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#43 - Design Thinking III - 1980s

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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Design thinking process in the 80s

This is the continuation of part two, Design Thinking II - Wicked Problems & 1970s

Nigel Cross on design thinking in the 80s

In 1982, Nigel Cross, a British design researcher, in a paper called "Designlerly ways of knowing", compares designers' problem solving with the solutions to non-design problems that we develop in our daily lives.

If we start from Double Diamond's ultra-synthesized model, Research > Design, a model designed by the British Design Council in 2005, based on and adapted from the model of Hungarian-American linguist Béla H. Bánáthy, we can use these two steps in virtually every situation in our daily lives, whether personal or work-related.

If I have some asparagus in the fridge and I don't know what to make me to eat, don't you search the internet for what to do with this ingredient and keep researching different options? And when you finish this research phase, what comes next? Effectively, the production of the food, the design.

Nigel Cross also wrote several scientific papers on the development of design methodologies in 1984 and the book Engineering Design Methods in '89. All this led to his passion for design cognition, or what we now call Design Thinking.

Lawson's Design Thinking Experiment

Bryan Lawson, a professor at Sheffield University School of Architecture, did several very interesting studies using comparative scientific and architectural methods.

Lawson conducted a series of tests with graduate students in architecture (the "designers") and science (the "scientists"). He set each group a problem of arranging colored blocks, in which the student had to adhere to a set of rules, some of which they did not know.

Lawson realized that the scientists tended to systematically explore all possible combinations of blocks in order to formulate a hypothesis about the fundamental rule they should follow to produce the optimal arrangement of blocks. In other words, scientists were problem-centered problem solvers.

Designers, on the other hand, tended to quickly create multiple arrangements of colored blocks and then test whether they fit the requirements of the problem. Designers were solution-focused problem solvers who chose to generate a large number of solutions and eliminate those that did not work.

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