Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Design Thinking!

I am a great fan of Ideo. I love the way they have institutionalized design. What can be more charming than the ability to summon creativity at will! I learned early in life at my art Fine Arts academy that creativity is not an art, it is a craft. Although I was always fascinated at how our Aquilla Sir could transform his thoughts on paper ever so effortlessly, I grew up to realize that it's the thinking behind the creation that really makes a difference.

This was further reinforced in my journalism school. Our prof Mr Adarsh Varma (one of the founding journos at Pioneer and stone drunk even at 12 noon) reiterated for the umpteenth time that "editors are not born, they are made!" You only need to cultivate an eye for detail to make the cut. This stayed with me as I ran around as a reporter trying to cover stories and then trying to have them published without being hacked into a quarter of the original. That's when one veteran shared with me his pearls of wisdom - it's not how good you write or what facts you present, it's about the structure you follow to make the story relevant for your reader.

When I joined a corporate in 98 as a tentative editor in an unexciting domain of computer-based training, I did not think I would survive the mundane system. More so as editing meant thumbing through 1000 pages of MSTP and then trying to convince a bunch of computer-crazy youngsters that uncheck and deselect are grammatically incorrect! Slowly, this turned out to be my biggest challenge ever - trying to convince a group of young GNIITians (hired as instructional designers but aspiring to become programmers) that they too could write. And, break their beliefs that writers are either born or are English majors! The next challenge was to teach them to design courses. I could see them flinch when asked to design the experience of baking a cake. They would invariably begin with throwing in flour, butter, eggs and sugar together. Slowly, they started "thinking" design.

Today, many years later I sense deja vu when a client asks me to cut down research and analysis and get down to design. "Why don't you cut the crap and get a creative chap to just design the solution?" Strangely, this does not frustrate me any longer. I jump at this opportunity to share my belief about design thinking. This philosophy holds true as we groom future IDs and designers at Kern.

This reinforces what David Kelly has to say - move away from thinking of yourself as designers to design thinkers. Design is a systematic scientific process. You can follow a methodology or a defined process and rest assured that you can arrive at a design solution. And, if you look at the creative success of Ideo and their huge portfolio of award winning work, you certainly want to believe that a solid methodology can yield the most creative of ideas. At Kern, we too have seen the success of our structured approach towards solving many complex design problems.

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