Your accomplishments clearly indicate that you have the skills and passion to create. But it is my sincere hope that the path you shape for yourselves moving forward leads you to fertile places where creation is celebrated. I also hope that design thinking will help ensure that you are creating the kinds of meaningful systems, creative expressions, objects, experiences, and spaces that the world truly needs. To that end, I invite you to couple your creative energy with the spirit and approach of design thinking, so that you continually find yourselves in those fertile and meaningful places of creation.
Creations of Meaning
You may have noticed that I referred to you as “creators” rather than “creatives,” as is often the term used in fields such as advertising. For creativity exists in many domains…ranging from astronomy to zoology. Indeed, as we now perhaps are all too aware, within the fields of finance and politics, creativity also is alive and well. But as we have seen in recent times with things like mortgage-backed derivatives and divisive political strategies, being creative does not necessarily ensure that you will be creating something positive or meaningful. In order to bring more meaningful creations into the world, I encourage you to think about the opportunities before you through the powerful lens of design thinking. Design thinking encourages us to take a balanced view on problems and opportunity spaces by considering business viability, technical feasibility as well as human desirability.
The scope and scale of today’s challenges are such that channeling your creative endeavors through active design thinking may well be the best way to help shape our politics, our environment and the ways in which we live, stay connected, and inspire one another.Never before has the need for those who actually create positive things and systems been so great. In today’s world where the gulf between those who have unprecedented wealth and those who have nothing is ever widening, and the politics of fear make almost everything seem impossible in the eyes of the powerful, poor and pundits alike. You represent as a collection of designers and artists something the world sorely needs. You, in short, are creators.
You inspire others with your imagination and vision. And through practicing design thinking, you can help others with your creations. With the skills, perspectives and experiences gained here at the College of Design, you now have a valuable offering with which to go out into the world. It is one that couples both thinking and doing, allowing you to transform concepts into powerful, tangible creations.
The principles of design thinking are perhaps more clearly articulated today than they have even been. Many may be familiar to you. But I urge you to take them forward with you. I know I have benefitted from a wealth of connections, insights and experiences that have resulted from keeping the following five points in mind when I create with others.
1. Discover by listening
A colleague of mine, Diego Rodriguez, is keeping a list of innovation principles handy. The first of these is: “Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world.” In order to stay human-centered in our creative endeavors, we must spend time with those we are creating with and really hear their voices and needs. Notice I said with—not creating for—as it is often through true collaboration that the most appropriate and compelling innovations come to life.
2. Prototype and quickly make things
This is a powerfully liberating notion and one that may come easy to many in an academic context, but I urge you to hold on to this spirit of prototyping as you move onward in your creative endeavors. David Kelley, one of IDEO’s founders, speaks about the power of failing early to succeed sooner. If you keep this in mind, it will free you to try new things, to reinvent and liberate you from what Steve Jobs refers to as “the dogma of the past.” Seek to love what you do but embrace the value of prototyping and guard against things becoming too precious…especially early in the creative process. Embrace feedback and the ideas of others and your work will move to a new level of meaning. You will undoubtedly have setbacks in your projects and perhaps even in your careers, but my hope is that keeping this notion of prototyping with a purpose in mind will help guide you to the next level in your creative process. Regardless of what challenges arise, having a deep value for prototyping will ensure that you always maintain an attitude that allows you to learn from failure. This will serve you well throughout your careers.