Design & Thinking Documentary + Panel Discussion at California College of the Arts

// Last Wednesday I went to a screening of the documentary “Design and Thinking” followed by a panel discussion with: Gadi Amit, Founder, New Deal Design, Udaya Patnaik, Principal Associate, Jump Associates, and Owen Rogers, Senior Partner, IDEO. The event was moderated by Barry Katz, Professor, California College of the Arts and Stanford University; Fellow, IDEO. It was a fun evening, well hosted by the IDSA and CCA.

I suggest you check out the trailer for the documentary ( The documentary goes on longer than it needs to and if you are familiar with the ascendancy of Design Thinking you are unlikely to find anything new here. In a lot of ways it seems to me like a big pat on the back for all of us who see ourselves as creative and want to apply creativity and iteration at every chance. The evening really got interesting when the panel discussion started.

Barry Katz started by asking the panel what they thought of Design Thinking as presented in the film. Which sparked a very interesting discussion, which, to me seemed to focus around the question: Is Design Thinking design? The opinions sat on a spectrum from Gadi at no, to Udaya at a partially, sort of, maybe a bit, finishing with Owen at probably.

Here is the page of notes I took:

Gadi was not interested in entering much of a discussion, presenting his stance as the truth. Given his delivery, I found his call for more humility in design a little false; but his ideas were interesting. He has written much and well on this subject. Here is a quote from his blog: “Basically designers are unique for all the things "thinkers" cannot visualize and cannot imagine. That's the true reason why design (like art) is such a precious word. The interpretation of the idea from verbal-cognitive to a visual-emotional is the magic designers bring to the world.”

Owen on the other side of the spectrum definitely acknowledged that Design Thinking is not a "magic bullet", but he felt that the term had really brought a lot of attention and interest to the field and that is good for design. He was also clear that Design Thinking is no longer (if it ever was) on the cutting edge of design.

Here at Modern Industry, where we are both thinkers and doers, we never stop being designers. Whether we are working on products or figuring out how we are going to get capital or writing a business plan, we reach into the same tool bag. We don’t always pull out the same tools and we don’t always use the tools in the same order, but for me, Design Thinking as a concept recognizes that designers have a distinct approach and that this approach can apply to more than form giving. In a nod to Gadi, I will add that at Modern Industry no project is done until we add a healthy dose of Design Doing. For without doing you have no impact.

// Lorris

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