design thinking


To me, this is an interesting topic. What is design thinking and how is it applied to science design? I would like to step back a little bit. Design thinking is a new phase for me that I have only experienced in the past 9 months or so. Before I entered the design program here at UCD, I had no clue what design encompassed. To be honest, I thought it was all about making things look good so that people would buy more products from the business that hired a designer. From this shallow opinion, to me it seemed a degree in psychology or biology would use more “higher thinking.” What I mean by that is I could use my own higher thinking to problem solve either with a patient in a hospital or a psych clinic. This opinion was reinforced when I saw the work my mother was doing, who at the time was getting an associate’s degree in graphic design from a community college. It just seemed like they were teaching her to make logos and learn the creative suite; nothing beyond this. Outside from this, I had no reference or anyone who could tell me that design could be much, much more. This opinion then obviously switched when I found out about the SMD program, and I began taking my first design classes, Typography and Intro. This is when I learned about design thinking. I was very relieved, not completely knowing what I was getting myself into, signing up for a hybrid degree program.


The deeper I got with classes, the more I see a correlation between my science training and the design readings and theories I was learning. None of it was very far off. Form follows function. This is true of biology or interaction design. But, in design you must understand the function and design a better form. In science, you must understand the function and the form at the same time, but you are solving form and function problems when they arise or when searching for new knowledge, and there will only be one right answer. I feel more challenged in my design classes than I do in my science ones. Sure, chemistry is some hard stuff, but there is only one solution to the problem and the teacher and past students already know it. In my design projects, I am thinking independently and no one knows what the answer will look like. It takes way more “higher thinking” to visually communicate, because it is not just about making a pretty logo, it is improving a human experience using design theories. Sure, you may know that the science behind health is a balanced diet and exercise; you may tell this to patients all day in the office, but how so you get them to actually fulfill this prophecy?


Hire a designer! That’s how. The research for this project, I did not shy away from Wikipedia – this is what the general population will go to when the see the phase “design thinking” for the first time. I was impressed with Wikipedia, besides the section on “Wicked Problems” making it look like designers talk like stoned snowboarders when working. I could tell the author was like, “this is so lol” when he was writing it—maybe stoned too. But the introduction is good, “Design Thinking refers to the methods and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analyzing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields. As a style of thinking, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context. While design thinking has become part of the popular lexicon in contemporary design and engineering practice, as well as business and management, its broader use in describing a particular style of creative thinking-in-action is having an increasing influence on twenty-first century education across disciplines. In this respect, it is similar to systems thinking in naming a particular approach to understanding and solving problems.” ( What? Some of this looks like science mumbo jumbo! Design thinking is a science, and when applied to science subjects, it gets closer. I often get teased that I didn’t really drop being a pre-med, that I am “half a doctor.” I think as the field of design is getting closer to engineering, it is starting to divorce itself from the traditional definition of design—the one that I had about 2 years ago. And for this post, when thinking about design thinking in science, it is getting even more away from the pure artistic side of design. I do think art and design are the same thing, just that art is a design project that wants to communicate an individual’s or group’s personal thoughts and feelings. SMD is communicating science; it is just simply different content. When you go to an art show, you receive a visual message, and gain more knowledge about the world. But as a science designer, your goal is not to communicate your personal feelings.


Designers do need to start expressing themselves though—they need to tell the world and scientists that they need designers. That design is important…equally as important to what is in those test tubes. What is the point of your glorious study if all you do is spend 10 minutes behind a podium speaking with a slide with more text and line graphs than you can shake a stick at? It’s like there is a contest about how much important, complex information you can stick on one page. Design thinking can improve science. 



3 thoughts on “design thinking

  1. Maybe you are a half a doctor, half a botanist, half an astronomer, half an anthropologist, half a scientist, half archaeologist, and whole Scientific designer. Science design will cover all of those fields, so the design thinking for science will be just as vast and challenging. I agree that art and design go hand in hand because an artist designs their artwork and artwork is what creates a design. They both take acknowledgement, exploration, testing, and conclusion on a final product. And with them both, there is always some new to create.

  2. your last paragraph made me realize that one of the defining characteristics of design thinking is the inclusion of the user/ subject in a study. It is a major part of improving any product, or solving any problem including SMD

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