Design Thinking

Find what works, fix what doesn't! Take design action. 

Welcome to the Design Thinking season on Design Talk. A series of conversations with people, talking about their ideas and experiences with the Design Thinking process, Universal Design, and Inclusive Design. And we follow up on the idea that universal access is a universal requirement for all designs.

Our focus in these talks is to learn more about Design,  Inclusive Design and Universal Design and Design Thinking and the design process. To create experiences that everyone can use regardless of ability and disability. Our starting point is that universal access must be the first requirement for all designs. Access is the first and foremost need that any design choice must address. 

Universal access is not a nice-to-have requirement for product design - Access is the universal requirement!

For more on the need for universal access read Cat Noone's excellent article published in HBR (link).


In 'thinking about design and design thinking' we want to become better designers - designers who act in the world. Designs can fail anywhere, anytime. There is nothing like a design to present a 'head scratching' moment. Designs are confronting and frustrating when they 'don't work' as we expected or as needed, or just puzzle us. 

  • Have you tried to open a door and pushed or pulled the wrong way?
  • Have you ever attempted modify or cancel an order online?
  • Tired of seeing the spinning wheel of death on the computer screen?
  • Weary of the robotic voice in the supermarket “Please place the item in the bagging area”?
Whenever things like these happen, I feel stupid, frustrated and cross! I blame the computer! I blame the government or society! And I'll complain to anyone who'll listen to me rant about a stupid design.

But instead of complaining. Why don't I hold that thought! Make a stand and take action! We can - and should - learn to hack, tinker, and change the world. Recognising the moment and holding on to these feelings when design goes wrong. Turn that frustration into something affirmative, a commitment to tinkering, fixing and making things right. 

Each guest selects 5 or 6 prompts (below) or may offer their own. There is room for improvisation and we generally let the conversation take its own course. Interview/chats typically run for 30-40'.

Accessibility discussion points:

  • What does it take to establish an accessibility practice within an organisation?
  • "Is there a trade off between accessibility and usability?"
  • Or respond to a statement like "we don't have to compromise between the two - it can be Yes And..." 
  • Is there a Tech perspective on developing for inclusive design?
  • What are some of the tools we use to help us build accessible software too. Design tooling, automated tests & checks, colour blindness simulators, that kind of thing.
  • Can you talk about how you would evaluate an app for different levels of accessibility use?
  • What have you learnt from the past that changed the approach on new projects?
  • Talk about some of the challenges we face in making the case for access in the first version.
  • How tough is the audience? How do you get users on-side?
  • Do you find yourselves educating client companies about accessibility requirements when pitching a project/product? 
  • Is experience designing for accessibility a valuable selling point?
  • How deep does access need to go? For example, not so much for internal systems, much more important for user interfaces that customers use? 
  • Mention examples of accessibility being a core value for a tech organisation? 
  • What tech roles are accessible to all?
  • Our default seems to be to find problems, do we do enough to find and celebrate good designs?
  • Let's talk about some good designs...

We also talk about peoples' thoughts and experiences with design and the use of Design Thinking in organisations and teams. We talk about problem finding, creativity, idea generation, team processes, generating mock-ups and prototyping. 

Design Thinking / Design Process discussion points:

  • Where or when did you first encounter Design Thinking?
  • Who are the key people in Design Thinking (or books/publications, influencers, researchers, organisations)?
  • How do you make sense of the advice to "fail fast" and "fail forward"?
  • How do you handle failure?
  • Entrepreneurship seems to have become intrinsically linked with “Design Thinking” and “Design sprints”, hackathons and jams. Why this connection? 
  • Who is using Design Thinking and why? 
  • Hacking: to build, make, tinker and learn - prototype test, observe and evaluate.
  • What do you think is motivating the “Design” movement? Is it a fad or a real shift in mind-set and commercial imperative?
  • Can anyone develop a design attitude? How does a newbie start out?
  • What are the benefits of having an outsider facilitate a group design sprint?
  • What do you look for in our own facilitation practice, how do you stay fresh and keep on-track?
  • What exercises and key practices do you go back to again and again?
  • What do you look for when putting together a team for a design sprint?
  • Is design thinking just another (new product development (NPD) process?
  • Relationship between sprints and longer duration new product development processes?
  • Talk about the difference between facilitating a sprint versus managing product development process?
  • How sustainable are Sprints? 
  • If the approach is so productive, why don’t we do it all the time?
  • Advice on balancing idea generation versus idea selection?
  • Brainstorming tips?
  • Brainwriting tips?
  • If ideas and brainstorming are the easy part, what is the hard part? 
  • What comes before to make problem solving possible?
  • In “setting the stage”, starting with a big problem, a long-term goal; where do long-term goals come from? 
  • How do we identify and decide on the challenges that drive a design sprint? Do you have any tips for helping to find those big problems?
  • How do you prepare people to think differently for creative problem solving, for solution finding?
  • If someone has an idea for a new product/service/etc… what would you suggest doing to make it happen?

The design thinking edition of design talk has its own blog