"As much as I love things in flux, I love them within a frame of reference - a consistent reassurance that at least and at last [we are] responsible for every detail."  

Massimo Vignelli, Vignelli's Canon

Vignelli sums up every client's problem in a nutshell; we all revel in the eternal flux that makes up our lives. However, as organizations (be they businesses, educational institutions, not for profits, health centers) we need an explicit frame of reference from which we can solve problems. Herein lies the elegance behind the marriage of ethnography/cultural anthropology and design/design thinking. (see references and resources below...)

Whether it is Nigel Cross talking about the "Designerly Way of Knowing," or Tim Brown writing about Design Thinking in the Harvard Business Review, or Richard Buchanan talking about "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking", or The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design by IDEO, or Andrew Shea in his book Designing for Social Change -- the elements of design thinking are the same: a problem driven, solution focused, empathic, collaborative, visual, iterative, do-able/executable/market driven process.   

Even better, the design thinking research process is comprised of a series of highly structured, simply elegant research protocols which are rich in detail and replicable. As a cultural anthropologist/ethnographer working with businesses and other organizations, working with this very user friendly set of research tools makes these design think collaborative processes highly successful.

Design Thinking/Research techniques include: guided observation, interviewing, co-creation, participatory design, persona development, journey mapping, storyboarding, scenario planning,  and other customized methods.  

To extend Context's design capability, and do even more to help our clients with corporate strategy definition and product and service development, we partner with Claro Partners, an international business innovation and design strategy firm. Together we deliver a complete end-to-end, and global, solution for design thinking.

Design Thinking References and Resources

(1) Brown, Tim. 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/product/design-thinking-hbr-bestseller/R0806E-PDF-ENG

(2) Buchanan, Richard. 1992. Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Design Issues. 8(2): 5-21 http://web.mit.edu/jrankin/www/engin_as_lib_art/Design_thinking.pdf

(3) Cramer, Andrew. 2014. Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Problem Solving and Creating Impact. Syllabus. http://wagner.nyu.edu/files/syllabi/201406/PADM-GP.2145.001.pdf

(4) Cross, Nigel. 1982. Designerly Ways of Knowing. Design Studies 3(4):221-227

(5) Heskett, John. 2002. DESIGN: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford. {note: not about design thinking}

(6) IDEO. 2009. The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design. Design Kit. https://www.ideo.com/work/human-centered-design-toolkit/

(7) Kolko, Jon. 2012. Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving. https://www.wickedproblems.com/ {feels like a graduate level IDEO Field Guide}

(8) Shea, Andrew. 2012. Designing for Social Change: Strategies for Community-Based Graphic Design. Princeton Architectural Press http://www.designingforsocialchange.com/2014/index.html

(9) Vignelli, Massimo. The Vignelli Canon. http://www.vignelli.com/canon.pdf {not about design thinking, per se…phenomenal point of view/well articulated}

(10) MICA MA in Social Design (Maryland Institute College of Art) {program in Social Design} https://www.mica.edu/Programs_of_Study/Graduate_Programs/Social_Design_(MA).html

(11) Stanford d.School. Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking. http://dschool.stanford.edu/dgift/