Design Thinking Across Different Design Disciplines: A Qualitative Approach

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Virginia Tech

Even though disciplines that are not traditionally affiliated with design have started to show interest in design thinking such as business, education, healthcare, engineering, and IT (Clark and Smith, 2008; Cross, 2007, 2011; Dorst, 2011; Finn Connell, 2013; Lawson, 2004, 2006; Owen, 2007; Razzouk and Shute, 2012) design thinking studies has tended to focus on limited design disciplines such as architecture, engineering design, and industrial design and there are not enough studies to prove that designers in different design fields perform design processes as design thinking literature proposed (Kimbell, 2011). This qualitative study explores the design process of professionals from different design disciplines, in order to understand the similarities and differences between their process and the design activities proposed by the design thinking literature. Design strategies of experts from different design disciplines were studied and compared, in relation to the activities proposed by the design thinking literature. This basic qualitative study was designed to use semi-structured interviews as the qualitative method of inquiry. This study employed purposeful sampling, specifically criterion sampling and snowball sampling methods. The researcher interviewed nine designers from instructional design, fashion design, and game design fields. A semi-structured interview protocol was developed and participants were asked demographic questions, opinion and values questions, and ideal position questions. Demographic questions provided background information such as education and number of years of design experience for the participants. Opinion and value questions were asked to learn what participants think about the research questions. Ideal position questions let participants describe what good design would be. The researcher analyzed the interview data and the results were reported in a way to demonstrate the differences and similarities within and across disciplines.

design process, design thinking, design practices, design research