3 Deconstructing Design Thinking
This article examines the visual representation of the six-stage design process model that was initially developed by the Nielsen Norman Group, and has become strongly associated with design thinking. The approach is to deconstruct this image and reconstitute it in various alternative forms, in order to help understand what is being privileged and what is being made invisible in this model in particular, and in design thinking more generally. The perspectives are: (1) the conventional six-stage model associated with design thinking; (2) the stages rearranged to suggest that there is no fixed sequence; (3) the same model modified to suggest that later iterations are more successful than earlier iterations; (4) that the designer should not be invisible as the agent driving the process; (5) that the process is a collaborative one that involves an entire team rather than an individual; (6) that there is the possibility of additional steps, consisting for example of reflection or evaluation after the project has been completed by the designer and implemented; (7) that, despite the framing as design thinking, not all design projects are intended to produce a commodity; (8) that different iterations of the design cycle may privilege different choices among the 5 human factors; (9) that there are potential users of the design; (10) that the same process can be used for participatory design, where the potential users are present when design decisions are being made; (11) that other priorities than the human could be placed at the centre of the process (these might include, for instance, other creatures, various flora, and different aspects of the natural environment); (12) that not all steps have equal weight. By giving comparable visual form to a number of different perspectives, priorities, or approaches to design, the authors suggest that design process models can have multiple interpretations. In some cases, it is already implicit in the diagram but is made explicit; in other cases, choices are represented among closely-related yet distinct alternative models of the design process. Finally, the article presents the entire set within a rich-prospect display, where, for these visualizations, ambiguity is present not at the granularity of the individual panel, but rather in the interplay, overlap and, sometimes, mutual exclusion that exists between the interpretive perspectives made visible in the various panels. The authors are clear that the suggested variations are not the complete set of possible variations, but are instead intended to gesture toward a more nuanced understanding of this kind of diagram.
Keywords: design process, design thinking, empathy, diagram