The Purpose of Great Design and Design Thinking

Great design is about great purpose.

Everything you are staring at or using right now has gone through a process of design to look or work or feel the way it does.
The purpose of it was to make you click on something, make you remember the brand or offer you some feature. But at the heart of it all lies the user, you, and your experience of interacting with the product- be it something virtual like an app or tangible like a phone.

Design generally is the process of envisioning and planning objects- websites, apps, buildings, or vehicles.

Like most people, I thought the purpose of design was primarily an aesthetic dimension. But working with my team here at Applify, through our common love for apps, made me discover how design is much more about strategy than merely what pleases the eye.
I like to think of design as an organism, breathing and growing. Art, the creative element, makes up its heart. Its objective being to arouse feelings and trigger emotions.
Utility is the body. Providing it all its functionality, clarity, and problem-solving.
Design isn’t about decoration. It is not about abstract ideas that cannot be executed.
Design is rather a way of making everything better and the purpose of design goes deeper than visuals.

Does then design qualify as Science or Art?
Answer: None.
It takes the best from both the fields. The ‘finding answers’ trait from science and ‘make you feel’ trait from art.

Okay, so design is about creating feasible wholes from infeasible parts.

But there are bad designs and good designs too. What makes any design a great one?

Dieter Rams, a German designer, asked himself the same question and what he deduced later are today’s widely accepted 10 principles of a great design.

According to him, a design is great if it:

Is innovative
Makes the product useful
Is aesthetic
Makes the product understandable
Is unobtrusive (leaves room for user’s self-expression)
Is honest
Is long lasting
Is thorough down to the last detail
Is environmentally friendly
Is as little design as possible.

Design Thinking:

In the late 60s, another concept came into being. It was called ‘Design Thinking’. But it was only in the 1990s when it actually became popular and IDEO is largely accredited with mainstreaming it.
Design Thinking is a method designers use for ideation and development, however, it can be used in a variety of areas.
The method describes a human-centered, iterative design process consisting of 5 steps—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Design Thinking Steps

Image source: https://www.enterpriseirregulars.com/125085/what-is-design-thinking/

At Applify, app development is guided through the process of design thinking.
The classic flow of Design Thinking for creating apps is as follows:

Empathize:
Developing mobile solutions that are user-centric will require you to know the user and their situation thoroughly. Even looking for issues they are not aware of. This step involves understanding behaviours and also the emotions that guide these behaviours.

Define:
This involves using the empathy findings into a draw out the challenge- the need and the scope.
The problem’s definition may be a dynamic one and need reframing as we pass through the flow.

Ideate:
This involves brainstorming. Rather than a focused approach, this step is about going far and wide. This is to go beyond the obvious and explore unexpected areas for radical ideas. Here it is about thinking out of the box and coming up with flexible and scalable ideas.

Prototype:
A prototype can be anything that takes a physical form – be it a wall of post-it notes, a role-playing activity, space, an object, or a model. In app development, there are app prototypes that are clickable that allow a clear idea about the working of the app. This step involves conversations and checking the feasibility of the idea synthesized in the above step.

Test:
Testing first means getting feedback on the solution developed and using the feedback to refine the quality. This will allow finding all faults that could affect and having multiple opinions on it will also help improve the decision making by bringing in a wider perspective.

This process is iterated till a suitable, structured and scalable plan is achieved.

But is design limited to artists and designers only?

Answer: No.
Design, as I mentioned, is about solving problems. That is the purpose of it.
Anyone can apply the design process to their lives.

The Design Process:

The design process involves breaking down the problem into steps to come to a solution.
This process is not limited to industrial design. This flow comes in handy when stuck with managing a huge task. I recommend going old-school here by using a pen and paper and document each step.

Step 1- Defining the problem:
Putting down the details of the situation at hand. This will allow you to have a clear idea about the problem and cut down the noise surrounding it.

Step 2- Collecting Information:

Now that we have the problem defined, the next step is to collect data. Research into meaningful sources and come up with all that concerns the underlying issue.

Step 3- Analysing the information:

Use the collected data and analyze it to make sense of it all. While brainstorming, having the analysis to assist will bring you closer to the solution.

Step 4- Developing the solution(s):

Using the above three steps come up with solutions catering to the problem defined.

Step 5- Taking Feedback:

Present your solution and gather feedback on it. Having different opinions contributes to the quality of the solution.

Step 6- Improving:

Incorporating the feedback into the solution to improve its working is the final step.

Conclusion:
To put in Steve Jobs’ words, ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Design is a wide field with applications ranging from graphics to strategy. Considering it as just a way of making things look prettier is massively underestimating the magic of the process.
With design thinking, one can resolve ill-defined problems and finds application in all fields even app development.

Everyone need not be a designer to leverage the benefits from design and can apply this process to their lives for problem-solving.

Happy Creating!

Snigdha Sachar Written by:

Snigdha Sachar is an engineer by qualification, policy-enthu by passion and chai-advocate as a freelancer. She is a part of the Management team at Applify.

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