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Design Methodology in Increasingly Varied Settings

Design-centric approaches are being applied to global-scale problems. You find evidence in the substantial coverage business publications give to the greater possibilities in design and how “design thinking” has become a popular term among many who have never even stepped foot in a design studio. The challenges society faces are becoming progressively vast: resource concerns, social issues, and the threats of climate change, to name a few.

You are tapped to help with these bigger challenges because the way designers think is so unique. You are given an incomplete set of information and are then tasked to build something that may still be undefined. You need to conduct research, ask questions, and probe for insight in settings you’re unfamiliar with. Thereafter, you form a hypothesis, prototype options, and test them without necessarily knowing how success will be measured.

As a result of all the variability, the possibility of a simple cookie-cutter solution for all problems becomes less workable. For this reason good design methodology needs to be adaptive. It can’t falter in the face of these diverse challenges; instead, the process needs to be resilient enough to adapt as parameters change.


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The One Laptop per Child program—from infrastructure to hardware—proves a delightful example of what impacts can be made by applying design thinking to massive challenges.

The advantage of knowing how to approach and solve vague problems is that other new challenges become less bewildering. In fact, I’ve used The Design Method approach to design the interior of my home (and I am certainly no interior designer), inform the position of organizations, and even write this book. Actually, the method presented in this book is ideal for structuring a lengthy document. In effect, you can use The Design Method to help you make sense of many big problems you face in countless situations.

Up Next

The first step in The Design Method is Discovery, which focuses on gaining understanding of the situation you’re designing for. In the next chapter, I’ll explain why achieving this insight is so important and detail how to ask questions and get the information you need to create a sensible plan.

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