Design Thinking

The designer

When discussing a simple thing as a re-design of a magazine as a designer, one might think about the choice of typefaces, the beautiful letter form of Baskerville or the versatility of Helvetica, the use of white space and so on. But, it soon becomes a discussion about the target audience and how to connect with them. For our client, a communications company, how should their magazine best serve the business sector they operate within? How will the magazine sit alongside their website both in look and feel and, not least, content? How are we going to make sure we are relevant to attract advertisers, crucial to the survival of the magazine and the company as a whole? We therefore need to look beyond the design elements and think about the client and the readership as a whole. How can we serve the client in more ways than (just) with great design?


Enter the design thinker

Design Thinking as a principle is not new. It has been practised by designers for as long as they have been around. But, it is only more recently companies are realising that design thinking can be used in more ways than just solving design problems. It can be applied to company strategy and reshaping, and encourage innovation in both the private and public sector. The latter an area that maybe needs re-thinking more than any other with the current cuts and restructuring. So, here at Rohde Consulting we are stretching our design brains to make sure that we can not just support the (graphic) design process but also understand all the other aspects of strategic thinking in business. We need to understand market segmentation, know why a PESTEL analysis is important to see what the opportunities and threats are in the market our client operates in, and appreciate that market research can form a vital part of feeding information into the business both from customers and, in our case, readers. I am aware Henry Ford didn’t think much of market research, nor did Steve Jobs. But I feel most of us need to at least try and see what might be happening out there.

As designers we are trained in the process of trying lots of ideas early, engaging with all the stakeholders in the process and understand what the end user is wanting from a product or a service. We are trained in thinking outside the box and not being afraid of failure. (I could write another blog about the disfavour our education system is doing our kids with all the targets and fear of failure we are breeding into them.) As Tom Brown says in his excellent book Change by Design: “Fail early to succeed sooner”.