The Relationship Between Design Thinking and Scientific Thinking
Designing refers to the act of shaping or arranging things so that they have an appearance of existing or of being constructed. A design is basically a blueprint or a plan for the structure or functioning of an internal or external object or for the execution of some act or procedure, or even the outcome of that plan or blueprint in the shape of some manufactured object or process. The word ‘design’ can also be used in connection with art and architecture, when it refers to the arrangement or shape of buildings, natural objects or landscape. In engineering, design is used to describe the exact arrangement of physical features of a body of water, for example, the roof or the foundation of a building.
Designing can be a scientific process by starting from a description of the problem or purpose, followed by a detailed illustration and finally an estimation of the time, material and cost involved in implementing the recommended solution. The scientific approach allows us to solve a problem in a certain set of steps which can be described by a set of objectives or aims like improving customer satisfaction, reducing cost or increasing productivity, establishing a better visual identity for a company or improving the effectiveness of communication and selling. A successful design project therefore requires the collaboration of all the people involved in its development – from the client wanting a better product, the designer who conceptualizes the idea and the builders, who implement it. However, before we discuss the problems involved in the design process we should first define what we mean by it.
So far we have discussed only the rational model of design process. Rational models are those that can be verified by experiment or experimentation and/or modeling. Rational model also refers to those designs that are based on a set of rules or principles that can be universally accepted as true. A graphical illustration therefore cannot be considered a rational model because it does not purport to be a physical reality. The rational model in this context would be a diagrammatic representation of the problem domain where the designer interacts with his audience.
Now let us move on to another important aspect of designing which is the problem-solving approach. Problem-solving approach focuses on finding inventive solutions to complex problems by applying various scientific methods. The problem-solving approach is therefore a sub-component of the scientific approach. We know that scientific methods are frequently tested against real world scenarios and can therefore be expected to be accurate. The problem-solving approach therefore helps us to reduce the risks of implementing new innovative solutions that may not be well accepted by the client.
Another important aspect of problem-solving is associated with the ability to brainstorm. Brainstorming is often referred to as the “people’s thoughts”. In a brainstorming session, one or more members of a team are encouraged to generate new ways of handling a particular problem. While brainstorming is usually successful, sometimes it may not be, and in such instances, other members of the team are encouraged to offer alternative ideas that might solve the problem. This allows for a free exchange of views and therefore is highly valuable.
Designing and thinking need not be limited to the domain of science. The broader idea is to use creative thinking and creativity to think up new ways of tackling problems. Creative thinking is not often referred to as ‘designing’ but we often come across designs in our daily lives that have been ‘designed’ in one way or another. Box thinking, for example, is often referred to as the process of coming up with novel solutions to problems that people face in their everyday lives.