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Design Thinking has evolved over the past decade (or two), and even though there are a variety of flavors, the basic elements are quite consistent. Today Design Thinking has soundly grounded itself in most design environments. Gone are the days where studios conceived ideas in a vacuum, without validation, user-testing and the input of the targeted users. Regardless of the flavor, the core principles are rooted in research, design exploration and then evaluation – before any real development is carried out. It is an iterative process who’s goal is to maximize usability and user fulfillment. It is only through this design-cycling that a more perfect solution can be achieved.

I have found that the most challenging and impactful stage lies in the ideation. This is where the core concepts are born. Based on user input, data point analysis and key insights, a seed is planted. The ideation stage is where the seeds are explored and cultivated. This is the stage in which I focus. Although the other areas are artful in their own processes, these areas can be easily taught. But exceptional ideation is driven from within, much like an artist. One must be willing to take risks to develop innovative ideas and push the envelope.

This is why I emphasize design sketching. Make no mistake, this is an art and has little to do with aesthetics, rather visualizing ideas through “making marks” – words, marks, sketches, notation, arrows, pointers, etc. If you think design sketching is drawing, you are way off.

Picasso’s lithograph is today considered a master class in formal exploration of form.

One final point about “design” and concept development – the real challenge is simplifying complicated cognition and visuals into its most simple form. Doing this can streamline user-experience and maximize usability. Perception and visual information comprehension is an art. In parallel examples, Picasso understood this and changed the world of art. Steve Jobs understood this and changed the course, not only of computer history, but of human society itself.

The simplification and evolution of the Apple mouse.