Design Thinking 3.0: Transformation Design

October 2012, by So-Young Kang

Last time I spoke briefly about what design thinking was and how it has become the new buzz word in solving various problems from a user-centric perspective with empathy, creativity and rationality. Today, I’d like to take it a bit further and share some emerging views on what I have coined “Design Thinking 3.0: Transformation Design.”

I define “Design Thinking 1.0: Product Design” as the earlier applications of user-centered design in physical products and services. Arguably IDEO, the combination of three industrial design companies, popularized the term so naturally the earlier applications were in industrial design products like Apple’s first mouse and Steelcase’s Leap chair.

Then came what I define as “Design Thinking 2.0: Experience Design” which took the principles and started to apply it to business organizations, processes and larger systems. People started to take a more user-centric approach to management consulting, organizational design, workplace culture and the design of customer-centric experiences like attractions, retail shopping, fashion, and user experience. Experience Design (XD) is focused on the experience of a product, service or event.

We are most passionate about “Design Thinking 3.0: Transformation Design” which integrates Product and Experience Design. I was hoping to coin the term “Transformation Design” itself but The Design Council in the UK beat me to it when they formed RED which sought to bring design thinking to the transformation of public services in 2004.

So what is ‘Transformation Design (TD)’? According to my favorite dictionary, Wikipedia,

Transformation design is a human-centered, interdisciplinary process that seeks to create desirable and sustainable changes in behavior and form – of individuals, systems and organizations – often for socially progressive ends”

I was both relieved and excited when I read the definition of transformation design and realized that this is the most accurate description of what we do. Transformation design can result in the creation of new roles, new organizations, new systems, new environments and new policies. As transformation designers, we shape organizations as well as new experiences and new environments. In order to do this, we need to draw from many different disciplines ranging from service design, concept design, graphic design, and experience design to psychology, linguistics, non-verbal communications, architecture, ethnography, storytelling and heuristics. It is truly a multi-disciplinary approach which requires different areas of expertise. This is why we work with our Creative Collaborative partners to deliver a holistic and integrated solution.

At the end of the day, transformation designers are about making a positive difference in the world. We work with many stakeholders and complex organizations to catalyze change through co-creation. For us, it’s about bringing joy and beauty to the world.

What is it for you? How do you want to make a positive difference?

Related content:
Case for Transformation Design
Why Transformation Design is Needed for the Future