Design Thinking - A Critical Analysis

Paul A. Rodgers, Euan Winton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)


The latest buzz phrase to enter the world of design research is “Design Thinking”. But is this anything new and does it really have any practical or theoretical relevance to the design world? Many sceptics believe the term has more to do with business strategy and little to do with the complex process of designing products, services and systems. Moreover, many view the term as misleading and a cheap attempt to piggyback the world of business management onto design. This paper seeks to ask is design thinking anything new? Several authors have explicitly or implicitly articulated the term “Design Thinking” before, such as Peter Rowe’s seminal book “Design Thinking” [1] first published in 1987 and Herbert Simon’s “The Sciences of the Artificial” [2] first published in 1969. In Tim Brown’s “Change by Design” [3], design thinking is thought of as a system of three overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps namely inspiration – the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation – the process of generating, developing and testing ideas; and implementation – the path that leads from the design studio, lab and factory to the market. This paper seeks to examine and critically analyse the tenets of this new design thinking manifesto set against three case studies of modern design practice. As such, the paper will compare design thinking theory with the reality of design in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 12th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE) 2-3rd September 2010 held at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
PublisherDesign Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781904670193
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Design thinking
  • design processes
  • design practice


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