Hanna Lo, Design & Thinking-Design & Society, C2

Hanna Lo, Design & Thinking-Design & Society, C2

What is a “good design”? 

Some define it as an appealing or interesting look, which can show the abundant creativity of the designer. Others, however, prefer a good design to be a more functional tool, which is closely connected with the society and can have positive impacts on people’s daily life. As a result, it is important to combine aesthetics and practicalness all together in order to help improve the society and to find solutions for different problems that are happening in the world. Design is not just about the thinking on the outside, but “the inside” as well.

What is Design and Thinking?

Visit any bookstore and you will notice a remarkable increase in the number of books on the subject of Design Thinking. The term was first described by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO design organization, at a TED lecture in 2009 and since then it has gained momentum and popularity in both the design and business worlds. In fact, there is evidence of a number of global blue chip organisations adopting this approach to improve their products and services.


For those of you who may not be familiar with the design thinking concept here is an overview. Design thinking is an innovation process that uses the designer’s sensibility to find unmet needs and opportunities, in order to create new solutions that matter to people. By involving clients, customers, designers, and business people in an integrative process, it is possible to create new and fresh solutions to some age-old challenges.


What is the main idea of Design Thinking process?

Quoting German philosopher Helmuth Plessner, “Humans are artificial by nature.” (Bas, 2011, p.37) I considered openness of a design as not being afraid of the unknown and untouched field. It is not just the designers but the people should also look ahead. We have to keep questioning what we see, what we have, and what we learn from the surroundings. Although our life might seem satisfying and comfortable enough, there still remains many problems and inconvenience. For example, most of the rechargers for smartphones nowadays are still heavy and take up more spaces. In order to improve the situation, a designer who has observed the problem should start thinking of what do with it, and if he or she is open-minded, willing to accept different voices or suggestion from people in different fields or the consumers, the design process will be much more efficient and to-the-point. What’s more, it may be a revolutionary design which has great impact on human history.


Now let us talk about Social Design.

If we break Social Design down into tactical core elements, we see clearly how it’s comprised of three very distinct components: identity, conversation and community. Put another way: ourselves, other people and the conversations we have with them.

The reason for this is because conversation really serves as the glue between identity and community. Conversation is how we express our identities to a community and how we receive feedback from it. If we were to design a social product with this in mind, one idea might be to start from the center and work our way out. That is, allow people to create an identity, let them talk about it and build a community over time. This isn’t a bad idea at all – in fact, it’s how Facebook and a number of other social networks began.

I am glad now that the design profession has opened for the society to join, for people from different professions to join in. The ideas are stimulated and created here, right at any moment in anywhere. How I used to view design is that it is a job that is suitable for people who are creative, in fact, born to be creative. I was wrong, however. There is no definition for “creative people” and there is no “people born with creativity”. I guess there may be other people like I used to be, admiring those designers of their ability to create so many cool things. I used to wonder “How could they think of the idea?” “How much time did they spend on searching for an idea?” “Where did their inspiration come from?” “How many prototypes they had made and solutions they had tried so that to have this wonderful outcome and success?” I would also thank them for helping the society to move faster and forward. One of the famous examples is the invention of “iPhone”. The touch-sensed screen changed the whole cell phone market on not only on their techniques but also their “way of thinking”.


 I am eager to know what might happen in the future. Although now I am only a consumer, not a designer, I understand the importance and the expectation from people. We would like the design industry to invent something or redesign a design just to make it function better or can bring more convenience on different things, such as designers can redesign the wheelchairs for the disabled and the elder, since the number of old people is increasing and it will be an significant issue that designers should be aware of.


In addition, by sharing the ideas with other designers and understanding the needs from our society, the target customers, I believe that designers will find themselves and their work much more valuable and meaningful than they think. For me, how wonderful it is that we can use our profession to help the world become a better place.



“Basics Product Design: Idea Searching” by David Bramston, AVA Publishing, 2008

“ Open Design Now” by Bas Van Abel, Lucas Evers, Roel Klaasen & Peter Troxler by Creative Commons Netherlands, Premsela, Waag Society, 2014

“Design for Society” by Nigel Whiteley, London: Reaktion Books, 1993



Evaluated by Ivan Sit




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