The human-centered concepts of creativity and design thinking

These two concepts have been used when creating the products and services that we use, which have resulted in simplicity and ease of use. But, what are these concepts? And how are they human-centered? Let’s find out.

What is creativity and how is creativity human-centered: Divine comedy or everyman’s labor

How wonderful it is to feel being creative. Having that short-lived touch of magic when a new idea or solution presents itself. A deux a machina – moment as if some divine spark accidentally lands in one’s way and lights up the road. For long we were convinced that this is how creativity is manifested. We also thought that it belonged exclusively to some extraordinary persons and rest of us were to be content with occasional leftovers. That was before we started to study innovation and design thinking. 

Our inspiring SID lecturer Katja Tschimmel argues unequivocally how “creativity is not a trait of supernaturally gifted persons with innate ability to think and act creatively”. Instead she points out that creativity is multidimensional and non-situational BUT it requires a social and economic environment to nurture it. And the more interactions and mental connections our cognitive system is facing the more potential we have to accelerate our creative thinking and thus creativity. To put it another way – innovation is more social than personal.

What is design and how is design human-centered: User, User, User.

Figure 1: Design Thinking Definition (Brownn)

Design Thinking is based on 5 principles: 1. Human-centred approach, 2. Collaboration, 3. Experimentation, 4. Visualisation, and 5. Holistic approach. To get a better grasp of Design thinking, we can look at it as a process (see figure 2).

Figure 2: What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular? (Dam & Siang, 2020)

Design thinking is used as an innovation method where people work together from different departments without necessarily having a designer in the team. This is the beauty of Design Thinking as it is not limited to gifted people. Design Thinking is also used as a tool for simplifying and humanizing services and products, making even complex technologies simple to use.

How does design and creativity co-exist

According to George Kembels the co-founder and executive director of Stanford d.school, creativity is the adventurous spirit to try something new, to be open to the unexpected. Design is the act of creation, bringing something new to the world. Design thinking is the approach and mindset that explains how to make creative design happen.

Figure 3: D.confestival in Potsdam (Kembels, 2012)

Experiences from masterclass and Conclusion

Based on our experiences at DTmasterclass it is easy to agree that creativity, design and design thinking are inclusive abilities that don’t belong to any particular or exclusive group of geniuses but rather are innate human capabilities that can be trained and developed. 

In the masterclass we were also pushed to our limits in being creative and trying to come up with ideas and solutions to enhance being included at a workplace. Here we were really thinking of the end-user of our solution, and every idea revolved on making the end-user’s experience to be better. The human-centered approach was shining here.

Written by Toni Ekroos & Wasim Al-Nasser

References

Brown, Tim 2019. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Dam, R. & Siang, T. (2020). What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular? https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/what-is-design-thinking-and-why-is-it-so-popular

Kelley, D. & T. (2013). Creative Confidence. New York: Crown Business.

Kembels, George (2012). Discussion between Oliviero Toscani and George Kembels at the d.confestival in Potsdam 2012 https://www.tele-task.de/de/archive/lecture/overview/6606/ 

Kolko, J. (2015) Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation. In Perspectives on Design II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”.

3 thoughts on “The human-centered concepts of creativity and design thinking

  1. This post is a comprehensive review on the concepts of Design Thinking and Creativity. Reading this helped me to refresh things learned during the SID study module on Design Thinking by Katja Tschimmel and reminded me of one of the key take-aways from studying the subject – creativity is a skill that is not exclusive to certain special individuals, but rather it can be developed over time by repeatedly following creative thinking patterns.
    I would also like to mention that the authors did a great job on a quality storytelling by having a clear beginning/introduction, main body and conclusion within the post. That made the text easy to follow. Really good job overall!

  2. The authors have selected a really interesting topic for discussion. I really liked how the authors pointed out that we are all innovators these days and how the masterclass nudged us to use our creativity more instead of staying in our old thought patterns. What I would find a really interesting follow-up topic now, is the brain aspect of creativity, what are the neuroscientists saying in regards to having and enhancing one’s creativity. Overall, great topic and well written and structured blog post. Additional points for using pictures to make the concepts more easily comprehensive.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. It was a fluent summary of design thinking. At the very beginning of your post, you referred to what we called in the ’90s and ’20s – as a cult of “hero designer” (or “sankarimuotoilija” in Finnish). It just made me giggle, and I appreciate how our design culture has evolved in Finland in the past decades. I also loved figure 3 for showing the empathetic designer/design thinker in the middle. Empathy is what matters the most. ❤

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