Ideating without Boundaries

Limitless. This word accurately depicts the nature of our class session this week, where we participated in a lab led by the UIUC chapter of Design for America. Through a series of exercises, we were exposed to the processes and mindset behind ideation from a designer’s perspective. Our primary learning tools were, to say the least, unconventional, ranging from Play-Doh to markers to card games. In each exercise, we were presented with a broad scenario, goal, and set of constraints, and asked to invent a solution. We were not confined to products that could be plausibly produced and implemented today, which is a key piece of initial ideated, as referenced in Professor Sachdev’s video, “An Introduction to Design Thinking.” One must not limit oneself to what is seen as “possible” in the eyes of the public. The result of such an environment was a series of products that expanded upon current solutions with innovative and creative new ideas. Many defined what may be considered technologically plausible in today’s world, yet set a new precedent for the complexity of solutions we can work towards as makers.

This activity challenged the mindset that I have entered the course with. Up until this point, I have explored the cutting edge developments going on in 3D making around the world, and used those as the boundaries within which I can create. I have defined them, to some extent, as the resource pool at my disposal. This mindset entirely contradicts the process of ideation, and the mindset of designers as a whole. As discussed in Brown’s “Design Thinking”, designers are no longer restricted to downstream activities in product development; they have become increasingly instrumental in end-to-end development of products, starting with the earliest steps.  This mentality will be formative in my career as a digital consultant; solutions are not limited to those that have previously been tested and implemented. They do not even need to be a slight adjustment to a previous solution. Sometimes, the best course of action is to start with a blank slate and create a new, boundary-breaking solution that is a unique fit for the problem at hand.

Moving forward, I will carry this mindset with me in many capacities. As an amateur designer, I will begin to create based on real-world needs and desires that I identify, and produce products that are unique solutions to said issues. I already had the opportunity to put this new approach into practice when designing my team’s logo in Tinkercad. Instead of opting for a simple design, or a minor adjustment to a pre-made design, we designed a relatively complex 3D dice, complete with imprinting on five of the six sides. While this was a bold decision, as we were just learning the technology, our finished project turned out wonderfully. In pushing the limits, we also expanded our own capabilities, and built skills for future creations. While this approach easily could have backfired, I learned that there is a valuable balance between complacency and pushing one’s limits – if struck, creating at this level immensely benefits the learning curve.

Brown, Tim. 2015. “Design Thinking.” Harvard Business Review. Accessed February 12.

Professor Sachdev’s videos. Click here.

Pushing the Boundaries of Creative Thought: Design Thinking and Ideating

Design for America’s presentation on design thinking and ideating drastically changed my perception of the product creation process. In accordance with Tim Brown’s article titled “Design Thinking” (, we learned the three steps in the design thinking: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Many times, it can be easy to perhaps identify a problem that is encountered in everyday life (i.e. the product’s inspiration), however developing an idea to resolve the problem can take a significant amount of effort. The problem itself, in addition, cannot be too broad or impractical. This part of the process is so impactful, Brown believes, that companies are now hiring thinkers to not only implement an idea, but also to originate them.

One particularly interesting exercise the presenter’s guided us through was the design thinking card game. Each team was given three cards: one card had the hypothetical patrons of the product, the other had the purpose of the product, and the third outlined some type of constraint that the creators would encounter. This game definitely forced us to think outside the box, as well as demonstrated from a high-level the thought process that designers experience. In addition, our team used the design thinking process described by the presenters in order to develop our team logo. The logo (which can be found here), incorporated the initials of our last names in an overlapping and visually appealing fashion.

An intriguing real-world example of design thinking that was recently publicized was the German engineering firm Siemens use of 3D printing to create gas turbine blades. The article, which can be found here, details the problem faced by Siemens and their solution. The problem, that the cost to produce these blades were immense and the time needed to produce them was lengthy, was resolved by using metal-based 3D printing. As a result, the time needed to produce this part was shaved from two years to just two months.

Further examples of the impact of design thinking can be found in this article, “3 Great Examples of Design Thinking in Action”, found on the website Medium. One in particular great example of the utilization of design thinking was in creating a foot activated car door, in which ideators realized the challenge of opening a car door when the user’s hands are occupied, such as when they are leaving a grocery store. The foot activated car door allows users to still open the door without needing to free their hands.

In conclusion, I believe that learning about the design thinking process will prove to be crucial as we continue to explore the world of making, and this knowledge will serve as a strong foundation on which we can start to build our own innovative ideas.