Design thinking in practice.

‘Design thinking’ at Ellis Jones means the design and implementation of human/user centred, non-linear, iterative design processes, in place, to deliver innovative thinking, models and experiences across all our practices.

What can design-thinking offer today?

Design thinking is a competency that applies strategic rigour and creativity to support businesses and organisations to:

  • Understand the architecture of the system they operate in and the challenges within it
  • Build an evidence base to understand where the opportunities lie to create system-impact
  • Bridge the gap between technical solutions and wider social implementation
  • Support their end-users to take-up solutions and navigate change

At Ellis Jones this means adopting a participatory mindset and ditching assumptions.

We believe in collaborating and partnering deeply with our clients, their stakeholders, subject matter experts and impacted end-users throughout the entire design process.

Human behaviour within complex systems.

In our world today, we are facing ‘wicked’ social, environmental and financial problems. These problems are systemic and multi-faceted in nature and require interventions beyond technical solutions.

What’s more, communities are demanding better; demanding businesses and organisations realise their obligation to respect environmental and social boundaries. Sustainable business practices are no longer ‘nice-to-haves.’

Wicked problems like climate change and social inequity call for governments, businesses and organisations to invest in cultural and social interventions that nudge human behaviour, build resilient communities and rally collective belief around alternate sustainable futures.

We are running out of time to get moving on these complex problems, but there is nothing standing in our way of being on the right side of history.

Moving beyond ‘human-centred’ design to address ‘wicked’ problems.

In a commercial sense, human-centred design can prescribe a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to rapidly deliver solutions in a defined problem space.

While human-centred design can foster more humane outcomes, a focus on the human perspective alone can lead to interventions developed in isolation of the larger social and environmental system around us.

To keep pace with the systemic problems we collectively face, our practice is evolving to embrace new ways of thinking that stretch beyond a human-centred focus.

Three emerging, leaning-edge practices.

1. Transition design

Human societies are always in transition, but these transitions have been largely unintentional, full of ‘drift,’ and we only understand their ramifications in hindsight. Transition design argues that the societal transitions we are currently in, are heading toward futures we don’t necessarily want. But, it also contends that we can intentionally shift our transition trajectories toward futures we do want.

Transition design is aimed at addressing wicked problems such as climate change; forced migration; political and social polarisation; global pandemics; and lack of access to affordable housing, healthcare and education. The problems are interconnected, interdependent and reflective of place and culture.

Key principles:

  • Prioritise future outcomes over solving current problems
  • Focus on the steps in-between to reach a future vision

Read more.

2. Systems-led design

Designing systemically means both design as practiced with an awareness of the wider system context and perception of interdependence (‘system-conscious design’), with the specific objective of changing a system (‘system-shifting design’).

It considers the broader, systemic context of a solution rather than focusing on single interactions and problems.

Key principles:

  • Consider the broader and whole context of a specific change
  • Make connections between the user and the wider system they are operating in

Read more.

3. Decolonisation of design

Decolonising design removes the ‘white’ or Eurocentric thinking in design. Decolonising design happens with the understanding that design can establish and perpetuate the invasion, impoverishment, and destruction of indigenous cultures.

It places indigenous leadership and participation in design research, strategy and process, challenging concepts and interpretation of contexts.

Key principles:

  • First Nations leadership and participation
  • Listening, learning and challenging assumptions

What do our design thinking projects look like?

Some examples of how we apply design thinking include:

  • Design-led innovation, including new market and service development
  • Model, policy, strategy, and service co-design
  • Experience design
  • Behaviour change campaign and initiative design
  • Place identity and activation
  • Climate change adaptation and sustainable transitions

Importantly, we commonly work with cultural, vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ community groups, providing a safe, accessible, ethical and supported  environment.

Talk to us about how design thinking can help your organisation or community make sense of complex problems and situations, developing strategies and solutions for people and planet.

The image selected for this blog was created using DALL·E, an AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. Our prompts were:
“thinking with a design mindset”
“effecting change by utilising design thinking and creative strategy”
“design logic and thoughtful creativity”
“design thinking as a strategy for innovation”
“strategic creativity”
“creative problem solving”