Ideation. Prototyping. Development. These three stages of product development utilize generative to evaluative to iterative mindsets to design products or services that reflect human-centered behaviors. How do we create these mindsets to stimulate design-thinking?

Certificate programs and graduate programs are being offered to teach design-thinking processes to lead students towards a mindset of creating products and services with innovative approaches to achieve identified goals. We also see some progressive  K-12 programs following suit with inclusion of makerspaces and integration of new technologies to build design-thinking mindsets at an early stage.  The shift from STEM to STEAM is an example of a recognition that to achieve a level of creativity in the ideation stage, the integration of art into a science based mindset is critical. One can argue that integrating art into every curricular context is also necessary.

The traditional pedagogical approach in art school, historically at least,  is to give the student a “problem” with some creative parameters to solve. The solution had to draw on the student’s development of sketches, brainstorms, early designs, perhaps a prototype and finally a fully created work of art that met the design problem requirements. A critique or evaluative discussion would ensue in which further refinements would occur.  This process is exactly where design-thinking stems from. Thinking about how to integrate this creative process by including arts (any modality) into the ideation stage whether in engineering, business or a civic setting is key. It is proven that the act of art making stimulates the neurons in the brain that open the creativity channels. Education reformists and researchers have documented that essential 21st century skills for students of any ages include creativity and critical thinking – this means both having a mindset to approach problems from unique perspectives and the experience to physically manipulate materials into new possibilities. We need art to spark the creative process.

Harnessing this piece into any design-thinking program is critical to see  novel results.  Continuing to explore pedagogical opportunities to draw on art frameworks in the refinement of design-thinking process is an opportunity to push innovative transformations to new levels.   Jasper Liu of Good Design, wrote a blog and developed a model of design-thinking which introduces two key words into the design-thinking vocabulary: Divergent and Convergent. At what points in the ideation phase do we draw on divergent thinking, or the ability to think in an open-ended and open-minded way about a problem? And how do our efforts in really understanding the nature of the problem lead to convergent, or a coming together of potential solutions to test? Bringing the art back into design-thinking is a way to build both divergent and convergent mindsets.

Visit “Visualizing the 4 Essentials of Design Thinking” to read Liu’s blog and to view a great breakdown of how some of today’s top organizations are modeling the design thinking process.

As Liu says “Design Big! Think Big”







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