I have been thinking a lot about design thinking. The term resonates with me as I do it. All the time. It’s the point from which I approach so many aspects of my life: from problem solving, to ideas generation, and life administration. Sometimes it is the answer, other times it just isn’t.
Responsibility lies with Powditch. Peter Powditch. He got to me fresh out of high school, just after I had won the art prize in my final year. It was in my first semester of design school and I had signed up for ‘Illustration’. I arrived to my first class excited by the prospect of my first ‘drawing’ exercise (before receiving head pats). “Draw yourselves as Madonna’s armpit”. And there it was. Our task. I thought he was an idiot.
After half an hour or so he said, “now pour some coffee on your image”. Yep. Then, “rip it half, chose one piece, stick it to another page, and start again”. I wasn’t coping.
My journey with image-making at that point had involved creating a visual response to something sitting on my desk: a photograph, someone else’s artwork … the business of fruit bowls. Peter’s request was too much. He was asking me, not only to create something slightly unfathomable, but to then disassemble what I had created in order to assemble something beyond my first iteration. This process of disassembly was just too unfamiliar. I had no idea of its purpose.
The turning point came when I realised I was enjoying the act of creating more, due to the emergent nature of the Powditch approach. As a process it valued experimentation which led to more interesting outputs. The stuff was both interesting-good and interesting-bad, but if I didn’t like something I had created, I’d just spill coffee on it.
This is how I learned ‘design thinking’.
I was compelled to write this blurb after hearing consecutive dismissals of the idea of ‘design thinking’. I get that it sounds like a what-the-hell term attached to a wafty process. But that is exactly how I felt about my self-portrait as Madonna’s armpit, until I realised that I was being taught how to disassemble and assemble concepts and materials within the one process. At the outset, it seemed pointless. In the end, it became my M.O.
The idea of design thinking is a valid process for many. Make a pop star inspired self-portrait before you diss it. Or go remix a video while watching I Heart Huckabees.
[Also posted on Medium]