It's about the "thinking", not "designing"

Ever since I attended IDEA08 in Chicago last year (btw: best conference I attended last year), I’ve been wishing someone would put together a library conference center around “design thinking.”

Anyway, enter this recent post from Garr Reynold’s over at Presentation Zen outlining 10 tips to help you think like a designer. In reading these tips, I think it’s important to recognize that these tips aren’t really related to the craft of “designing” stuff. Instead they’re related to the craft of “thinking about design” and as Garr also notes most can be applied to any profession.

1) Embrace constrains
. Constraints and limitations are wonderful allies and lead to enhanced creativity and ingenious solutions that without constrains never would have been discovered or created.

2) Practice restraint. Any fool can be complicated and add more, it takes discipline of mind and strength of will to make the hard choices about what to include and what to exclude.

3) Adopt the beginner's mind.
As the old saying goes, in the expert's mind there are few possibilities, but for one with the beginner's mind, the world is wide open.

4) Check your ego at the door. This is not about you, it's about them (your audience, customer, patient, student, etc.). Look at the problem from their point of view -- put yourself in their shoes.

5) Focus on the experience of the design.
It's not the thing, it's the experience of the thing.

6) Become a master storyteller.
Often it's not only the design — i.e., the solution to a problem — that is important, but the story of it.

7) Think communication not decoration.
Design — even graphic design — is not about beautification. Design is not just about aesthetics, though aesthetics are important. More than anything, design is about solving problems or making the current situation a little better than before.

8) Obsess about ideas not tools. Tools are important and necessary, but they come and go as better tools come along. Obsess instead about ideas. Good advice is to go analog in the beginning with the simplest tools possible.

9) Clarify your intention.
Design is about choices and intentions, it is not accidental.

10) Sharpen your vision & curiosity and learn from the lessons around you.
Good designers are skilled at noticing and observing. They are able to see both the big picture and the details of the world around them.

(11) Learn all the "rules" and know when and why to break them.

Read the full post to get more of Garr’s insights to each of the tips above. There’s some great thoughts that I think can be applied to many areas of library services. You don’t have to be a designer to think like one. You just have to be willing to embrace some new approaches.


Ky said...

I felt the same way after reading The Information Architecture of Social Experience Design from ASIS&T. So many of these ideals can be applied to even the library as building. Its the thinking that must change.

stevenb said...

Helene - sounds like you ought to be reading Designing Better Libraries - my blog where the main premise is how to use design thinking to create better libraries ( - I wrote a similar post a few months ago based on a video of Reynolds presenting on his "think like a designer" post you mentioned. See:

I've been writing about this for over 2 years now - and I had an article about design thinking and libraries in American Libraries back in 2008. A conference centered around design thinking is an interesting idea. I've done about a dozen talks on it - in which I usually connect it to user experience. I find that while DT is abstract for the attendees , UX is something they can grasp. So I usually discuss how using DT can lead to a UX process. Right now few libraries are using DT, so if there was a conference there may not be many librarian speakers, but you might find non-librarians who could share their ideas.

If you want to pursue it, it might be something to try online - perhpas on the learning times network where I host the blended librarians community - or perhaps OPAL would sponsor it.

Let me know and perhaps a conference on DT for librarians is a possibility. But broadening it a bit to something like "The DT Conference for UX-Minded Librarians" could allow for presentations about both DT and UX.