Design as philosophy

Part 1 of 5 in the series Human-centered product design in 2019.


My perspective is that design is a philosophy about how to solve problems or embrace opportunities that have no clear answers.

Design is always about problems or opportunities – that distinguishes design from art. Design is different from engineering or optimization (which both also exist to solve problems) because design can give us good solutions to wicked problems.

When we embrace the design philosophy, we often take these stances:

  • we generate lots of ideas, because the first idea is seldom the best one
  • we create prototypes to help us think
  • we create solutions iteratively – ideate, prototype, validate, ideate, prototype, … – to make sure that we keep making things better
  • we oscillate between different perspectives –  so that we can focus on one thing at a time but also take on the full complexity of the problem
  • we do process – few things change based on single events (human behaviour, for example, often take a long process to change) and products, just like the humans the products help, are in a constant state of becoming.

An interesting result of this perspective on design is that it’s absolutely fine to see design as being done by me but also by the participants in Project Runway, by those who choose the chairs in our rooms and the flowers in our gardens. The perspective also make it possible for IDEO to do business design and food system design and for Frog to say that they are “creating systems of brand, product and service”.

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