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Design thinking

Design thinking, user-centered design, service design, transformation design. These practices
are not identical but their origin is similar: a definition of design that extends the profession
beyond products. The rise of service economies in the developed world contributed to this
movement toward design experiences, services and interactions between users and products.
The literature about design thinking and contemporary ideas reveals common elements and
themes, many of which are borrowed from product design processes. They include abduction,
empathy, interdisciplinary teams, co-creation, iteration through prototyping, preservation of
complexity and an evolving brief.
The implications of the rise of design thinking are twofold. First, corporate and organizational
leaders concerned with innovative prowess are recognizing design thinking as a tool for
developing new competitive advantages. Design thinking considers consumers' latent desires
and thus has the potential to change markets rather than simply make incremental
improvements in the status quo. Second, many organizations have encountered significant
barriers to practicing design thinking internally. In some ways, design thinking runs counter to
the very structure of a corporation — it is intended to break paradigms, which may mean
questioning power relationships, traditions and incentive structure, and it may require a
corporation to overhaul its business model and cannibalize its success. Additionally, many
corporate leaders treat design thinking in a linear manner, a process that compromises the
critical elements of conflict and circularity. In many instances, designers have failed to
sufficiently translate and articulate their process, and businesses tend to favor past trends over
the promise of new discovery.
With corporations struggling to use design thinking effectively, where does that leave the social
sector? The organizational challenges facing corporations do not necessarily transfer to
nonprofit organizations: more complex systems, higher stakes for failure, limited resources and
intangible evaluation metrics. Designers may be attracted to greater complexity and more
wicked problems in the social sector, but they need to be prepared to adapt their process and
attitudes to create positive change. Perhaps the most significant adaptation designers need to
make is in their role. Where product design connotes a sense of authorship, social design
demands that designers be facilitators and educators of their processes. Further, they need to
recognize they may not be well equipped to solve problems, but can identify problems and cocreate with local leaders and beneficiaries.
The value of co-creation is a predominant theme in the literature surveyed here, particularly for
Western designers contributing to foreign communities. Another critical factor is continual
presence within projects, or better, a longer-term, sustained involvement. Authors speak of the
importance of evaluation and metrics to gauge success, but find many projects lacking, perhaps
for the same reasons the social sector as a whole struggles with impact measurement. Scaling,
adaptation and replication are buzzwords that pervade the social sector, but are particularly
difficult for the product of a design process. Because the process is founded on a deep
understanding of a particular user group's needs, the solution for one community likely does not
translate directly to another. However, authors suggest that it is the design process that is
scalable and should be taught to local leaders. Failed projects support this assertion; benefits
flow through the process of a project as well as the end-product, which further advocates for co-
creation. Finally, the literature leave us with an unsettling question: Is breakthrough innovation
possible in the social sector? Most veterans in this field suggest the answer is no — they
recommend that designers start small and introduce incremental change because the
complexity of the systems and problems they face will demand it. However, this finding does not
negate the potential value of the designer. The social sector needs designers to identify
problems, imagine possibilities for a better future and facilitate problem-solving processes. —
Courtney Drake
Andrews, Kate. “Social Design: Delivering Positive Social Impact.” This is Service Design
Thinking. Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider, editors. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers,
2010. p88-93, 6p.
Designer and writer Kate Andrews explores the role of service design in social design, which she
defines as “employing the design process to tackle a social issue or with an intent to improve
human lives.” Andrews points out that while design is all around us, designers and the design
process have long been invisible and misunderstood. She traces the recent popularization of
design thinking, which was followed by an emergence of socially-motivated designers. Andrews
claims that service design is helping to reveal the broader social applications of design and shift
the understanding of design to that of process, not just product. The article ends with a case study
of Colalife, in which designers harnessed social media and web technology to develop a plan to
deliver medical equipment in Africa via Coca-Cola’s distribution channels. According to Andrews,
service design is contributing to a better understanding of design’s social value while
Beckman, Sara L.; Barry, Michael. "Innovation As a Learning Process: Embedding Design
Thinking." California Management Review, Fall 2007. Volume 50 Issue 1, p25-56, 32p.
Sara Beckman, faculty director of Haas Management of Technology Program, and Michael Barry,
consulting assistant professor of Stanford Design Program, integrate the second generation of
design theory with experiential learning theory to derive an innovation process and insights for
leaders of innovation. They overlay diverging, converging, assimilating, and accommodating
learning styles with a design process that moves fluidly between analysis and synthesis and
abstract and concrete conceptualization. The design process itself closely mirrors that used
extensively at IDEO, but Beckman and Barry introduce learning styles to relate the process to
constructing an innovation team. For each carefully detailed phase in the innovation pocess, they
identify the most adept learning style along with Myers-Briggs type indicators, college majors, and
career choices. Beckman and Barry encourage corporations to institute leaders who understand
the innovation process, can recognize when to transition between phases, and can integrate a
diverse team. Such a leader considers both professional expertise and learning styles while
composing innovation teams, selects roles based on learning styles, and incorporates a high level
Tim. "Design
Thinking." Harvard
Tim Brown, CEO and president IDEO, discusses design thinking as an engine for innovation that
is driven by a human-centered perspective. By briefly tracing the history of design and recent shift
toward service economies in the developed world, Brown demonstrates the need to extend design
to services and experiences. He simultaneously walks through the design thinking process and
highlights the versatility of the approach through salient examples ranging from Thomas Edison's
invention process, to operational adjustments at Kaiser Permanente, Shimano's development of
the Coaster bicycle, and Aravind Eye Clinic's business model to serve rural India. Brown
emphasizes the importance of persistence and hard work in the design thinking process; the
benefits of a systems view to maximize value for customers, staff, and shareholders; and the
emotional and functional inputs for a meaningful consumer experience. The article is grounded
with a detailed profile of design thinkers and guidelines for integrating design thinking into
Brown, Tim; Katz, Barry. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations
and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Business, 2009.
Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO, presents innovation, "a good idea executed well", in
concert with his design thinking process and an extension to business and the social sector in the
context of IDEO projects and strategic decisions in major corporations. Brown distinguishes
innovation from increment as a long-term growth strategy that is difficult for competition to imitate.
He encourages designers and executives to broaden the design process, by using it to make
strategic decisions and consider relationships between people and the experience behind
products and services. A portion of the book is dedicated to a detailed description of the design
thinking process used at IDEO, which is a human centered, iterative process that operates in the
spaces of ideation, inspiration, and implementation, constrained by desirability, feasibility, and
viability. Brown advocates for executives to merge business thinking with design thinking to
consider constraints realistically and create a balanced portfolio of incremental, evolutionary, and
revolutionary innovations. He warns against limiting the creative process when systematically
applying design thinking in an organization and encourages corporations to involve consumers.
Brown also calls for designers to apply their skills to social problems and for educational systems
and professional circles to preserve creativity. He concludes with practical suggestions for
organizations that want to integrate design thinking to bridge information and practice. [CD]
Burns, Colin; Cottam, Hilary; Vanstone, Chris; Winhall, Jennie. RED Paper 02:
Transformation Design. London: Design Council, 2006. Web.
This paper was produced by RED, a research and development team within the Design Council
in the UK that focuses on the power of design innovation to tackle social and economic problems.
The paper is a call-to-action for an emerging design discipline referred to as transformation
design, which is defined by the following six characteristics: (1) redefining the problem, (2)
collaborating across disciplines, (3) employing participatory design, (4) building capacity instead
of dependency on the design team, (5) designing beyond traditional solutions, and (6) creating
fundamental change. Case studies from the healthcare, operations, and transportation sectors
illustrate the principles of transformation design and the importance of a user-centered
perspective. The authors argue that transformation design is uniquely positioned to tackle
complex, large-scale problems, but recognize that the shift in methodology and mindset poses a
significant challenge to the traditional view of design, both in philosophy and in practice. As people
begin to recognize the potential of design to solve the world’s most pressing social and economic
problems, designers and the design field must embrace the opportunity and change with the times
Chapman, Jonathan and Gant, Nick, editors. Designers, Visionaries + Other Stories: A
Collection of Sustainable Design Essays. London: Earthscan, 2007.
Most of the environmental impacts of products, services and infrastructure are not a result of
purchase or use, but design. Each of the authors, Ezio Manzini, Kate Fletcher, Alastair FuadLuke, Stuart Walker, and John Wood present different practical and theoretical understandings of
sustainable design in order to engage design professionals, students, and academics in a
meaningful debate. The essays cover topics ranging from building a new wave of sustainable
fashion; restoring value to still-functioning products displaced by newer versions; using principles
of physics to express the mutually beneficial advantages of sustainable design; the concept of
designing with, for, and by society; and envisioning a sustainable society as a network of
interconnected communities. The purpose of presenting these varying viewpoints is to further the
discourse on sustainable design beyond popular strategies such as solar, wind and recycling to
include a broader set of principles, philosophies and methodologies. [DC]
Clark, Kevin; Smith, Ron. "Unleashing the Power of Design Thinking." Design Management
Review, Summer 2008. Volume 19 Issue 3, p8-15, 8p.
Kevin Clark, program director, and Ron Smith, designer and brand experience strategist of IBM
Corporate Marketing and Communications, implore business executives to take up design
thinking as a business strategy, particularly in a business environment focused on innovation.
Clark and Smith view design methods as vehicles that can take intentions to reality and they
attribute the divide between designers and business executives on designers' inability to translate
design issues into the business language. Alternatively, they translate design thinking through
three types of intelligence: emotional, integral, and experiential. Emotional intelligence is
necessary to understand the emotions that drive customers to act, integral intelligence is used to
reconcile customer needs and an organization as a system, and experiential intelligence helps
businesses understand how customers interact with products. Clark and Smith exemplify each
category with initiatives at IBM and culminate with a brief case study of IBM's Client Briefing
Clune, Stephen. “Design and Behavioral Change.” Journal of Design Strategies, Spring 2010.
Volume 4, Number 1, p68-76, 9p. Web.
Clune, whose research at the University of Western Sydney explores design as a facilitator of
social change, reasons that the shift to a more sustainable society will require not just new
products and materials, but significant behavior change from individuals and communities. Clune
proposes that industrial designers utilize their skills to encourage sustainable behaviors.
Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) is presented as a potential process for designers to
follow, which involves: (1) identifying the benefits of and barriers to desired behaviors, (2)
designing effective strategies to accentuate benefits and eliminate the barriers, (3) piloting
strategies before implementing at full scale, and (4) evaluating strategies over time. This
methodology is illustrated with examples of a programmable stove, a community garden, and a
modular home. Clune envisions how design informed by the behavioral change methods of CBSM
may provide viable future vocations for designers as specialized product designers,
entrepreneurs, and consultants. Sustainable design education should go beyond teaching
students to design green “things” to include design for large-scale behavior change. [DC]
Cottam, Hilary; Burns, Colin; Vanstone, Chris; Winhall, Jennie. Transformation
Design. Design Council, Working Paper, February 2006. Volume 02.
Hilary Cottam, director of RED, and her design strategist colleagues define transformation design,
consider successful examples of its application, and outline philosophical and practical challenges
to its adoption in the design world. Transformation design is in essence what others term usercentered design, a process that allows interdisciplinary teams to address complex problems
holistically. Cottam et al. distinguish transformation design from problem-solving by its outcomes
that are both desirable and practical. It also departs from a traditional view of design, with a
broadened scope that includes interaction, experience, and service design; emphasis on defining
a problem rather than just producing a solution; and involving users in and empowering them
through the design process. The six defining characteristics of transformation design include: an
evolving brief, collaboration between disciplines, capacity-building for clients, extension of design
beyond products, and creation of fundamental change. Cottam et al. consider the views of
traditionalists who are sensitive to the loss of authorship when designers become facilitators of
design processes, the shift to designing beyond form, democratization of quality definition, new
contexts for design outside of the studio, and the evolutionary nature of transformation design. In
a more practical sense, they identify challenges to wide-spread use of this design application:
communication of the value of transformation design given its often intangible nature and the
Davis, Meredith; Hawley, Peter; McMullan, Bernard; Spilka, Gertrude. Design as a Catalyst
for Learning. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1998.
This book is the outcome of a research project conducted by National Endowment for the Arts
and The OMG Center for Collaborative Learning. The book is directed at educators, not just arts
educators, but all educators, to better understand the value that design brings to students in early
development and as a precursor to life-long learning. Design is a problem-solving method; a mode
of inquiry. In the context of history, science, mathematics, or language arts, the design process
teaches students to identify needs and define problems; reflect individually and collaborate with
a group; test ideas and evaluate alternatives; make abstract concepts tangible; communicate
verbally and visually; and see meaningful connections across disciplines. The authors argue that
these skills are at the heart of engaged citizenship because learners come to understand a variety
of perspectives and recognize their own agency in shaping their environments and communities.
The book reviews the history of design in the international classrooms; poses opportunities and
challenges for schools and education reform; and makes recommendations for teacher education
Doorley, Scott; Witthoft, Scott. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative
Collaboration. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
Appropriately for the subject matter, this book is a collaborative effort between Scott Doorley and
Scott Witthoft, directors of the Environments Collaborative at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner
Institute of Design, better known as the “d.school.” The d.school is best known for innovation via
collaboration and prototyping, and in this book the lens turns inward to analyze and illustrate the
spaces that make this possible. The basic premise is that space has a real impact on behavior
and attitudes and can be intentionally manipulated to foster creativity and collaboration. While
intended to be used a tool to shape culture and habits, the book is not a typical “how to” guide.
Mini-entries are categorized by five content areas (tools, situations, design template, space
studies, and insights) and scattered throughout the book. Entries range from case studies of a
restaurant to insights from the ancient Greeks to measured drawings and instructions. The book
is not meant to be read sequentially, but rather turned to again and again. In between, the goal is
to move the reader from inspiration to action: to build something new, reconfigure an existing
Drews, Christine. "Unleashing the Full Potential of Design Thinking as a Business
Method." Design Management Review, September 2009. Volume 20 Issue 3, p38-44, 7p.
Christine Drews, aircraft interior and product designer for Virgin Atlantic Airways, presents design
thinking as a method that appeals to business leaders but is not yet widespread, based on insights
from European experts in business, management, and design. Like Clark and Smith, she
translates design thinking into the language of business but in different terms: consumercentricity, orientation to the future, and challenging norms. Drews attributes the gap between
designers and business executives to segmentation of qualitative and quantitative disciplines in
educational systems. She makes an argument for adoption of design thinking in business based
on the need to make radical platform innovations to stay relevant and differentiate by challenging
norms. For Drews, the two greatest benefits of design thinking for corporations are mitigating risk
associated with new ideas through early, rapid prototyping and turning customer observations
into accurate interpretations of patterns and unexpressed desires. She concludes by placing the
burden of spreading design thinking on designers, to be transparent about their processes and
Erlhoff, Michael; Marshall, Tim. "Definition of Service Design." Design Dictionary
Perspectives on Design Terminology. Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2008. p354-357, 4p.
Michael Erlhoff, founding dean and professor at Koeln International School of Design, and Tim
Marshall, provost and chief academic officer of The New School, explore the meaning of service
design, a discipline that is highly demanded by developed nations and the source of many new
enterprises and subsequent jobs. Erlhoff and Marshall define service design as a process that
"addresses the functionality and form of services from the perspective of the client" in a way that
is "effective, efficient, and distinctive" for service suppliers. The theory and methodology behind
service design closely parallels those behind product design, although the formal language for
this newly emergent discipline is still in development. Erlhoff and Marshall assert that service
designers can only shape the conditions that create an experience, rather than shaping the
experience itself. Common tools for this somewhat intangible design application are blueprints,
journey mapping, scenario planning, touch point analysis, and service enactment. As such, the
performing arts serve as metaphors for communicating concepts in innovative ways for service
design. Erlhoff and Marshall introduce points of debate around the purpose service design and
how material and human factors interact and are integrated, issues they conclude must be
Fisher, Thomas. “Design’s Invisible Century.” Places/Design Observer, April 23, 2012. Web.
Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, argues that the
design community is undergoing a profound transformation parallel to that experienced in the
sciences a hundred years ago, when disciplines dealing with “invisible” phenomena ― fields like
psychology, cosmology, and more recently genomics and nanotechnology ― emerged as vast
and productive areas of exploration and discovery. In design, long tied to the visible world of 2D
images and 3D products and environments, the “invisible” worlds of processes, procedures,
protocols, and policies have opened up as areas of human activity desperately in need of design
thinking and intervention. Recognizing the (often badly) designed nature of the invisible systems
and relationships that govern our daily lives and applying design processes to their improvement
has transformed the perception of design by public, private, and non-profit organizations and
expanded the self-perception of designers and the value of what they have to contribute to society.
The essay ends with an analysis of how the design of the invisible realm can help human
communities successfully deal with some of the most perplexing social, economic, and
environmental paradoxes of our time ― paradoxes that lend themselves to the iterative,
Forlano, Laura. "What is Service Design?" Urban Omnibus, October 2010. Web.
Laura Forlano, postdoctoral associate at Cornell University and adjunct faculty member in the
Design and Management program at Parsons The New School from Design discusses the
definition, origin, and future of service design. She is aided by reflections from her colleagues
from Parsons and designers and researchers at Lucerne School of Art and Design, Polytechnic
University of Milan, and ImaginationLancaster at Lancaster University in the UK. Forlano's
definition of service design considers the perspective of both the client and supplier. She
addresses service design in a less tactical manner than Saco and Goncalves, by focusing on the
relative youth of this design application and growth with evolving demographic and economic
trends. Forlano and her interviewees agree with Saco and Goncalves on the breadth of service
design's reach, citing "almost infinite" applications, the importance of democratizing design by
making customers co-producers, and the crucial role of aesthetics. However, they also trace the
roots of service design to service management, product services systems, and interaction design.
They consider the disciplines that merge in service design, predict a shift toward retrofitting in
architecture, and highlight the demand for sustainable societies in increasingly populous cities.
Gerber, Elizabeth; Carroll, Maureen. "The Psychological Experience of Prototyping." Design
Studies, June 2011. Web.
Liz Gerber, assistant professor at the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University, and
Maureen Carroll, researcher at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner’s Institute for Design examine the
psychological experience of the popular design practice of prototyping. They find that while
scholars have studied what work is accomplished when people engage in design practices such
as user observation, brainstorming, sketching, and prototyping few have considered how people
feel when engaging in these practices and how engagement help people to navigate the ambiguity
and fear of failure associated with innovation work. Based on a longitudinal ethnographic study of
a high tech firm that adopted design practices into their organization, they find that the practice of
prototyping helped workers to reframe failure as an opportunity for learning, supported a sense
of forward progress, and strengthened beliefs about creative ability. They discuss the managerial
implications of adopting design practices. The perspective is unique and gives insight into why
design practices are readily adopted independently of whether they “produce” results. [EG]
IDEO. Design for Social Impact: A How-to Guide. Rockefeller Foundation, 2008. Web.
IDEO. Design for Social Impact: Workbook. Rockefeller Foundation, 2008. Web.
The Rockefeller Foundation partnered with design and innovation consulting firm IDEO to explore
ways to engage design firms with the social sector, the result of which was the production of two
books. Based on extensive interviews and case studies, the How-to Guide lays out nine guiding
principles for design firms to work with social sector clients grouped under three headings: provide
value, be focused, and set up for success. The Guide then outlines twenty-eight modes of
engagement for design firms to experiment with, while recognizing that design firms differ in their
capabilities and that certain strategies may be more or less appropriate depending on the firm.
Each mode of engagement includes pros and cons, tips, key questions, and a general idea of the
investment size, benefit to the firm, and potential for social impact. The accompanying Workbook
goes a step further in helping design firms to navigate the modes of engagement. Worksheets
and activities grouped under goals, tools, and plans are intended to help firms to start
conversations and clarify their intentions; identify core competencies and resources; and develop
Johnson, Mark W.; Christensen, Clayton M.; Kagermann, Henning. "Reinventing Your
Business Model." Harvard Business Review, Dec 2008. Volume 86 Issue 12, p50-59, 10p.
Mark Johnson, chairman of Innosight; Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor;
and Henning Kagermann, co-CEO of SAP AG; attribute success in innovation to good technology
that is in tandem with an innovative business model. Because a lack of understanding of a
company's current business model as a barrier to this type of innovation, they break down the
elements of a business model to a customer value proposition, profit formula, key resources, and
key processes. Johnson et al. also provide indicators of when a new model is needed to bolster
their guiding rule: when a company needs to make major changes to all four elements of their
existing model. They claim that a new model need not cannibalize a company's core business
and leaders should be patient with new ventures regarding growth but not profit. [CD]
Kolko, Jon. Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving. A Handbook and Call to Action. Austin,
TX: AC4D, 2012.
Kolko, Director of the Austin Center for Design, first defines a “wicked problem” as a social
problem plagued by incomplete knowledge, different opinions and stakeholders, economic
burden, and interconnectivity to other social problems. Because of their complex nature, wicked
problems demand a multi-tiered approach. High-level design-led social entrepreneurship is
followed by a description of the required skills (empathy, cultural sensitivity, public sketching, and
storytelling) and practices (participatory design, ethnography, synthesis and inference-building,
and role playing). Kolko provides a template curriculum for design-led social entrepreneurship
intended to be used as a tool by learners and educators in universities, grade schools, and
corporations. The curriculum balances hands-on studio time with lecture-style theory. The final
section contains simple descriptions of methods — everything from storyboarding to drawing 2x2
matrices to developing a theory of change to scenario planning to financial model worksheets —
followed by recommended further reading for each. This book serves as a starting point and
comprehensive guide for designers to take on the responsibilities of social entrepreneurs and
Lester, Richard K.; Piore, Michael J.; Malek, Kamal M. "Interpretive Management: What
General Managers Can Learn from Design." Harvard Business Review, March/April 1998.
Volume 76 Issue 2, p86-96, 11p.
Richard Lester, director of MIT's Industrial Performance Center; Michael Piore, the David W.
Skinner professor of Political Economy at MIT; and Kamal Male, research staff member of MIT's
Industrial Performance Center; present an interpretive approach to management as a method for
leaders to adapt to uncertainty and unpredictable markets and move organizations forward.
Through a series of examples from the fashion, cellular technology, and biotechnology industries,
Lester et al. demonstrate the importance of flexibility and contact with customers to interpret new
situations. They are critical of strict use of analytical approaches to management, citing the
tendency to apply artificial constraints; rather they recommend alternating between analytical and
interpretive management depending on market conditions. They recommend that companies
engage in information sharing and process variation to gain new insights that generate
breakthroughs and warn managers against rigid standardization of core competencies. [CD]
Martin, Roger L. The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive
Advantage. Boston: Harvard Business, 2009.
Martin, Roger L. "What Is Design Thinking Anyway?" Design Observer, September 2009. Web.
Roger Martin, dean of Rotman School of Management, builds on Brown's definition of design
thinking by considering its role in reconciling the prevalent schools of thought in business and
helping companies balance reliability and validity. Martin presents abductive thinking as the core
principle behind design thinking and a medium between analytical and intuitive thinking. For
Martin, abductive thinking allows companies to move along the "knowledge funnel", which is
composed of a broad mystery, a heuristic that narrows the complexity of the mystery, and an
algorithm that transforms the heuristic into a fixed formula. Martin's knowledge funnel incorporates
the principles of divergent and convergent thinking that lie behind Brown's design thinking
process, but rather than focusing on the mechanics on the design thinking process, he considers
how businesses exploit innovation and discover new opportunities. He claims that companies will
see costs fall if they can balance exploration and exploiting knowledge stages. Inherent
challenges to this balance are the tendency for companies to favor reliability over validity; the
need to shift business structure, processes, and culture to employ design thinking; and absence
of leaders committed to protecting validity and promoting design thinking. Martin builds off of his
earlier publication, The Opposable Mind, to make recommendations for aspiring design thinkers
who want to develop their personal knowledge systems and work with colleagues at the extremes
Norman, Don. "Design Thinking: A Useful Myth." Core77, June 2010. Web.
Don Norman, Apple VP, HP executive, and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, claims that
the concept of design thinking is not unique, but is creative thinking used over the ages
masquerading as a novel practice. He defines the term as an application of systems thinking that
oven involves immersion into problems, frequent tests and revisions, and multidisciplinary teams.
Norman cites the use of creative thinking in a broad range of industries. He attributes design
consultancies' success to their ability to break paradigms anchored by politics, tradition, and
financial incentives in organzations. For Norman, design thinking's redeeming value is the image
it lends designers, extending their utility beyond aesthetics to functional and structural solutions
Nussbaum, Bruce. "Design Thinking Is A Failed
Next?"Co.Design: Fast Company,, April 2011. Web.
Fabricant, Robert. "Frog Design: Three Things Wile E. Coyote Teaches Us About Creative
Intelligence." Co.Design: Fast Company, April 2011. Web.
Bruce Nussbaum, former assistant managing editor for Business Week and professor of
innovation and design at Parsons The New School of Design, kicks off a discussion about the
failures and obsolescence of design thinking and attempts to replace the process with the
concept of creative intelligence. In response, Robert Fabricant, leader of the healthcare expert
group and social innovation at frog design and professor at the School of Visual Arts, agrees
that design thinking did not pervade business effectively but refutes the idea that creative
intelligence will meet a better response. The two agree that design thinking made valuable
contributions to society, but corporations implemented design thinking in a linear manner and in
so doing lost the conflict and circularity that stimulate creativity and innovation. Nussbaum
argues that creativity is a more appealing, accessible concept that will expand society's
engagement with innovation. He defines creative intelligence as "the ability to frame problems in
new ways and to make original solutions" but does not expound on how to use this new term or
how to measure it. Fabricant claims that creativity is an inherent individual quality that is
undervalued in organizations and, if quantified as a measure of creative intelligence, may be
treated as a quota for human resource departments. Alternatively, he cites Wile E. Coyote's
creative failures to stake out the necessary conditions under which creativity succeeds: through
relationships that create tension between different perspectives, through externalization, and
within strong social dynamics. [CD]
Pilloton, Emily. Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People. New York:
Metropolis Books, 2009.
Pilloton, Emily; Kuruvilla, Jince. Design Revolution: The Toolkit. Project H Design, 2009.
Emily Pilloton is the Executive Director of Project H Design, a non-profit volunteer design firm that
supports and develops humanitarian design projects. Chock full of images, Design Revolution:
100 Products that Empower People features contemporary products and systems that epitomize
socially-impactful design. The examples, which including everything from safer baby bottles and
waterless washing machines to do-it-yourself soccer balls and custom-fit affordable eyeglasses,
showcase the power of design to improve quality of life in both developed and undeveloped
countries. The products featured include both scrappy, simple local solutions and the work of
international design firms. Intending to create a serious call-to-action and not a glossy coffee table
book, Pilloton pens the “Designer’s Handshake,” a pledge for readers to sign in order to commit
to putting into practice the principles set forth in the book. Building on the language and purpose
of the pledge, Design Revolution: The Toolkit is a free PDF companion to the hardcover book that
outlines values and strategies for students and educators to design for the greater good. [DC]
Saco, Robert M.; Goncalves, Alexis P. "Service Design: An Appraisal." Design Management
Review, Winter 2008. Volume 19 Number 1, p10-19, 20p.
Roberto Saco, owner and principal of Aporia Advisors, and Alexis Goncalves, business innovation
independent consultant, introduce service design, a discipline that mirrors design thinking in many
aspects, as a core competency that is relevant for consultants, academics, and practitioners in a
broad range of business industries. Saco and Goncalves follow the rise of service design, list
service design activities and their associated tools, and progress to three case studies that feature
different applications. While problem solving is mentioned as an outcome, Saco and Goncalves
focus on service design as a means to construct a total guest experience, broaden corporate
missions, and manage change. They also comment on the movement toward evidence-based
methodology and a common language for service design, the potential to use service design
achieve breakthrough innovation, nontraditional applications for social and environmental
sustainability, and the essential strategies for successful service design. [CD]
Shedroff, Nathan. Design Is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable. New York:
Rosenfeld Media, 2009.
Shedroff, chair of the Design Strategy MBA program at California College of the Arts, argues that
disposable, market-oriented design causes huge waste problems. A core axiom of the book is
“don’t do things today that will make tomorrow worse,” a principle that applies to designers and
managers, engineers and policy makers. The book takes a systems-level view of sustainability in
order to examine the importance and interconnectedness of the financial, social and
environmental impacts of design. Shedroff analyzes how leading frameworks on sustainability
address these areas of impact, as well as the difficulties of measuring each. Designers should
aim to reduce the waste of materials and energy associated with products and services; reuse
what already exists and design with reuse in mind; design products that can be easily recycled if
not reused; work to restore whole systems by designing new platforms, infrastructures and
business models; step up to help companies and other stakeholders to rethink and innovate the
entire development process. By following these principles, design can lead to more sustainable
products, services, and systems. In other words, design may be the problem, but it can be part of
Sklar, Aaron; Madsen, Sally. “Design for Social Impact.” Ergonomics in Design, 2010.
Volume 18 Issue 2, p4-5, 2p.
Sklar and Madsen, both designers at IDEO, highlight the need to be adaptable and creative with
methods and practices when designing for the developing world. As a starting point, the authors
outline five design principles adapted to work with the bottom of the pyramid, each punctuated by
examples from the field. The first principle is empathy, the cornerstone of human-centered design.
While empathy involves building personal connections, the second principle is to design for
communities, not individuals, particularly in rural areas. Balancing the needs of the individual with
the needs of the community is referred to as “humanity-centered design.” The third principle is to
take a system view, which means focusing not just on developing a great product or service but
the systems needed to promote and support it. Principle four is to make appropriate trade-offs in
order to satisfy both constraints and stakeholders, which can be a difficult decision-making
process. The final principle is to prepare teams for on-the-ground work so that time is not lost
acclimating to extreme situations. In conclusion, Sklar and Madsen address the concern of design
imperialism by distinguishing between product and process: specific products designed for
Western audiences often fail in the developing world, but the broad principles of the design
Ungaretti, Toni; Chomowicz, Peter; Canniffe, Bernard J.; Johnson, Blair; Weiss, Edward;
Dunn, Kaitlin; Cropper, Claire. "Business + Design: Exploring a Competitive Edge for
Business Thinking." SAM Advanced Management Journal, Summer 2009. Volume 74 Issue
3, p4-43, 9p.
Toni Ungaretti et al. of Johns Hopkins University, Maryland Institute College of Art, and
Minneapolis College of Art and Design discuss the benefits of adding design thinking to the
business education toolbox, supported by findings from an empirical study of business students
in a design thinking course. Their description of design thinking closely echoes Martin's and
findings support his conviction that business school graduates armed with design thinking skills
are better prepared to meet the demands of a contemporary marketplace. Like Lester et al.,
they contrast a traditional management approach with a design-oriented approach, but more
concretely describe the latter in terms of having a can-do attitude toward complex problems, use
of abductive reasoning, and employing a mix of collaboration and empathy. Ungaretti et al.
introduce two concepts not often included in design thinking discourse: action learning and
reflective practice. Their findings show student growth in design thinking skills, including
teamwork, deep understanding consumers, abductive reasoning, and adoption of multiple
perspectives. [CD]
Wylant, Barry. "Design Thinking and the Experience of Innovation." Design Issues, Spring 2008.
Volume 24 Issue 2, p3-14, 12p. Print.
Barry Wylant, associate professor of environmental design at University of Calgary, delves into
the elements of ideas, creativity, and innovation. He ties the economic concept of clusters to
psychological innovation triggers to discover the experience, elements, and consideration of
ideas. Wylant examines the interaction between stimuli and ideas, where thinking "outside of the
box" constitutes innovation by taking a step beyond making sense of stimuli. Heuristics and
innovative techniques, such as brainstorming, create stimuli that promulgate new ideas. Wylant
claims that the innovation process is scalable and employs dominance and placements to arrive
at a final creative outcome. He arrives at a concept of design thinking: a process that playfully
considers placements to raise good questions rather than seeking the right answers. [CD]
Aaker, Jennifer; Smith, Andy. "The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to
Use Social Media to Drive Social Change." Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011.
Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business,
and Andy Smith, principal of Vonavona Ventures, present a replicable framework for social media
campaigns that follows the design thinking process and draws on principles of consumer
psychology. The four stages of the "Dragonfly Effect" — focus, grab attention, engage, and take
action — parallel design thinking, which moves from empathy to hypothesis creation, rapid
prototyping, and testing. Aaker and Smith use examples from the social, public, and private
sectors to demonstrate diverse applications of their model that employ social media tools in
surprising, innovative ways. Central to their framework is the relationship between personal
Amir, Sulfikar. “Rethinking Design Policy in the Third World.” Design Issues, Autumn 2004.
Volume 20 Number 4, p68-75, 8p.
Amir claims that the founding theories about design for the Third World have been limited in their
implementation because they lacked a political dimension. The article sets out to chart a
comprehensive framework for design in the Third World by examining the close relationship
between design and the social, cultural, and political context. Third World countries face pressure
to increase the value of their exports in order to reduce foreign debts, yet international trade is
becoming more rigorous in a globalized world. Governments are thus starting to pay attention to
design, motivated by its potential to increase product competitiveness and spur economic growth.
Industrial-oriented design policy has taken the shape of design promotion centers and design
institutes in countries like Malaysia, South Africa and Colombia. On the other hand, design
policies tend to overlook the ability for design to alleviate poverty and meet basic needs. Amir
proposes a human-centered design policy that is aimed at society, not just industry. Critically, a
myriad of stakeholders, including designers, academicians, local communities, and government
must be empowered to shape design policy through a participatory process. The intended effect
would be to reorient design to focus on meeting the needs and interests of socially and
Blossom, Eve. Material Change: Design Thinking
Movement. New York: Metropolis Books, 2011.
and the Social
Eve Blossom, architect and entrepreneur, tells the story of founding Lulan Artisans, a for-profit
social venture that designs, produces, and markets textiles weaved by partners in Southeast Asia.
Stunning full-spread photographs interspersed throughout the book document Lulan’s entire
textile-making process. The mission of Lulan is to open up new markets to traditional artisans; to
provide jobs, wages, and benefits to workers; to preserve cultural methods of craft; to improve
quality of life and strengthen the fabric of local communities; and to make a profit in the process.
The aim is to create systemic social change with a sustainable and holistic business model. The
story of Lulan highlights the importance of partnerships across the value chain between
designers, producers, customers, and entire communities. Blossom interweaves her personal
narrative with first-person accounts from other notable social entrepreneurs. Taken together,
these examples suggest that the social entrepreneurship movement is changing both the future
of design and the future of business as designers embrace new business models prove that forprofit
Bright, David S.; Godwin, Lindsey N. "Encouraging Social Innovation in Global
Organizations: Integrating Planned and Emergent Approaches." Journal of Asia-Pacific
Business, 2010. Volume 11 Issue 3, p179-196, 18p.
David Bright, assistant professor in Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University and
Lindsey Godwin, Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at Morehead
State University, present a framework for understanding social innovation and apply it to World
Vision's strategic planning and innovation processes. Bright and Godwin extend Aristotle's
concept of virtuous intent to organizational behavior, with the claim that social innovation occur in
any organization that practices virtuous intent. They then consider two approaches to change,
planned and emergent, where emergence can either occur naturally or artificially. Bright and
Godwin demonstrate how an organization can balance and interweave planned and emergent
change by characterizing the stages of World Vision's strategic planning process in 2004. World
Vision integrated the two approaches with parallel feedback loops at the top and bottom of the
organization, expanded internal networks, and a high systems awareness of the organization.
Brown, Tim; Wyatt, Jocelyn. "Design Thinking for Social Innovation." Stanford Social Innovation
Review, Winter 2010. Web.
Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, and Jocelyn Wyatt, leader of IDEO's Social Innovation
group, discuss the design thinking process in the context of social innovations in the developing
world, in more detail and almost identical language as Brown's earlier Harvard Business Review
article, "Design Thinking". They analyze solutions to complex social issues such as malnutrition,
malaria prevention, child eye care, safe drinking water, and TB treatment regimens to
demonstrate where design empowered or failed communities. The article draws connections
between positive deviance and design thinking and highlights aspects of the design thinking
process that move an organization beyond incremental improvements toward breakthrough
innovation. Brown and Wyatt explore the tensions a successful design thinking organization must
navigate to conceptualize a project that is neither too narrow nor abstract. Such tensions include
a diverse team of interdisciplinary individuals, a brief that allows for creativity and serendipity,
preservation of complexity to generate ideas, selection of a viable solution, and use of prototypes
to solicit feedback and refine products and services. For Brown and Wyatt, organizations that
either use aspects of design thinking rather than the entire process, resist a human-centered
approach, or fear failure may not successfully implement design thinking. [CD]
Brown, Tim. “Why Social Innovators Need Design Thinking.” Stanford Social Innovation Review,
November 2011. Web.
Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, asserts that design thinking is traditionally missing from the toolbox of
approaches for tackling social issues. Brown goes on to explains why this is a lost opportunity
because design thinking can be applied incrementally to improve existing ideas and also to
leapfrog other approaches with disruptive solutions. The article lays out a simplified “how to” of
the design thinking process and demonstrates the unique value of the approach through a series
of examples including: Safepoint’s complete redesign of the syringe, how Aravind Eye Care uses
the principles of McDonald’s to serve low-income customers, and the use of prototyping to sell
health products in Ghana. Brown highlights the importance of asking the right questions, using
empathy to understand actual user needs, rapid prototyping, and looking beyond products and
services to redesign entire business systems. At the end of the article, Brown points readers to
the Human-Centered Design Toolkit as a jumping off point for NGOs and non-profits to use design
Berman, David B. Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World. Berkeley, CA: New
Riders, 2009.
Communication designer David Berman premises his book on the idea that we live in a world of
designed products, services, and spaces. Designers, therefore, greatly influence human
consumption, expectations, and behaviors; with this power comes great responsibility. He
implores designers to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, by being mindful of
what they bring into the world. Interwoven with first-person narrative, Berman chronicles the good,
the bad, and the ugly of design, messaging and branding from voting ballots to cigarette ads to
parking signs. Berman goes on to argue that now is a perfect and profitable time for ethical design
because of an increased focus on brand equity, customer loyalty, and rising visual literacy.
Berman spends the first 150 pages urging the reader to practice socially-responsible design right
now, and concludes by directing designers to his website to take “the do good pledge”: a
commitment to be 1) true to one’s profession (2) true to one’s self, and (3) to dedicate ten percent
of one’s professional time to social good. Berman’s hope is that the pledge will motivate designers
Campbell, Donald T. "Considering the Case against Experimental Evaluations of Social
Innovations." Administrative Science Quarterly, March 1970. Volume 15 Issue 1, p110-113,
Donald Campbell, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, rebuffs an article by Weiss
and Rein (1969) in which they disagreed with Campbell's previous writings on the experimental
method applied to social innovation. He concedes that experimenters should resist the temptation
to solely use metrics that are easily gathered as sole criterion or allow them to distort
programmatic goals. Rather, they should identify negative side-effects and pursue multiple
variables and measurement modes. Campbell stands behind incomplete control groups, for their
contribution to interpreting rival hypotheses. He warns against prematurely anticipating no-effect
outcomes in social experiments, at the risk of crowding out incremental progress. Finally, he
emphasizes the importance of learning from experimental process alongside outcomes. [CD]
Cary, John. The Power of Pro Bono: 40 Stories about Design for the Public Good by Architects
and Their Clients. New York, NY: Metropolis, 2010.
Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and president of economic consulting firm
Majora Carter Group; John Peterson, founder and president of Public Architecture; and John
Cary, executive director of Public Architecture, analyze the presence of pro bono work in
architecture and trends in design democratization. Their analysis provides a foundation and
context for 40 examples of pro bono projects that impacted communities and nonprofit
organizations that could not afford good design. Carter asserts that the built and natural
environment directly impacts development factors that contribute to social ills such as
incarceration, domestic abuse, educational underachievement, and teen pregnancy; it also
indirectly impacts wealthy populations whose tax payments support social services. Good design
disproportionally favors the wealthy and sends a message to poor populations that they are less
valuable. Peterson examines pro bono design, calling it as an act that involves self-serving
motives, is good for business, and can help nonprofits advance their missions. While there is little
research on the societal impact of good design, Peterson claims that pro bono design helps
organizations and communities identify and solve problems, engages a wider population than is
traditionally influenced by architecture, and is most useful when it produces affordable, replicable
models of service. Cary further defines pro bono design by contrasting it to community and
humanitarian design; pro bono design integrates the public good and architectural practice, is
scalable, and engages other players in the building industry. The featured 40 projects are
products of Public Architecture's 1% program and exemplify the marriage of good design, critical
needs, and positive impact on communities. The projects depended on partnerships between a
wide variety of architecture firms, nonprofit organizations, and funders and cover six impact areas:
arts, civic, education, health, and housing. For Cary, the projects attest that "architecture is a
social act": people and nonprofits want good design, architects care about their communities, and
Christensen, Clayton M.; Baumann, Heiner; Ruggles, Rudy; Sadtler, Thomas M. ”Disruptive
Innovation for Social Change." Harvard Business Review, December 2006. Web.
The focus of this article is on “catalytic innovation,” which the authors define as disruptive
innovation in the social sector. Catalytic innovations are simpler and less expensive products or
services that meet the needs of populations who are over served or not served at all; they are
initially ignored by incumbents but eventually create systemic social change through scaling and
replication. The authors provide examples of these innovations in health care, education, and
economic development at both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. While there are frameworks
for identifying traditional sustaining innovations, there is little guidance available for investors
looking to spur catalytic innovations. The authors advise investors to first look for preexisting
catalytic innovations by identifying patterns in the target sector and then to assess the business
model of the innovation. The authors caution investors that the process of identifying catalytic
innovations may be messy, but that it provides a real opportunity to create scalable, sustainable
solutions for social change — and that helping to establish the model, investors can inspire more
entrepreneurs to think catalytically in their approach to social problems. [DC]
Chowdhury, Imran; Santos, Filipe M.. "Scaling Social Innovations: The Case of Gram
Vikas." INSEAD Working Papers Collection, 2010. Issue 10, p1-34, 35p.
Imran Chowdhury, research assistant, and Filipe Santos, associate professor of entrepreneurship
at INSTEAD, consider the transfer of social innovation between organizations based on a case
study of Indian rural development organization Gram Vikas. They contrast the Arrow core
concept, which uses templates for transfers, to the institutional perspective in organizational
theory that emphasizes contextual adaptation. Further, they delineate two methods of knowledge
transfer, dissemination of best practices through intermediaries and knowledge sharing between
partners. The former results in broad dissemination of practices with less control for the source
firm, while the latter is best for slow growth and early scaling stages. The case of Gram Vikas is
an alliance transfer through a partnership that moved through the stages of informal collaboration,
transfer formalization, implementation, and maintenance over the course of seven years. As a
result, Chowdhury and Santos have five primary findings: preservation of the core elements of an
innovation is essential, social entrepreneurs benefit from their ability to focus on long term value
creation rather than competition while scaling, transferring unpatented social innovations requires
a high degree of control to minimize variability, there is a material tension between consistency
and adaptation, and diverse partners benefit from formalized transfer agreements. [CD]
Darwin, Thomas. "From the Townhall into the Studio: Design, Democracy, and Community
Resilience." Journal of Design Strategies, Spring 2010. Volume 4 Number 1, 29-33, 5p.
Thomas Darwin, director of professional development and community engagement in the Office
of Graduate Studies at University of Texas at Austin, applies principles from design and
organizational psychology to community change. Darwin examines "wicked problems" that face
communities and require a nonlinear, iterative processes to solve. He characterizes wicked
community problems by their "thrownness", an attribute that calls for participatory design and
resilience. The three defining qualities of resilience include acceptance of reality, the capacity to
find meaning in situations, and the ability to improvise, all of which point to design as a tool for
community change. Darwin uses the Community Studio in Austin as an example of a venue that
teaches community members the design process, with the goal of empowering them to solve
problems in the future. Darwin generalizes that communities that are willing to intelligently
prototype and notice the resources and possibilities that emerge from difficult situations will most
effectively catalyze change. Further, these communities will include individuals who have a
"design mind" — that is, are systematic, participative, oriented to emergence, and positive. [CD]
Ericson, Magnus; Mazé. DESIGN ACT: Socially and Politically Engaged Design Today: Critical
Roles and Emerging Tactics. Stockholm & Berlin; Sternberg Press, 2011.
DESIGN ACT is the culmination of a project initiated in 2009 at Iaspis, the Swedish Arts Grants
Committee’s International Programme for Visual Arts, which included building an online archive
and hosting public events. The book presents and discusses contemporary international design
practices and ideologies engaged with social and political issues. The book is structured around
three questions: WHAT are examples of these movements (practitioners and projects)? WHERE
does it take place and in what contexts (sites and situations)? HOW does it happen and what
does it take (methods and tactics)? Each question is explored from multiple viewpoints through
case studies, interviews, essays, and articles. Facsimiles from the project’s entire online archive
are interspersed throughout the book to connect theory with practice. The perspectives and
examples span different geographies, project types and design disciplines. Although the end point
of the DESIGN ACT project, the book is meant to serve as platform to further the discourse among
practitioners, academics, and communities about design as a critical tool for social and political
Fabricant, Robert. "Design With Intent." Design Observer, September 2010. Web.
Robert Fabricant, leader of the healthcare expert group and social innovation at frog design and
professor at the School of Visual Arts, extends the scope of user-centered design in response to
a desire among designers to engage with social issues and have a more immediate impact on
behavior. The traditional stance of user-centered design abstains from imposing personal values
on a user experience, to the point that a designer and her choices are incorporated invisibly into
user behavior. Alternatively, Fabricant introduces three types of design that give designers a less
detached position. Persuasion design uses subtle cues to influence behavior and allows
designers to use their decisions to create positive change. Catalyst design leverages participation
and mobile agents to engage communities, shift mindsets, and suggest new possibilities for
design before products or services are developed. Last, performance design is particularly useful
when the impact of a design is delayed or remote; it uses simulations to prototype experiences
and consequences. These active design stances create opportunities to impact behavior through
Hempel, Jessi. "How Venture Philanthropists Use Design Thinking to Help Solve RealWorld Problems." BusinessWeek, March 2007. Issue 4025, p8-13. 5p.
Jessi Hempel, Innovation Department editor of BusinessWeek Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline
Novogratz's approach to poverty alleviation through design thinking. Acumen's strategy combines
Brown's design thinking process with Johnson et al.'s insistence on business model reinvention
for innovation. Acumen empathizes with the people in developing countries it serves to build
business models from their perspectives and evaluate scalability. Acumen Fund works with
entrepreneurs, donors, corporations, and government partners to build prototypes for businesses,
which they iterate and improve to generate social benefits and monetary rewards. Hempel notes
a key to Acumen's success is the frequency with which Acumen personally interacts with the
communities it serves to partner with social entrepreneurs in innovation. Acumen Fund's
experiments sometimes result in financial loss, but are compensated by the social benefits they
IDEO. Human Centered Design Toolkit. 2011. Web.
This toolkit, funded by International Development Enterprise (IDE) as part of a grant from the Bill
& Melinda Gates Foundation, is a free 200-page innovation guide intended to be use by social
enterprises and NGOs, particularly those working in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Humancentered design (HCD) puts the needs of end-users at the center of the design process. It is
outlined as a three-step approach that shares the same acronym: Hear, Create, and Deliver.
Users learn to hear and understand the needs of constituents by conducting field research;
to create solutions by synthesizing insights and prototyping ideas; and to deliver actionable plans
by analyzing financial feasibility and barriers to implementation. Each stage of the process is
divided into specific steps, useful tips, warnings and notes for facilitators, including time required
for each step and a measure of difficulty. The document culminates with a Field Guide complete
with worksheets, checklists, exercises, and schedules to prepare users for group meetings and
individual interviews. Since the first edition was released in 2009, the HCD Toolkit has been
Jankel, Nick. "Radical Reinvention: Why There Are So Few Breakthrough Social Innovations and
20 Recommendations to Overcome the Barriers." White Paper, 2011.
Nick Jankel, founder and CEO of wecreate and creative director of wonderinc, defines
breakthrough social innovation, considers the barriers to its prevalence, and lists
recommendations alongside examples of successful innovations. Jankel extends an example of
Netflix as a breakthrough innovation in the private sector to the social sector to define
breakthrough social innovation as "leveraging ideas for social or public good in a manner that can
permanently disappear or massively reduce a problem". For Jankel the defining characteristics of
a breakthrough social innovation are systemic, sustainable, scalable, and self-organized. Each
aspect imposes barriers, many of which occur due to a focus on symptoms rather than root
causes, risk aversion among funders and policymakers, lack of funding for the proof-of-concept
development phase of an innovation, and misaligned incentives for social entrepreneurs. Jankel's
recommendations for overcoming barriers draw upon principles from participatory design and
design thinking processes and strategize to both improve capital flow to breakthrough social
Jégou, François; Manzini, Ezio.. Collaborative Services: Social Innovation and Design for
Sustainability. Milano, Italy: Edizioni POLI.design, 2008
Based upon a two-year study conducted by a panel of universities, European research centers
and international institutions, this book looks at questions such as: What is a sustainable lifestyle?
What will our daily lives become if we agree to change our routines? How do we reduce our
environmental impact without lowering our living standards? It attempts to answer these questions
and suggests an overarching scenario of 'collaborative services'. These include cases studies
such as 'car-sharing on demand', 'micro-leasing system for tools among neighbors', 'a shared
sewing studio', 'a home restaurant' among others. To implement scenarios such as these,
designers must consider themselves as part of a complex web of design networks comprised of
individuals, enterprises, non-profit organizations, local and global institutions engaged in creativity
and entrepreneurship in service of a larger goal--sustainability. Combines tactics and theory. [TI]
The European Commission funded this publication as part of a program called Emerging User
Demands for Sustainable Solutions (EMUDE), which explored the potential of social innovation
to drive sustainable technological and product innovation. The focus is on members of so-called
“creative communities” who, instead of simply choosing to buy greener products, invent entirely
new community-based services. General guidelines for design for social innovation are derived
from a series of case studies, including car sharing, home laundry, micro nurseries, a
neighborhood library, a home restaurant, and micro-leasing of tools between neighbors. In a set
of essays, the researchers reflect on the future applications and implications of these creative
communities. The authors posit that this new scenario of “collaborative services” has the potential
to lessen our collective impact on the environment without lowering our living standards, and to
strengthen social ties between individuals and communities. Importantly, collaborative services
imply a different kind of role for the designer as part of complex networks of individuals,
businesses, non-profits, and governments working together towards a new vision of a sustainable
Lasn, Kalle; Dixon Chris; Poynor, Rick. "First Things First 2000: A Design
Manifesto." Adbusters, The AIGA Journal, Blueprint, Emigre, Eye, Form, Items. Fall 1999/Spring
Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters magazine; Chris Dixon, art director of Adbusters; and Rick
Poynor, founder of Eye magazine and co-founder of Design Observer; resurrect a manifesto
drafted by Ken Garland and adopted by a multitude of British graphic designers in 1964. The
manifesto responds to a consumerist society and economy and a trend among designers to use
their talents solely in commercial applications and projects devoid of meaning. It challenges the
perception of design in the general populous and the duties of the individual designer, extending
their problem-solving skills to worthwhile pursuits including environmental, social, and cultural
crises. The manifesto is paired with designer Jouke Kleerebezam's reaction; he recognized the
importance of information for designers and created the Innovation and Design for Information
Empowerment website to help designers reposition themselves in other industries. Other
designers posted commentary, applauding and critiquing the manifesto and providing
suggestions for action. Key criticisms claim that the manifesto is overly general and pretentious,
commercialization and consumerism play an increasing role the social sector, information design
is an occupation as opposed to personal identity, and that information design does not have the
Lawson, Cynthia. "‘Designed by' Versus ‘Made by': Approaches to Design-Based Social
Entrepreneurship." Journal of Design Strategies, Spring 2010. Volume 4 Number 1, p34-40, 7p.
Cynthia Lawson, assistant professor of Integrated Design in the School of Design Strategies at
Parsons The New School for Design, considers two strategies for developing artisan communities
in social entrepreneurship. She holds that social enterprises that leverage artisans' creative
processes rather than externally imposing design achieve more sustainable development. She
uses a "Made by" versus "Designed by" framework to explore this concept, where designs that
are simply executed by artisans achieve less development and self-sustainability than designs
that are created and produced by artisans. The latter "Designed by" strategy allows artisans to
develop a broad range of skills, climb the socioeconomic ladder, and retain their heritage. Rather
than catering designs to market trends, this strategy positions indigenous designs in the market
and imposes limited guidelines on designs developed by artisans. Although the "Designed by"
model is a more effective means of sustainable development, when Parsons The New School
collaborated with humanitarian organization CARE to develop a business model for a community
of Guatemalan women to export artisan goods, the "Designed by" model proved to be time
intensive and called for intermediary use of the "Made by" model. [CD]
Lovett, Gina. "A Crucial Shift." Design Week, January 2010. p15-15, 1p. Print.
Gina Lovett, freelance writer and former senior reporter for Design Week, redefines sustainable
design and the role of the designer in the context of social innovation. She claims that sustainable
design needs to consider the web of social, environmental, and economic factors that are
compounding with rising consumption from global population growth. Lovett calls for innovation
over closed-loop production and consumption models or retroactive eco-efficiency and predicts
that the predominant source of breakthrough innovation in the future will be in product service
systems that change human behavior rather than making material changes in production and
consumption. She considers existing corporate business models a barrier to breakthrough
sustainable innovation and points to emerging economies as important players, given their ability
to implement new systems and set standards for design. Lovett complements Smith's Design for
the Other 90% and designates designers as facilitators and interpreters of social innovation that
Manzini, Ezio. "Design Research for Sustainable Social Innovation." Design Research Now:
Ezio Manzini, professor of Industrial Design at the Milan Polytechnic and chair of Design under
the Distinguished Scholars Scheme at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, indicates a need to
transform of the role of users and designers for a sustainable future. Manzini cites the lack of a
shared vision on sustainable living as the driving factor behind the dichotomy of designers who
promote consumption and do-gooder but ineffective designers. Manzini claims that social
innovation that improves wellbeing and social fabric while reducing ecological footprints occurs
but is not perpetuated on a large scale. However, the rise of globalization and networking creates
"cosmopolitan localizations" that are locally rooted and open to global networks. Further, creative
communities have demonstrated their ability to reconsider assumptions about work, time, and
relationships in a movement toward dependence on common goods rather than product
consumption. Manzini holds that collaborative networks such as open source technologies have
the power to connect creative communities and cosmopolitan localizations and effectively blur the
line between user and producer. The convergence of these three elements creates a multi-level
global society of interconnected local communities. Manzini's suggestions for design research
draw on elements of service, transformation, humanitarian, and user-centered design.
Researchers need to redefine the role of design as a replicator of social innovations, creator of
new governance tools that will facilitate creative attitudes of users, and perpetuator of co-creation
Manzini, Ezio. "Small, Local, Open, and Connected: Design for Social Innovation and
Sustainability." Journal of Design Strategies, Spring 2010. Volume 4 Number 1, p8-11, 4p. Print.
Appadurai, Arjun. "Responses to Ezio Manzini." Journal of Design Strategies, Spring 2010.
Ezio Manzini, professor of Industrial Design at the Milan Polytechnic and chair of Design under
the Distinguished Scholars Scheme at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, reiterates his
concepts of active wellbeing and cosmopolitan locality in a framework that establishes a base for
sustainable solutions to social issues. For Manzini, solutions must involve small, local actors that
are connected and open in a global sense. He offers his own definition of social innovation:
changes in the way people think and behave. Social innovation in combination with technical
innovation moves toward a sense of community and shared goods and a production system that
links local and global parties. Manzini qualifies the terms small and local, where smallness can
command great power and locality can be newly cultivated and exchanged globally. He suggests
that the designer's role is to work with leaders in the social, technology, entrepreneurial, and public
Arjun Appadurai, professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human
Development at New York University, questions Manzini's assumptions behind the relationship
between smallness, locality, and openness. He claims that smallness should be gauged by
manageability of connectivity, network, and flow rather than scale. Appadurai also extends
Manzini's connection between local and global communities, insisting that sustainable design
globalizes the elements that produce locality. Further, his nuanced view that global information
flow may lead to either closure or openness implies that the combination of smallness and
Margolin, Victor. “Design for a Sustainable World.” Design Issues, Summer 1998. Volume 14
Margolin, Professor Emeritus of Design History at the University of Illinois at Chicago and coeditor of Design Issues, traces the roots of design in consumer culture and mass production.
Despite early and influential critiques of industrial design by Victor Papanek and R. Buckminster
Fuller, it is still generally understood that the role of the designer is to provide services to clients.
Designers lack empowerment to take on initiatives of their own. With global environmental
problems reaching critical proportions, the challenge of creating a sustainable world is no longer
an idea, but a necessity. In order for designers to play an active role in what Margolin refers to an
emerging culture of sustainability, design culture must change so that worthwhile projects are
recognized and realized. Design must be uncoupled from its association with product design and
consumer culture. This shift of purpose requires designers to rethink their practice both
individually and collectively in order to address pressing global needs proactively, not reactively.
McCoy, Katherine. ”Good Citizenship: Design as a Social and Political Force.” Citizen Designer:
Perspectives on Design Responsibility. Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, editors. New York:
In the first essay of this anthology, Katherine McCoy, a graphic designer and educator, recalls the
disinterest of the design community in participating in the political process or shaping societal
norms during the upheavals of the 1960s. Contemporary American design education and its roots
in twentieth-century modernism teach students to be passive, neutral, and objective transmitters
of messages. Somewhere along the line, these words became synonymous with the idea of being
a ‘professional.’ Herein lies a central challenge: to be a professional without losing one’s personal
voice and convictions. McCoy claims that choosing to consistently work with corporate clients is
not a passive act because it prioritizes the needs of big business above all else; she calls on
designers to more carefully consider the problems they choose to take on. This new mindset must
begin in the classroom with projects that cover a broad mix of content beyond corporate needs to
include social, political, and economic issues. Graphic designers must clarify their values, not
disregard them. Rather than a resurgence of sixties radicalism, McCoy is advocating that
designers be engaged citizens, recognizing their ability to motivate others and affect change. [DC]
Nussbaum, Bruce; Pilloton, Emily; Fabricant, Robert; Popova, Maria; Stairs, David. "Humanitarian
Design versus Design Imperialism: Debate Summary." Design Observer, July 2010. Web.
Bruce Nussbaum, former assistant managing editor for BusinessWeek and professor of
innovation and design at Parsons The New School of Design, sparks a conversation about the
mode in which Western designers use their expertise to do good in different cultures, suggesting
that the perception of cultural imperialism is often a result. Nussbaum advises humanitarian
designers to consider how they are viewed by the communities they serve, involve local designers
in their projects, consider domestic projects, and carefully choose partners. Emily Pilloton, founder
and executive director of Project H Design, agrees with Nussbaum that designers are often drawn
to international causes and humanistic design is by nature imperialist. However, she holds that
he oversimplified the chaos that is inherent to humanitarian design and that it demands learning
and failures. She defends Project H, citing early failures with the Hippo Roller that led her to
engage in a domestic project in North Carolina through which she collaborates closely with end
users, has a personal connection to the place and people, is invested in its success, and is
committed to the benefiting community. Nussbaum responds apologetically to Pilloton but
defends his position that Western designers should expect to encounter sensitivity and negative
reactions to humanistic design. Later in the conversation Nussbaum asks questions about how to
Robert Fabricant, vice president of creative at frog design and professor at the School of Visual
Arts, enters the conversation with the insight that there is a tendency to celebrate the
achievements of humanistic design prematurely. He offers strategies to avoid imperialism: build
a strong design research practice globally, partner with local communities to introduce and adapt
technology, establish a diverse group of affiliates for a local and global reach, opt for incremental
design and small ideas that can scale rather than new inventions, and pair focus with a strong
commitment to see designs through in the long run. Maria Popova, editor of Brain Pickings,
suggests that the language surrounding humanitarian design excludes systemic elements of
development and she advocates for new language and "bridge figures" that will encompass the
intricate biocultural and psychosocial factors at play in Western poverty and the developing world.
David Stairs, founding editor of Design-Altruism-Project, has the last say in this series of articles,
calling Nussbaum's comments anachronistic and uncontroversial. He claims that a lack of early
field experience will become very apparent later in projects and designers need to proceed
carefully, recognizing that "where another nation's cultural heritage is concerned, we're all
Papanek, Victor. Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. New York:
This book is often heralded as a seminal work on socially responsible design, and its author,
Victor Papanek, as the modern father of sustainable and humanitarian design. Papanek, a
designer and educator, was Dean of the School of Design at the California Institute of the Arts.
When the book was first published in 1971, Papanek shocked and provoked the design
community with the opening sentence: “There are professions more harmful than industrial
design, but only a very few of them.” These dangers included unsafe, unnecessary, and
unsustainable products. Papanek believed that the sheer power of design to shape both human
and natural environments demanded a high social and moral responsibility from designers.
Design needed to move away from its roots in aesthetics and consumer culture. He called on
designers to create ecologically sound designs; to use design to meet basic needs in developing
countries; and to cater to other marginalized populations, including the poor, the elderly, and the
disabled. Though it is debatable how much progress has been made in the four decades since its
first publishing, the influence of Design for the Real World lives on: it is still in print and has been
Pol, Eduardo; Ville, Simon. "Social innovation: Buzz Word or Enduring Term?" Journal of SocioEconomics,
Eduardo Pol, senior lecturer, and Simon Ville, professor at University of Wollongong School of
Economics, derive a definition of social innovation from previous definitions of the term, contrast
it to business innovation, and make policy recommendations for encouraging social innovation.
Previous definitions consider social innovations movers of institutional change, new ideas that
meet social purposes, ideas that work for public good, and needs that are neglected by the
market. Pol and Ville's definition, which they insist is purely pragmatic and encompasses the
common denominator of previous definitions, calls social innovation a "new idea that has the
potential to improve either the macro-quality or the quantity of life". While many business
innovations, which are uniquely profit-seeking, have wide social benefit, there is a subset of
innovations that are "pure social innovations" and fall outside of market mechanisms. Pol and
Ville claim that pure social innovations function as public goods and will thus receive
underinvestment in a free market, which necessitates government-facilitated incentives for social
Sacchetti, Vera. Design Crusades: A Critical Reflection on Social Design. Thesis. New York:
Vera Sacchetti, a Fulbright scholar at the School of Visual Arts and contributor to Change
Observer, Arte Capital, and Proximo/Next Future, wrote this masters thesis for SVA's D-Crit
program through which she critiques the emergence and future of American social design abroad.
She fundamentally disagrees with the claim of well-intentioned social design enthusiasts that
design can change the world. Rather, she asserts that the successful application and
implementation of design in complex social systems is limited and efforts to evaluate and
communicate success lack sophistication. Core to the evolution of social design is the extension
of design from product development to services and opportunities in emerging markets rising from
the 2008 financial crisis. Sacchetti notes the asymmetry between social designers and
"underprivileged", "other" users and suggests that the Western designer's perspective employs
stereotyping and generalizations that threaten the success of projects abroad. She incorporates
the perspectives of Maria Blair, vice president of Rockefeller Foundation, and Tim Brown, CEO
of IDEO, who disagree about whether the core process of design is translatable across cultures,
and cites One Laptop per Child and Project H's Hippo Roller as examples of process failure.
Brown resonates with John Cary's suggestion designers' primary contributions to development is
their ability to see things differently than clients and identify problems rather than just solving
them. Sacchetti makes several recommendations for social design education, that students
should be knowledgeable about development efforts, the weight of cultural differences, the value
of collaborative teams and co-creation, and the inherent responsibilities of social design. She and
Brown question designers' use of metrics to assess successful implementation and Sacchetti
suggests that, with rare exceptions, media promoting social design projects oversimplify cultural
context, promote stereotypes, and prematurely celebrate successes. She concludes with guiding
principles for social design that she admits are difficult to implement due to the complex nature of
social issues: shed cultural bias, co-create with target communities, partner with local
organizations, start small, and be willing to adapt ideas to cultural context. [CD]
Shea, Andrew. Designing for Social Change: Strategies for Community-Based Graphic
Design. New
Andrew Shea, a multidisciplinary graphic designer, outlines his book right on the front cover with
a list of ten strategies for social design: (1) immerse yourself; (2) build trust; (3) promise only what
you can deliver; (4) prioritize process; (5) confront controversy; (6) identify the community’s
strengths; (7) utilize local resources; (8) design with the community’s voice; (9) give communities
ownership; and (10) sustain engagement. Inside, each strategy is illustrated by two case studies,
which range from typeface design to mural design, that feature the work of both students and
design firms, and document both successes and failures. The book is meant to serve as a toolkit
for graphic designers to engage with communities by viewing communities as labs for innovation
and community members as participants, not bystanders, in the design process. While the case
studies and stories focus on graphic design projects, the strategies are useful for identifying,
guiding, and framing any social design challenge. As a follow up to the case studies, the book
ends with insights into how to fund these kinds of social design projects. This chapter serves as
a final call-to-arms for designers to secure funding and start designing for social change. [DC]
Smith, Cynthia E. Design for the Other 90%. New York: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
2007. Print.
Cynthia Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design at Cooper-Hewitt National Design
Museum, catalogues an exhibition to affordable solutions to factors impacting impoverished
populations and the insights behind it. Aided by so-called societal entrepreneurs in the field, Smith
discusses tactics for designing sustainable, low-cost solutions that provide shelter, water and
sanitation, food, energy, healthcare, education, and transportation for the 90% of the world
population that lacks access to these basic goods. She presents these strategies alongside
innovative designs to introduce a conversation about designing for the poor, celebrate successful
solutions, and propagate this application of design. Like Norman, she extends the utility of
designers beyond aesthetics, but directs their intentional problem-solving orientation toward the
alleviation of suffering. Contributors emphasize the need to have a deep understanding of endusers to create designs that generate income and are affordable, replicable, scalable,
participatory, and financially and environmentally sustainable. The exhibited solutions
demonstrate the range of approaches to development: mass distribution versus high levels of
local involvement, focus on basic needs versus root causes, and concurrent solutions to multiple
Smith, Cynthia E. Design with the Other 90%: CITIES. New York: Cooper-Hewitt National Design
This exhibition catalogue is the second in a series on design solutions in the developing world
curated by Cynthia Smith, the Cooper Hewitt’s Curator of Socially Responsible Design. The focus
of the exhibition is on global cities as epicenters of unprecedented need as a result of rapid
urbanization and the rise of informal settlements. In contrast to the first exhibition, Design for the
Other 90%, this exhibition emphasizes designing with marginalized populations; this kind of
reciprocal collaboration is crucial in order to address the complexities and sheer scale of urban
poverty in emerging economies. Through a series of interviews, essays, project profiles and
photographs, the exhibition catalogue explores the theory of urban design and the actual
implementation of innovations in housing, transportation, security, education, sanitation,
employment, banking, farming, and healthcare. Smith stresses the overarching need to sustain,
share and scale up successful models across cultures and geographies with the cooperation of a
Stohr, Kate. "100 Years of Humanitarian Design." Design like You Give a Damn: Architectural
Kate Stohr, managing director of Architecture for Humanity, recounts the influence of architecture
on low-income and temporary housing, starting with the design of portable cottages in response
to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. She walks through stages of technological development,
the rise of manufacturing, urbanization, and modernism in connection to housing in the United
States. The fascination with technology during the 20th and 21st centuries resulted in phases of
questioning the utility of design professionals and a shift of power toward the "educated few"
architects, who no longer need direct dialogue with their low-income clientele. Stohr recounts
efforts by Walter Gropius and R. Buckminster Fuller to introduce mass-manufactured housing that
were stunted by financial impracticality but trailed by the introduction of automobiles and later
mobile homes. She also discusses the role of policy, notably the National Housing Act of 1934
that markedly increased homeownership in the U.S. and the Housing Act of 1937 that funded the
construction of low-income housing and cleared substandard structures. The 1930s saw an
attitudinal shift about the poor, to view them as a resource rather than a burden through self-help
and sites-and-services programs. Stohr lifts up Fred Cuny for his design and implementation of
temporary housing for disaster victims and Samuel Mockbee for his customized low-income
housing in Alabama that reintroduced conversation between architects and clients. She suggests
that successful architectural responses to disasters are characterized by forceful leaders, use of
local materials and labor, a third party presence that contributes to governmental and NGO efforts,
and keeping temporary housing in the vicinity of original neighborhoods to preserve social and
Thackara, John. In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World. Boston: MIT Press, 2005. Print.
John Thackara, described by Fast Company as a “design guru, critic and business provocateur,”
starts with the basic premise that if we can design our way into difficulty, we can also design our
way out, but he stops short of blaming designers for society’s ills. Thackara envisions a world and
a design philosophy where people come first; he focuses on the shift from designing stuff to
designing services and systems. The writing is centered on ten themes of daily life and is part
narrative, part case study, and part instructional. Thackara builds a strong case for how we got to
where we are today and what we can learn from social innovations that are already taking place
in order to steer a new course. He urges designers to practice design mindfulness by placing
value on context, relationships and consequences. Since many people assume that being
innovative means “adding technology,” Thackara specifically discusses the role of technology in
leading the way forward. Grounded in real-world examples, Thackara argues that a code of social
responsibility can inform decisions without slowing down social or technological innovation. (Note:
Tonkinwise, Cameron. "Politics Please, We're Social Designers." Core77, September 2010. Web.
Cameron Tonkinwise, chair of Business Design and Sustainability at Parsons The New School
for Design, considers the political stance of the Parsons DESIS Lab research project and
exhibition, Amplifying Creative Communities, and by extension that of social innovation design.
The exhibition featured examples of what Tonkinwise calls "the sustainability of sustainability", or
the role design plays in enabling people to more effectively provide for themselves and be
collectively more innovative. He focuses on local redesign, echoing the debate sparked by
Nussbaum on the inherent imperialism of humanitarian design that design for social good is most
effective when it is indigenous and designers are committed and follow through. The core of
Tonkinwise's argument is that ethical design is political because its mere existence aligns it with
a side of policy and debate. He offers examples of design that make government services
redundant and communicate support for smaller government. The implication for the design brief
it that it must include effective lobbying, because scaling social innovation often opposes some
Uehira, Taisuke; Kay, Carl. "Using Design Thinking to Improve Patient Experiences in Japanese
Hospitals: A Case Study." Journal of Business Strategy, 2009. Volume 30 Issue 2/3, p6-12, 7p.
Taisuke Uehira, senior director at Daishinsha, and Carl Kay, services sector consultant, analyze
the effective implementation of deep user research on patient experiences in Japanese hospitals
by furniture manufacturer Okamura Corporation. This qualitative methodology was novel in Japan
given the dominance of incremental product and business model innovation, risk-averse
organization dynamics, and continued focus on manufacturing despite a rising service economy.
Okamura enlisted the services of marketing consulting firm Daishinsha to determine the most
critical element in the patient waiting experience, develop portrayals of types of patients, and
prototype to help patients understand their route in the hospital and anticipated waiting time. This
case demonstrates how a corporation successfully reworked its business model to exploit an
opportunity for innovation and describes a design process that mirrors those presented by Brown
and Martin. It has deeper implications for the future of exploratory consumer research and
breakthrough innovations in Japan in the medical field and beyond. [CD]