Professor and author John Spencer makes the case for “making” in the Medium article “Design Thinking Can Work in Any Subject,” in which he emphasizes the value of making and what it can do for students of all ages. Despite the limited resources most schools are given and the strict guidelines they must adhere to, Spencer envisions a future where schools are transformed into “bastions of creativity and wonder.” He goes on to say that fancy technology and pricey gadgets aren’t necessary to create maker spaces for students. Instead, students can use design thinking to boost their creativity and to become makers themselves.
Spencer describes design thinking as a flexible approach that can be used with limited resources. For students, it begins with the premise of tapping into their curiosity, allowing them to create, test, and re-create until they eventually present what they made to an audience. According to Spencer, design thinking isn’t limited to students and education. In fact, he asserts that the approach is used in the arts, in the sciences, in social groups, and in the corporate world.
The idea that design thinking can be applied to nearly any subject is what attracted me to this article. As you may or may not know, I’m a writer as well as a designer. So when Spencer describes the design thinking model he developed for his students—titled the LAUNCH cycle—I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between design thinking and the writing process, and how I’ve managed to apply a fused version of the two processes to all of my creative work.
First, a little background on my own teaching experience: When I was a TA at NC State, I taught two freshman English courses that centered heavily on academic writing and research. Part of my teaching philosophy was devoted to the writing process, which involved brainstorming, prewriting, drafting, and revision. Whenever a paper assignment was due, I’d have my students spend two weeks at most planning and researching their topic of choice, and then another week writing and revising their drafts. To this day I firmly believe that prewriting and revision are more valuable than the actual writing itself.
Spencer shares the same beliefs when it comes to valuing the brainstorming and research stages of anything that is about to be created. Without giving too much away, I’ve summarized the basic steps involved in design thinking below, according to Spencer’s LAUNCH model:
- Look, listen, and learn
- Ask questions
- Understand the process or problem (i.e. research)
- Navigate ideas
- Create a prototype
- Highlight and fix
These steps illustrate just how adaptable design thinking can be for all walks of life. Whether you’re writing a blog, building a corporate budget, or developing a new product, design thinking is a useful tool that is certain to invoke the creator within.
Would you consider taking on design thinking as a part of your personal or professional life? Do you believe it can truly be applied to every subject, from graphic design to engineering? Maybe you’ve developed your own model of thinking that helps boost your creativity when other resources fall short? Share your insights in the comments section below.