“To me, design thinking is the productive combination of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking.”Roger Martin in response to Peter Merholz’s Why Design Thinking Won’t Save You

While Peter’s original post was in October 2009, the Harvard Business Review called it out in their January/February 2010 print issue. As I tend to think about definitions and terms often in their usefulness in conveying and misinterpreting ideas, design thinking is a term I often ponder and usually loathe. Peter argues design thinking is simply marketing by design firms. And Roger disagrees, saying it’s a real thing.

I agree with both of them. Design firms sell design thinking because design thinking sells (right now). However, combining analytic and intuitive thinking is not something new nor something good designers don’t already do.

As someone who wrote a thesis paper on the thinking behind design, I am no stranger to both analytical and intuitive thinking being necessary for design. Combined, they form the brain behind the process that results in something actually being designed. Without intuition, creative leaps could not happen and new things imagined. Analysis then provides the rigor that ensures the imagined thing will have a useful purpose for people and will be sustainable. That, my friends, is design. There is solid thinking behind it, whether you call it design thinking or not.