Sunday, October 17, 2010

Design Thinking with Barry Katz at Stanford: Class 3

In the third How to Think Like a Designer class, Barry started by sharing a story about an inspirational visit to a cutting edge recycling plant called Green Waste in Palo Alto, CA. He asked the class to guess what the #1 working hazard was. Breathing/lung issues? Carpal tunnel? No. 95% of all the injuries are needle sticks. Even though the workers wear needle resistant gloves, it's not possible at this time to completely avoid needle sticks. This ignited an impromptu brainstorming - use magnets to pull the needles from the piles, put RFID tags in needles so they can be scanned and seen, create more stick resistant gloves, provide needle repositories on public recycling bins, and more. The ideas ranged from changing the needles, to changing how they're identified, to changing the way they are discarded in the first place.

How far up the chain do we go when we look for a solution? It depends on the careful defining in the brief. Design solutions can behavioral, technical, social or legislative. Defining a brief is an art. The client often comes to the designer with "This is my problem." The designer needs to say, "No. You think that’s your problem. This is the real problem." Guiding a client to the proper posing of the issue in the first place is often the most difficult part of the process.

Barry talked about the 7 year itch phenomenon in the industry. First people were all about design methods, then design management, now it’s design thinking. It’s a sign of a profession that is continually renewing itself.

We then resumed where we left off last week on the origins of design thinking:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Design Thinking with Barry Katz at Stanford: Class 2

In the second How to Think Like a Designer class, we explored the origins of design thinking:

1. Design history is the history not just of objects, but of ideas.

Primatologist Sherwood Washburn believed people don't make things. Things make people. Primitive tools have shaped our evolution.

The Historical Trajectory of Objects:

19th Century - the stand alone object is analog, mechanically straightforward, and operated by hands. Ex: Olivetti Typewriter
20th century - the plug in object makes no sense unless it's connected to electricity, which is both a restraint and an opportunity. Ex: Television sets
21st Century - the networked object opened up new product categories and made predecessors obsolete almost instantly. Ex: iPhone

The Historical Trajectory of Design Thinking:

In the 1840's, Henry Cole pioneered government recognition of design. He lobbied the British government for support for his campaign to improve standards in industrial design. He was appointed the first General Superintendent of the Department of Practical Art, tasked with improving industrial art and design education in Britain. He was also the inventor of the postage stamp and the Christmas card.

In 1851, Joseph Paxton made an important contribution to biomimicry inspired design in the Crystal Palace for The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations - the first World's Fair. The Crystal Palace could be considered the world's first horizontal skyscraper - revolutionary in its modular, prefabricated design and use of glass in a patterns that mirrored the structure of a leaf. Not only did he consider the architecture, but its use by thousands of people a day. He designed the wooden floorboards with slight spaces between them so dirt could be easily swept into the spaces below the floor. He then hired a huge group of boys to sweep the floors every evening, but soon realized that the bottom of ladies' dresses were doing the job.