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Design thinking.

Learning how
creatives think.

Design thinking organises the ways designers analyse and define problems, challenge assumptions, expand their ideas, evaluate their work and map future directions. Designers often use routines or strategies to support their design thinking. Design thinking supports divergent and convergent thinking. There are three phases of design thinking in Visual Communication Design. These are creative thinking, critical thinking and reflective thinking.

Design thinking

When designing a new product there is an urge to converge on a solution. However the Design Process in Visual Communication Design requires students to think and propose different ideas. Design Thinking uses structures for thinking and for making students' thinking visible. There are three phases for Design Thinking in VCD. These are referred to as creative, critical and reflective thinking. Thy are largely metacognitive skills that assist students to think about their thinking. Using a metacognitive approach is like standing next to oneself and looking at one's work from the point of view of an observer. It allows one to plan and evaluate one's path as one would do for another.

Acknowledgements

The content on this page and the three linked pages; Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking and Reflective thinking would not be possible without the work on thinking for schools by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the book Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church and Morrison. Much of this work supports the Victorian Government's education department's High Impact Teaching Strategies.

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Cultures of Thinking. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Click on the image to visit this site.
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Ritchhart, R, Church, M, Morrison, K 2011, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey.
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High Impact Teaching Strategies, Victorian State Government Department of Education and Training. Click on the image to visit this site.

META-WHAT-NITIVE?

The Victorian government Department of Education and Training (2017), have identified ten High Impact Teaching Strategies for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.  The intention of this document is to explain techniques that improve educational outcomes for students.

Metacognitive strategies are shown to have the biggest 'effect size' (learning improvement) for students. The document describes metacognitive strategies (p9) as;

"Metacognitive strategies teach students to think about their own thinking. When students become aware of the learning process, they gain control over their learning. Metacognition extends to self-regulation, or managing one’s own motivation toward learning. Metacognitive activities can include planning how to approach learning tasks, evaluating progress, and monitoring comprehension."

Teachers can visit this document by clicking on the image at above right.

CREATIVE, CRITICAL AND REFLECTIVE THINKING

Visual Communication Design requires students to manage their pathway through the Design Process. This include working creatively, evaluating, setting goals for future improvement and describing what steps may be needed to reach them. Whilst creativity has traditionally been thought to be spontaneous, design is a conscious enterprise that requires self management in order to be innovative and answer precisely the design need required by ones' client. Good design is no accident!

Our study identifies three kinds of Design Thinking. They are used consistently during the Design Process.

Creative thinking enables a creative flow of new ideas. Is not critical nor evaluating. It seeks to enable as many, varied approaches to defining and solving a design problem. 

Critical thinking involves collecting data about ideas and making it visible for evaluation against criteria and/ or constraints set in a brief. It uses strategies to help designers challenge assumptions and consider options from different perspectives. It enables designers to pin-point strengths and weaknesses in ideas and to plot their course for developing further outcomes. Critical thinking may also stimulate entirely new ideas. 

Reflective thinking is metacognitive thinking. It enables the designer to examine their working practices and investigate the effectiveness of their problem-solving strategies. It enables designers to find links between theirs and others’ work. Through reflection, the designer may reconsider initial understandings of design problems in the brief and re-frame them.

For official descriptions of design thinking please see the 'Cross Study Specifications' in the VCD Study Design.

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Creative Thinking

Creative Thinking strategies stimulate students to open up new possibilities.

Unseen territory

Creative thinking is an investigative, exploratory approach to design. An explorer for example, didn't know what exciting lands they were going to find. Scary really. One never know where one's path will lead. It requires a curious, open-minded approach where one focuses on the problem to be solved not on previous solutions.

Students using Creative Thinking should critical of their ideas when they are drawing. If they don't like a sketch they have made, make a new one. And remember, students should keep all of their work, they need it as part of their design journey.

ROUTINES

  • Mind mapping
  • See, Think, Wonder
  • Visual research
  • Consumer audience profiles
  • Scrapbooking
  • Brainstorming
  • Exquisite corps
  • Forced Associations
  • What if someone else was designing this?
  • Action verbs
  • SCAMPER
  • Time limits
  • Least amount of shapes or forms
  • Work in a completely different way
  • Sprinting
  • Alternative grids
  • Kit of parts
  • Method stations
  • Deconstruction and reconstruction

For PRACTICAL WORK

Students use one or more of the routines at left to stimulate new ideas. An open mind is required to think divergently. Students may be asked to work on routines as a class or to select one or more for independent generation of ideas.

Students may find routines a bit threatening to their creative process at first. This is driven by a perceived need to converge on preferred approaches. Students should try to suspend judgement to allow ideas to flow freely.

Students are required to learn one or two of the routines at left and be able to identify and demonstrate them in examinations.

FOR ANALYSIS

Students may be asked how a designer responded to a brief and began their design process. Students describe the role of Creative Thinking routines that were used to enable innovation.

IN ANNOTATIONS

Set out Creative Thinking pages clearly and describe how each phase of the routine being used to enable new designs. Use hierarchy on pages to create interest and engage the viewer. Remember, this isn't an add-on but a crucial stage so allow appropriate space in the folio. Make annotations in real time as the work is being done.

Jump to

For further information on Creative Thinking click on the link at right.
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Creative Thinking

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Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking strategies are used gather data about designs and evaluate to ensure they meet the requirements of communication needs. This then enables students to plan future directions for the improvement of their designs.

How can I go deeper?

Creative Thinking strategies assist students to go deeper into ideas and concepts by questioning, testing, clarifying, analysing, evaluating, prioritising and drawing conclusions about their work.

There are two phases to Critical Thinking. The first is to gather data on ideas. The second phase is to signpost future directions. Both of these two phases can be done individually or collaboratively.

Critical Thinking is used to challenge assumptions that may colour designers' points of view and prevent the flow of ideas. It is also used to get different perspectives and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Although Critical Thinking is for analysing ideas, it may also stimulate completely new approaches to satisfying communication needs.

ROUTINES

  • Pugh or Prioritisation Matrix
  • Four Field Matrix
  • Compas Points
  • PMI
  • De Bono's Six Thinking Hats
  • Other role playing games
  • Two Stars and a Wish
  • SWOT analysis
  • POOCH
  • R.E.D
  • Critical thinking lens

For PRACTICAL WORK

Students use one or more of the routines shown at left. They make separate, labeled pages to document the various phases of the routine. They also photocopy or scan in pictures of design proposals to these pages so reference can be made to specific parts of designs.

Students may be required to identify and demonstrate Critical Thinking skills and routines during examinations.

FOR ANALYSIS

Students may be asked to describe how a designer was able to evaluate their work at various stages of the Design Process. How Critical Thinking was used as a tool for improvement of designs may be considered.

IN ANNOTATIONS

Set out and label Critical Thinking pages clearly and describe the stages of routines in full. Describe features of one's own designs using design language from the study. Consider the designs from different points of view and describe strategies for improvement using meeting the needs of the brief as your guide. Do not describe likes and dislikes but instead, relate designs to the brief. Effort may need to be made to bring designs back on track - this is all great stuff for annotations of student work during the design process.

Jump to

For further information on Critical Thinking click on the link at right.
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Critical Thinking

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Reflective Thinking

Reflective Thinking strategies help students reflect on their design journey and use knowledge to refocus their pathway to satisfying communication needs in accordance with requirements of a brief.

REVIEWING PROGRESS

Reflection is a natural part of the creative process. Students and designers alike are constantly monitoring their ability to solve problems at hand. This monitoring (in one's head), this self regulation is what's know as metacognitive. When one is using metacognitive thinking one is thinking about one's thinking.

Reflective Thinking is used to examine one's work process and investigate the effectiveness of problem solving strategies. It is also used to find links between theirs and others' work.

Reflective Thinking enables the designer to review and reconsider initial understandings of design problems, re-frame them and propose future directions.

ROUTINES

  • "I used to think, now I think"
  • Guided questions
  • "Tug for Truth"
  • Finding links between myself and other designers
  • Red light, Yellow light
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Self-reflection
  • Journal and/ or diary writing

In addition, many of the Critical Thinking routines shown above provide data for reflection.

For PRACTICAL WORK

Although self reflection may be automatic and ongoing, students need to ensure they document their work process and its effectiveness at satisfying communication needs.

The strategies listed at left provide frameworks for reflection and recording ideas and changes in attitude and understanding. It is in the recording of changes that the value lies as once this is visible concrete reflection can be made.

Students make mock-ups and employ surveys and testing procedures to gather data to inform reflection and evaluation. A pitch may be used to consider designs from social, environmental or other points of view as well as measuring in respect to how well they answer the needs of the brief.

Suggestions for improvement are noted and a strategy for change is drafted.

FOR ANALYSIS

Theory questions may ask how designers tested and evaluated their work prior to production. Students will be required to refer to one or more of the routines and explain how they were used to create data to enable the designer to reflect on a design's suitability.

IN ANNOTATIONS

A metacognitive approach is used to reflect on one's learning during the design process. Evidence and data is gained from a variety of perspectives, through surveys and tests. These are documented fully describing how others have been involved in one's reflective process.

Students use reflection to sign-post their next steps and future directions. 'Post its' are often useful to post reflective comments outside current annotations.

Jump to

For further information on Reflective Thinking click on the link at right.
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Reflective Thinking