Design in its most effective form is a process, an action, a verb, not a noun. A protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. Techniques and tools differ, and their effectiveness is arguable, but the core of the process stays the same. It has taken years of slogging through 'design = high style' to bring us full circle to the simple truth about design thinking: that when used effectively, it can be the foundation for driving a brand or business forward. [article]
My favorite part:
[Design is a] protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities.
When friends or acquaintances ask, I usually try to explain that at work, I "solve problems" to improve and optimize existing products and offerings which is somewhat self-evident as a competitive asset. However, the second portion about "discovering new opportunities" is at least as exciting and important in my role.
As mentioned in a Harvard Business Review article "Design Thinking":
Historically, design has been treated as a downstream step in the development process--the point where designers, who have played no earlier role in the substantive work of innovation, come along and put a beautiful wrapper around the idea.
Now, however, rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers' needs and desires. The former role is tactical, and results in limited value creation; the latter is strategic, and leads to dramatic new forms of revenue.
Whether it's re-understanding a problem we thought we understood or recognizing an opportunity that had been overlooked, I try to convey that I work both in this innovation space as well as in the more stereotypical downstream problem solving spaces. Being able to deliver on multiple levels is part of what makes the work so fun and satisfying.
As Mark said:
The simple truth about design thinking: when used effectively, it can be the foundation for driving a brand or a business forward.