A while back I went to a lecture by Enzo Mari, the extraordinary Italian designer. It was a terrific talk. When asked to name the best American designers of the last one hundred years he named, Edison, Buckminster Fuller, Eames. While not necessarily classic “designers”, these people were known for solving problems and using “Design thinking” to do it. That is what has sustained their reputations and our admiration over all this time. I thought Edison was the most interesting choice, and Mari made the point, “some of you may not think of him as a designer”. But a true Design Thinker he certainly was. I believe because Edison knew that success was in the method as much as the idea.
Another thing that Mari did, a method he used, he gave the entire lecture using only a blackboard and a piece of chalk as visual aid. He never showed us any of the great objects or furniture he designed only the quality of his thinking. Using a piece of chalk to create sometimes-rudimentary diagrams and flowcharts of his ideas. It reminded me of DaVinci who invented the contact lens and the helicopter on paper centuries before technology made it possible to get there. The journey is as important as the destination. The lecture needless to say, was captivating.
I’ve always thought of design being more important when thought of as a verb. Recently working with a colleague on the topic of raising design “Quality” on a program, that is to say, the quality of the ideas some teams were generating, we decided one approach would be to institutionalize the protocol of “early and often”. Rough sketches, scribbles, word pictures before committing to the idea. This got me to thinking how relatively easy it is for everyone who wishes to be able to participate in design thinking and on design teams, to in fact participate. The point down the road where a “trained designer is called upon to execute is just that, “down the road. The “big tent” means using non threatening methods to invite more participation. After all 5 minds working on a problem for an hour will almost always yield a better answer than one person working for 5 hours.
Just for fun – https://vimeo.com/1778399