In a recent article (and accompanying video), award-winning author Warren Berger suggests that designers have just the right toolset to answer a whole range of questions; many of which fall outside the traditional role of ‘design’.

“Don’t think about design just as your logo or the visual aspect of your business; think of it as a process you can use to tackle problems in your business,” says Mr. Berger. “Design is really just creative problem solving.” He proposes that design can help answer fundamental questions like ‘What are we going to make? How can we make it better? And how can we satisfy our customers?’

The key is in the way that designers approach problems. “Designers are very good at asking what I call stupid questions,” Mr. Berger says. “Why do we do things the way we do? Is this the best way to do it or could we do it differently? Small companies especially need to do that because they can get into a pattern of doing things a certain way for a long time.”

This has certainly been my experience working with designers and other creatives for more than twenty years. The process can be challenging and difficult, but the results are nearly always rewarding and often surprising. It’s this fundamental ability to look at things from alternate perspectives that makes the difference. Berger refers to it as ‘lateral thinking’, which seems appropriate. But it’s often just as simple as breaking a problem and the possible solutions down into the smallest possible parts and re-thinking each step:

  • Is this really necessary?
  • How could changing this function affect the result?
  • How could this part of the process be improved?

The article offers the example of the OXO Good Grips measuring cup, which allows you to see how full it is from above. “If you had asked people about their measuring cup, they’d say it was fine, but when you watched them, you could see that there was something that could be improved,” Mr. Berger says. The innovation came from actually watching people in their kitchens as they crouched down to get a better look at things.

Interesting stuff, and great food for thought for anyone facing a particularly thorny issue.
[Watch the video]
[Read the article]