After reading Bruce Nussbaum’s recent article, Design Vs. Design Thinking, I have to ask, what is design thinking? Why? Because the way he refers to design thinking conflicts with my more or less ambiguous definition.

The first thing that struck me was his reference to design thinking as a new field. New field? Is design thinking a field, or a way to approach problems? I would go with the latter. It just seems really odd to think of someone saying, “Yeah, I work in the field of design thinking.”

I am a designer. Therefore, I bring design thinking to the problems I encounter. I can’t help it, because I’m a designer. Designers use design thinking. Isn’t design thinking merely recognizing what designers do as useful and applying the design process to problems that aren’t typically considered to be privy to designers?

It almost seems like the Nussbaum believes design thinking to be something beyond design, and definitely something that is closely tied to business and management. If so, perhaps he’s got the name wrong, which he acknowledges in the article.

The fact is that design thinking (or whatever we wind up calling this new field) is being created at the borders of design, business, engineering and even marketing. And I don’t know which institutions will take the lead in promoting it. We have the Stanford D-School, the IIT Institute of Design. and the Rotman School of Management in Toronto taking early leads in developing design thinking. The California College of the Arts is offering an MBA in Design Strategy.

Carnegie Mellon School of Design is not mentioned in the article, perhaps because we actually design stuff here. I find the school’s absence intriguing, regardless, especially since we have one of the foremost design thinkers on the planet in the form of Richard Buchanan. I’d love to get his perspective on the new field of design thinking.