Design Thinking

Thinking About (design) Thinking

Shoe tower
Designers with souls!

So begins the new term at West Kent College and this week and my colleague and I have been introducing the new students to aspects of design thinking. We’re keen to stress the importance of thinking and approaches to the design process, trying to reiterate that using a computer as the exclusive means of problem solving is not what design is about. Yes, Google is great and so is Photoshop but so are our brains along with our ability to communicate and it’s these that need exercising as much learning how to make slick designs on a Mac.

We want to demonstrate—or rather have the students demonstrate to themselves—that planning and discussion are essential in design and for them to appreciate the importance of remaining open and receptive to new ideas and to be able to develop the means to explore approaches to thinking and the range of possibilities that such thinking can yield.

This little group activity requires the building of the tallest and most elegant tower of shoes possible. In doing so the participants discuss, build, take down, rebuild, and essentially explore possibilities. It sounds and looks a bit quirky but if it helps students consider that design is about possibilities, communication, interaction and collaboration then maybe they will rapidly appreciate that this unusual activity serves a very meaningful purpose.

And the winner is…

 

The Crystal: A model for sustainability (and exhibition design?)

The Cystal 2

Well, this is something of a hidden gem.  I’m not alone in saying I’d never heard of The Crystal. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to says they’ve not heard of it, even those teaching design in London! Having been there I left impressed and feel like spreading the word particularly given that The Crystal is the “World’s largest exhibition dedicated to urban sustainability.”

Having been tipped off by a student who stumbled across it, my teaching colleague and I decided to organise a visit. This striking building in London’s Royal Victoria Dock in east London contains a permanent exhibition about sustainable development. It is owned and operated by Siemens and is an exemplar of sustainability in architecture. The Crystal “is one of the world’s greenest buildings” and it emits an impressive 65% less carbon dioxide than other comparable office buildings and consumes 50% less energy. But as well as being of interest as a model of sustainability part of our reason to visit The Crystal was to see how had been it is designed as an exhibition space and how it was presented in terms of display graphics. The same student who told us about the building mentioned that the exhibition graphics were good and he was right. Typographically the building contained a real mixture of design that the materials and surfaces must have provided the graphic designers with as much pleasure as they did challenges. (These can be seen below.)

The most important thing was that I took something with me when I left. This was both a mixture of hope and a slight dread for the futures of the coming generations. The exhibition was a great way to drive home the importance for planning and anticipation as well as an acute need to reflect upon our needs and our behaviours.