process by which observational research and consideration of what’s lacking can lead to possible solutions to both business and civic problems. This isn’t to undermine the value of formal training and experience–maybe just to second the idea that people who have made designing their craft have a lot to share with the rest of us about accepting iterative and non-linear thinking in our own projects.