How Useful Is Design Thinking? A Scholarly And Experiential Critique




Goulet, Madeline Michelle

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The term “design thinking” has become a buzzword and is routinely touted as a panacea for all ills in business, engineering, technology, and more. I’ve become curious about how and why “design thinking” has become such a fashionable creative problem-solving methodology in business and academia today, especially in the United States. But what is it? And how did it come to be? Can it be applied to everything? And if not, in what situations or settings is design thinking useful? Design thinking is a creative problem-solving methodology modeled on the way that designers have traditionally solved creative problems. The goal is to yield human-centered, and therefore better products and services that improve the human experience. Design thinking, the methodology is commonly conflated with design, the discipline. However, design thinking is a method that can be used by anyone who learns the methods, whereas design is a craft or an art that cannot be reduced to a formula, and requires years of study to do expertly. In my work, I define the essence of what design thinking is, define the crucial steps, and explain some of the variations. I also synthesize perspectives on the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of design thinking from various design professionals and design thinking advocates. Lastly, I synthesize a timeline of events, people, and movements that relate to design thinking in order to explain how and why it became the popular buzzword it is today.



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