Over the course of the school year, my thesis paper went through quite a metamorphosis as I explored many text and wrestled with what I wanted to say about design. In the end, I titled my paper “The Thinking Behind Design.” Here is the abstract I submitted with my final paper.

What designers do—the thinking behind design—is not fully understood. Design is still often viewed as a black art rather than a rigorous discipline. Designers themselves have difficulty explaining how they make the connections that lead to the final solution and why those judgments are valid. While good design work can be done without understanding these forces, it is my hypothesis that the more designers know about the forces involved in design thinking and process, the better they will become as designers and the better they will be able to communicate design to others. This paper examines design as an approach to solving problems and what makes it different from other approaches. It examines design thinking as desire for a particular outcome, a philosophic viewpoint, a conversation, imagination, reason, judgment, wisdom, and a skill. And it explores the nonlinear, dialectical, and unique nature of the design process. Finally, it suggests that designers can view the development of understanding and ability as a design endeavor itself, and that it is possible to design oneself as a designer. Though the audience and focus is on designers, it is my belief that a better understanding of design along with increased ability to communicate design’s rigor and value will ultimately benefit and advance the discipline as a whole.

It’s not a huge change from the previous abstract, but it’s definitely very different from the first, which had to do with making the leap from user research to solution. While I am pleased with the final paper, it’s not exactly the masterpiece I had hoped it would be. I absorbed so much from my readings that I often became overwhelmed or sidetracked on tangents, which is why I had to rewrite the entire paper over spring break. There is much that I had to neglect.

Personally, the process of writing a thesis paper has had tremendous impact on my thinking as a designer. This thinking has impacted both the way I practice and how I talk about design. It certainly provides a sense of mastery in design that required the exploration and struggle I went through. But it has also humbled me with the knowledge that with increased understanding there is also more ignorance, for I now know that there is more that I don’t know, and that becoming a master in anything is an endless pursuit. Still, this it was a worthwhile endeavor that has helped me grow as a designer and a human.

Download the final paper (pdf)