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Design Thinking with Tim Brown

02 Oct 2009

Tim Brown takes us on a journey through history, starting with Brunel's systematic large scale designs which include "the feel" of a railway ride from London to New York. Here's a key note in the life and work of Isambard Brunel, son of Marc Brunel (linked wikipedia above)

Work on the Clifton bridge started in 1831, but was suspended due to the Queen Square riots caused by the arrival of Sir Charles Wetherell in Clifton. The riots drove away investors, leaving no money for the project, and construction ceased.Brunel did not live to see the bridge finished, although his colleagues and admirers at the Institution of Civil Engineers felt it would be a fitting memorial, and started to raise new funds and to amend the design. Work recommenced in 1862 and was completed in 1864, five years after Brunel's death. The Clifton Suspension Bridge still stands, with approximately 4 million cars crossing the River Avon every year.

Mr. Brown then proceeded to share his own career and how it started out with small designs for a wood working machine, then later a fax machine. What he was concerned with and what he learned is that small designs would only provide incremental value to society. The method he refers to as his current prime motivator is Design Thinking. This method of design focuses on human need while meeting the other fundamental design forces of economics (viability in his talk) and feasibility (if the design is possible). The idea is to take a larger view of the problems being faced and to integrate and iterate on a solution sensitive to local culture.

Tim wraps up the talk asking for community feedback on the direction of design by using twitter to the hashtag #CBDQ (please amend that to any retweets or shares to aid in discovery/search).

He suspects that great value can be realized when domain experts and individuals are free to design their own systems and solutions. I have suspected this trend in the field of programming. The high cost of software is driven by the communication of expert knowledge in bite sized pieces to adept machine language translators (developers). Then the careful transition of conceptual states must be made from abstract to concrete (functioning end to end software libraries, or applications are concrete in my definition here). I believe developers (myself included) should endeavor to build higher level tools that others can leverage for their own needs.

By smoothly introducing an ongoing conscious awareness of what we want our efforts to yield, we can mold the raw results of our labors into a better systematic solution.