Design thinking & thinking on design

Posted on 23/08/2016


“It’s not enough to be customer focused first, and think about all the hard stuff later.” – Tim Malbron

We all love a good brainstorm. Putting the customer at the center and building a giant sandcastle of ideas around them. This kind of thinking can liberate us to imagine new possibilities. But once the flip chart ink has dried, how often do we actually go on to deliver them?

This problem is what Tim Malbron, head of design agency Made By Many, describes as “design thinking”. He believes that this kind of thinking on brainstorm island is stopping us from actually changing our world, because it elevates design and ignores the other aspects required to find and build new approaches:

“The point is that universe-denting innovation demands a full-stack approach that doesn’t privilege design over other disciplines and treat those disciplines as executional issues, or things to figure out at a later stage.”

His article “the problem with design thinking” and the follow-up “the solution to design thinking” make great reading.


Tim suggests the following to combat this:

  1. We need to bust out of siloed design practices.
  2. We need to develop ever-broader capacities, taking an interdisciplinary, deeply collaborative approach across design, strategy and technology.
  3. To really reinvent and disrupt, we need to think end-to-end; not making an existing model better but reinventing the system from scratch.
  4. Focus on making, taking action: “making is fact; everything else is just opinion”


So on the topic of design, here’s what else caught my eye recently:

The ethics of design: or how technology hijacks people

Post-dignity design. “We’re in the midst of a decade of post-dignity design, whose dogma is cuteness”. Thought provoking read.

Reward, ambition or lifestyle: the “pick two prism” but rewritten for agency staff