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Is 'design thinking' here to stay?

The term "design thinking" has been a buzzword in innovation, business, and tech circles for several years. A forthcoming documentary seeks to define it clearly--and add to the current debate on its effectiveness and longevity.
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Written by Reena Jana on

"Is design thinking a movement that's here to stay?" This question is one that designers, engineers, marketers, and business-school professors alike are debating at the moment. And it's a query posed by four filmmakers producing a documentary simply called "Design & Thinking." Take a look at their trailer, which features numerous luminaries in the design world taking turns explaining the term "design thinking":

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, "design thinking" has been a buzzword for several years in the business world. As the filmmakers behind the documentary "Design & Thinking" explain it, "design thinking" is "a term that arose to distinguish what others think of as design, usually the surface, to the thinking behind." It has been promoted and practiced by leading design and innovation consultancies such as IDEO, frog, Smart Design, Ziba (disclosure: I have consulted for frog and Ziba) and at educational institutions such as Stanford University and the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. Some of the most well-known and well-respected supporters of "design thinking" are in the "Design & Thinking" movie, from Rotman's Roger Martin to Smart Design's co-founder Dan Formosa.

But like all buzzwords, "design thinking" is considered by some to be more of a fad than a long-term trend. It's currently at the center of a debate whether it is "in some estimations, sooooooo last week" as Fast Company's Suzanne LaBarre wrote recently, in response to the release of the "Design & Thinking" trailer. In fact, the "Design & Thinking" filmmakers even capture Paul Pangaro, CEO of Cybernetic Lifestyles, saying that he has "problems with design thinking" and that the idea implies that designers aren't "doing."

The team behind the documentary, Yuhsiu Yang, (Producer) Melissa Huang (Co-Producer), Mu-Ming Tsai (Director), and Iris Lai (Creative Director) are funding the movie themselves, which they plan as a feature-length film to be released around October 2011. They are also raising funds via Kickstarter. Two San Francisco-based organizations, the Taipei Design Center U.S., a branch office of a Taiwanese non-profit that researches and consults on design and builds business relationships between the U.S. and Taiwan, and Muris Media, a one-year-old media studio, are supporting the project.

The trailer is worth checking out as an introduction to the topic of design thinking, as well as the current debate on its effectiveness and longevity. And it's worth noting, too, that the documentary seems to be, well, nicely designed. And thought-out. Enough so that viewers will be prompted to make their own conclusions about the topic, and whether design thinking as a practice is relevant to their own lives and work, beyond its buzzword status.

Related on SmartPlanet:

New Sundance Channel show demystifies product design by Reena Jana

New television series identifies powerful product design by Reena Jana

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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