Peter Miller’s piece about design thinking and history, more accurately archaeology (because archaeology deals with the past-in-the-present), is in the latest edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Here are some highlights that convey a key message – that human centered design and design thinking, about which I have had a good deal to say in this blog, need a sensibility tuned to history, to memory, to the-past-in-the-present, an archaeological sensibility, if they are to truly achieve their promise.
And the implications for how we organize our schools and universities are quite colossal.
This essay is the second in a series on how new ways of thinking about material culture, past and present, are reshaping teaching and learning.
Stanford’s d.school sees itself as a training ground for problem-solving for graduate students that “fosters creative confidence and pushes them beyond the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines.” Whereas design schools elsewhere emphasize the design of products, Stanford’s uses what the local culture calls “design thinking”: “to equip our students with a methodology for producing reliably innovative results in any field.”
What is design thinking? It’s an approach to problem solving based on a few easy-to-grasp principles that sound obvious: “Show Don’t Tell,” “Focus on Human Values,” “Craft Clarity,” “Embrace Experimentation,” “Mindful of Process,” “Bias Toward Action,” and “Radical Collaboration.” These seven points reduce to five modes — empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test — and three headings: hear, create, deliver. That may sound corporate and even simplistic, but design thinking has been used to tackle issues like improving access to economic resources in Mongolia, water storage and transportation in India, and elementary and secondary education and community building in low-income neighborhoods in the United States.
Last semester I taught simultaneous video-linked seminars with my friend and colleague Michael Shanks. I’m a historian working in New York City at the Bard Graduate Center. He’s a classical archaeologist teaching at Stanford. The course focused on the practices developed by early modern antiquarians to study artifacts from the past that lived on into the present, and argued that those same methods could be used today by designers interested in the experiences people have with objects. [Link]