“Hard skills from a soft science” is the tagline that the MIT Sloan Management Review gives to the special design thinking report that is found in the July 2009 issue. Unfortunately only subscribers can access the full-text articles online, but I was able to access all of them through my library’s ProQuest ABI/Inform database. It provides a mix of articles that are either essays or interviews with designers. Of special interest are:
* “Designing Waits That Work” – an article by Don Norman on how to use design to create a better user experience for customers that must wait to receive a service.
* “Problem Solving by Design” – insights into problem solving from John Shook’s new book Managing to Learn that examines the “problem finder” role played by designers.
* “How to Become a Better Manager…By Thinking Like a Designer” – an interview with expert presenters Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds in which they discuss how to design presentations that both influence and persuade.
And don’t miss a short essay by Matthew May, “Elegance by Design: The Art of Less” in which he explains how great designers use the skill of subtraction to create elegant solutions.
I found much great reading here with lots of ideas worth contemplating. I regularly follow the blogs of Norman and Reynolds so some of the concepts here were a bit more familiar. But if you are just discovering design thinking this issue is a must read.
One way to stay abreast of the design world and the latest thought and practice in design is to follow new developments at design firms. Some ways to do that are to follow their blogs, use a web page change detect service to monitor their websites, or use your library databases to set up an alert to track new articles and announcements. I use the latter method to identify any new items with terms like “design thinking”. In my latest search alert results I found an interesting article about MAYA Design.
You may recall that MAYA is the design firm that consulted on the major interior renovation at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. MAYA’s work came to my attention a number of years ago, around the time the Carnegie work-practice study was being disseminated, and greatly influenced my thinking about how a design process could help a library to develop a better user experience. In fact, I asked Aradhana Goel, now with IDEO, to give a presentation about the Carnegie project at the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. That happened about two years ago but we still maintain the archive of Goel’s presentation. If you need a reminder or refresher you can view these slides that describe the Carnegie project. They also serve as a good source of information about designing an experience.
Just recently MAYA announced a new innovative service to address the emerging need for design thinking in organizations. The press release names Chris Pacione as the new director of advanced development education. In other words Pacione will lead a new venture to help firms integrate design thinking and improve the design literacy of their workforce. According to MAYA’s CEO “people can learn how to think like designers.” I learned that MAYA offers a three-day boot camp in human-centered design methodologies. Sounds like a program I’d really like to attend.
Now, how do we get Pacione to a library conference so we can learn to leverage design – which Pacione describes as “the discipline of bringing about intentional change through the making of “some thing” – in our library organizations?
I first came across an article about user experience (UX) in January 2006. At the time I was doing some research for the book that would become Academic Librarianship by Design. Almost immediately I saw the connection between the two. User experiences could – probably should – be the outcome of a design thinking process. A library user experience, in particular, struck me as a challenging concept. What would that possibly mean for the end-users? What would constitute, to their way of thinking, a great library user experience? Whatever that might be it seemed reasonable that design activities could help to produce a much improved library user experience.
Since then the book has been completed and I’ve gone on to read many more articles about DT and UX, and I continue to explore, with you, how these two practices can be applied to benefit our libraries. Though they provide no immediate answers, and perhaps might be best consumed byÂ someone new to both DT and UX, I’m going to recommend that you look at the following two new resources.
First, take an hour and watch a highly informative video about UX. “Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services For an Uncertain World” featuresÂ Brandon Schauer and David Yerba, two designers from the firm Adaptive Path. In this Google TalksÂ video presentationÂ they share the key concepts from their new book of the same title. I took away a couple of ideas. First, these folks excel at keeping their explanations simple. User experience – that’s all the user cares about. The experience is the product. Do they enjoy themselves, do they accomplish what they need to do, and do they manage to do it the way they want – with simplicity? Well, there’s more to UX than that, but that’s a good start.Â I also like their way of explaining the type of design they bring to the process of developing the user experience – an activity everyone in the organization can embrace no matter what their background. Then they discuss The Long Wow – a Wow experience that repeatedlyÂ delivers great delights for the user, is memorable, and impresses. In other words, users remember it and return again for more of the same.Â I’m looking forward to reading the book.
But how do you design that type of experience for your library? If you haven’t done much formal reading about design thinking now is a good time to start. And what better way to start than with a basic article about design thinking from one of the masters of the art – Tim Brown the CEO and President of IDEO. The article appears in the just published June 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review (p.85). The article relates the basic concepts of design thinking and why it can provide a better approach to developing human-centered solutions. In particular I like that Brown further elaborates on his explanation of the “three I’s” – Inspiration; Ideation; and Implementation (see the graphic in the article). I had previously heard Brown discuss this in a video presentation, but the graphic in the article provides a good visual representation of the process as it applies to problem finding, user studies, brainstorming, prototyping and solution development. And since those new to design thinking always ask for examples of how it is applied in real life situations, the article contains several case studies to illustrate the application of design thinking.
Even though I’ve been studying these ideas for over two years I continue to be amazed at the great articles and videos that help me to clarifying my thinking about DT and UX, and how these activities and approaches can be applied to the design of better libraries.