Understanding Design & Designers

Understanding Design & Designers


Design Thinking Discovers Customers

by Nordstrom Innovation Lab
 combo of principles of Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile

"Our Process Told as our Team's Timeline"

Agile Discovers a Solution
Lean Startup Discovers a Problem
Design Thinking Discovers Customers
Lean Discovers Efficiency
by Nordstrom Innovation Lab


    How To Design A (Brand) Soul

    "Character is our way of feeling. Personality our way of acting." 
    Jose Antonio Marina. Spanish philosopher

    How does a soul brand come to life?

    "The soul is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing" 

    How does a human, philosophical and existencialist issue relates to a…brand?. I can be as philosophical and romantic regarding the beauty of the essence we all treasured and nurtured inside of us, but, when it comes to mixing romanticism and business I'm as pragmatic and concrete as this:

    Pragmatic soul-of-your-brand inventory:

    1. A brand soul is the purpose and vision of a brand. In what way can your brand be truly relevant to people? (To know this answer, a brand needs to understand people and their needs in the first place…seems obvious, but it's not I'm afraid). The purpose and vision of a brand should be a shared mantra within the organization. 
    2. A brand soul is also the heart of the organization. The purpose and vision of a brand comes to life by its actions, not by a notorious commercial  that represents the intellectualization of a tactical strategy. How does your brand behaves in all touch points? Everybody is a stakeholder.
    3. Are you delivering soul-products? Are you products a mirror of your brand's soul? 
    4. Do you actually know all channels and touch points in which your brand operates? Do you have a protocol for each one of them? No matter how insignificant you might think it is, all details are extremely important. 
    5. A soul brand communication must be value oriented. In what way does your brand help people? 

    Great words versus reality: Getting tangible…getting real

    My first step when it comes to designing a brand soul is analyzing how it really operates 360º (not how they say it does): 

    …While understanding "how it works", it's when you really get to frame the right issues and opportunities…and you are able to unveiled hidden value and  real problems...
    A BRAND SOUL CREATES VALUE FOR PEOPLE: Who is in charge of unveiling value in your company?

    The human factor 

    Once the process is been initiated within an organization, there is no turning back: We all need a noble, coherent purpose in our everyday work. Then it's when magic happens.

    ...And then, everything else follows: All the pieces of the puzzle come together.

    Designing a brand soul is a resilient, long-run, co-created inside job with the purpose of understanding in order to redesign and build up the organization from the bottom up. You can call it innovation make over; human-centered mindset; value oriented transformation; sense making for change making…as you please…

    Good luck and get ready as for a challenging long-distance run.


    My Design-Thinking-In-Action-Book

    As I advanced you in my previous blog post, I "took on the challenge": I was in love with the idea of writing a book about my own process of thinking and I did it. Here is the result.

    It's written in Spanish because, as I also advanced you in a blog post titled "RFV & My Portfolio Of Insights For 2014", it was a personal challenge for me finding the best way to share knowledge about the design discipline and design thinking, and I finally decided the best way to accomplish my goal was to write a book about it in Spanish…And it turned out that I'm the first Spanish author and designer to write a book about Design Thinking: Therefore my book it's the first Design-Thinking-Book in Spanish! Shocking!

    A brief description of my book:

    "How to Think like a Designer (call it Design Thinking)" is the first  Design Thinking book written by a Spanish author. Pilar Saura recounts his thought process as a designer, showing in practice the result of the Design Thinking methodology applied to the challenge of explaining " what Design Thinking is" to designers, businesses and anyone who is interested the dicipline of design.
    This book is a storytelling of Design Thinking: Instead of defining the Design Thinking processes, the author shares the competencies, skills and values by creating a story of her ​​own process.The book is divided into two parts: the first or "Framework" shows a broad overview of the framework of thought of a designer, so that everyone can "connect their own dots" and a second part or "Roadmap", reveals the core of a designer's itinaration."
    Hope you enjoy it! 

    My book on:


    For now, my book is available in Amazon in Kindle version and in Spanish: Soon will be at disposal English version also.

    (Amazon has free Kindle apps available on almost any device: Mobile Phone, Tablet, PC, Windows, or even in a web browser at read.amazon.com)

    "You have to feed forward if you want feedback“. Matt Kahn. Stanford design professor 


    You Know What? I'm Taking On This Challenge

    Would you like to practice Design Thinking?

    Red Bull Stratos spacedive by Felix Baumgartner

    Then you should fall in love with an idea, make of it a personal challenge and design your way though barriers to achieve it. 

    Initiate a construction-driven process of thinking focused on achieving your challenge: Recall insights of previous experiences and failures; Observe and analyze contexts and facts; Keep on the move by making micro-decisions to forward your idea in the right direction; Consider others in your decisions and try to create value for people and for you. Do it! 

    Pursuit passion: Fall in love with YOUR challenge. 

    Passion will compel you to act. People with a passion are driven to pursue and create and feel an overwhelming urge to engage, to experience for themselves and to test their own capabilities and thrownness abilities. 


    This is a passion-driven pursuit of a personal challenge so set your mind for magical: Pick a bold challenge that gets to you personally but don't know yet why or it lights up your heart or you may feel it relates to you emotionally. You really want to bring your idea to reality. Make it happen. 

    Your daily mantra: This is my challenge

    It is YOUR challenge. You don't know how to do it, but you are going to do it anyway. How?. You don't know yet, but for now on, it's going to be you and your challenge, together, living your everyday life. 

    Let's take Felix Baumgartner's spacediving as example: Felix buying groceries while thinking to himself…I'm going to make a stratospheric jump…don't know how but I will…Uh-oh 

    The beauty of performance.

    Be creative!. Design a beautiful and innovative self-performance to accomplish you challenge and enjoy the process of it all: Be self-conscious of what you are doing and make decisions according to your values and believes. 
    Take into consideration that when achieving you challenge you are going to share your accomplishment. Make it beautiful! 


    What, who, when? It is part of the process. Get over it fast but learn from it.

    Choose to go to the moon.  

    Courage is needed to choose an unknown path and to overcome uncertainty.
    How might you think different to approach this problem? Try to amazing yourself. Do it for you. 

    Inner dialogue. Control question.

    Ask yourself regularly: Why am I doing all of these? Your vision is like an oasis at Gobi desert: Think about it regularly for nurturing your dream. Keep in mind the big picture.

    Resilience is your new skill.   

    FInd out how persistent and disciplined you can be when need it. Could you ever imagine that you were so patient? You would be by necessity.

    Felix and the entire crew were great to see. Real success doesn't come by demanding things go your way... The lesson?: Do things right, but don't ever stop! 
    And dream... 

    What if you accomplish it?. Can you imagine? Think big and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Hustle. 

    Felix Baumgartner just before stepping off his 24-mile-high:
    "I'm coming home" 

    Design-think your own map back home or out of it…design it!

     I recommend to you this video: Moonshot Thinking.
    Moonshot thinking is about thinking creatively and radically about solving important problems.

    +Solve for X event gathered 50 experienced entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists from around the world, who are taking on moonshots—proposals that address a huge problem, suggest a radical solution that could work, and use some form of breakthrough technology to make it happen.


    A Process For Random Thinking

    Getting to the mindset to thrive your idea: Rational thinking and random thinking

    I enjoy the challenge that implies my professional role as a bridge between business and creativity in behalf of customers/persona, but sometimes while itinerating, it is critical that I push the pause button to step out from extreme realism, rational objectivity and data: I need a reality break… I need a less pragmatic kind of comprehension. Enough of rational thinking.

    Creative confidence

    I rely on my creativity and imagination skills. After years observing and analyzing my own thinking process from a Design Thinking mindset, I know that I need random thinking to advance ideas and as a breakthrough of understanding complexity.
    The following is a pattern that works for me. Then again, it is not a system that I have created conveniently: It was already there, therefore I've just detected it and defined it. 

    A sparkle of knowledge

    After an intense period of analytical concentration I need nothingness in my mind: My rational thinking had its answers now I have to validate with my other self.
    When having come to a conclusion after days (or years!) of analysis, or having reached an inner sense of "I see it", "I'm finally getting there" or I've made a connection that lights up my search , what I do is walk away from it. Leave my idea or finding "alone".
    I know that intuition is part of DT process and I always consider it in my set of tools, but I don't get carried away by an insight and I try hard not to run into conclusions right away.

    Getting in the mood for randomness

    I "leave the idea there" and I make the effort to not think about it. 
    I give it a rest and....talk to people or do something else...partially true, because what I'm actually doing is confront the world with my new knowledge: Besides talking to people, or engage in small talk, have fun...I also get into a itinerate mindset that implies randomness, wondering, nothingness and image-thinking and go with the flow: I recall any image that has impacted me lately, or it's kept my interest for "no reason",  and I allow me to not to analyze nor rush into conclusions. Instead, I engage in with the world with optimism, knowing by previous experience that I'm heading to the next level of understanding.

    Metaphorically speaking, this is a process of building bridges of understanding within yourself.

    Is this pattern of thinking universal or not? I don't have the facts, but I do know by experience that this process is a pattern, and going with the flow is part of the Thrownness concept of Heidegger that I relate (in me) to thinking in terms of experience.

    I Keep on investigating Design Thinking processes involved in communicating ideas:
    More to come.


    KISS Design Definition

    Digging into design's essence.

    Designed by @pauline_gn
    KISS is an acronym for "Keep it simple, stupid" as a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complex; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided […] 
    The principle most likely finds its origins in similar concepts, such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication", Mies Van Der Rohe's "Less is more", or Antoine de Saint Exupéry's "It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away". 

    Bringing simplicity to design definition is not an easy thing to do.

    Design definitions are kaleidoscopic in its variety as a reflection of design's adaptability to emerging realities in an always evolving set of old and new contexts that  fall into different patterns and solutions.
    Though there is a common pattern that never changes and that is designers commitment to their creative passions.

    These are my top five design insights:

    • My favorite definition of design is Bucky Fuller's, one of the preeminent design scientists and philosophers of the last century, who defined design as the intentional rearrangement of resources. Simple and straightforward. Nice. I like the simplicity of designing as creating actionable possibilities that add meaning and value to people: It resonates in me (That is why my blog is call design thinking-in-action)
    • I'm fond of any design definition that involves people: The fact is that there is no design practice without people. Even a modest brochure requires a previous analysis and understanding of its users. Designers become people's experts. Does it sound too simple? Maybe or maybe not.
    Designing collectivism and action (get people involve)Looking for meaning and purpose Seeking out positivity and optimism
    • Communication is also a design skill. An ideal design definition should take into account that design is a rational and objective creative practice but it's also communication. Not all design is visual. Some of it is expressed visually, but in fact most of it takes care of how it works, what it is and why and how to communicate it to people. There is a creative storytelling involved in any design practice bond to conceptualize and share vision: Both necessary to share meaning, get people involved and lead vision to action.
    • My KISS definition of design?. We may define design in many ways but its utility (to people, humanity) is the core of its practice. 
    The truth about the work of designers? Creating consumes: It is all day, every day. It is a habit, a compulsion, an obsession, a vocation. It's more than a passion driven profession. It's an addiction.

    Design is an addictive practice: Once you've experienced what it means to design and be able to affect people in a positive way, you cannot stop looking for more.


    Is Design Thinking A Victim Of The Curse Of Knowledge?

    Can you imagine not knowing what you know?

    Developing a Design Thinking elevator pitch is a good idea to spread its value among with a wider range of people.
    "Constellation" by Elia

    Wikipedia definition:
    "The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias according to which better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people. The term was coined by Robin Hogarth.
    Many sensible strategies fail to drive action because executives formulate them in sweeping, general language […].Top executives have had years of immersion in the logic and conventions of business, so when they speak abstractly, they are simply summarizing the wealth of concrete data in their heads. But frontline employees, who aren’t privy to the underlying meaning, hear only opaque phrases. As a result, the strategies being touted don’t stick. The problem is that once we know something  […] we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind".
    As a senior marketing communication professional and designer, I 'm aware of how easy it is for a Brand to become a "victim" of the curse of knowledge because of an insensible communication strategy. A "cursed brand" lacks a humanized, empathic perspective therefore it fails to share its personality, value and meaning to its stakeholders.

    Becoming a human-centered organization must be a business strategy itself.
    In a business context is easy to fall into assuming that everybody knows what we know and its also easy to confuse communication with a summarizing of the benefits of a product -even in a bullet point format-. This is a great challenge for brands in 2014 that seek to engage and be "chosen" by actual and potential customers. Brands: You need to be aware of your problem to overcome your "curse"!.

    The way out is to conceptualize the strategy and use a concrete language understandable for everyone to share meaning and intentions: Concrete language simplifies a complex reality and a concrete and common language -storytelling- ensures that everyone have a common picture and meaning that they can relate to in a meaningful and personal way.

    1. Do you think that it is also easy to fall into assuming that everybody knows what you know in creative contexts? Sure.
    2. Is Design Thinking a victim of  the curse of knowledge?

    I think about it a lot

    In fact, my personal purpose of evolving Design Thinking is being as straightforward as I can be to share DT meaning by conceptualizing a definition of the term that could simplely explain What is DT versus the HOW to practice it: In my opinion, a sum of processes is not a definition.

    Analizing and applying DT to this issue:

    Before the HOW we do it, it's the WHY: Analizing and understanding the WHY comes the definition of the WHAT it is Design Thinking. And that would be our Ariadna's Threat to sharing the value and meaning of DT in a concrete, human-centered language with the stakeholders: Ourselves and the rest of the world.

    I'm quite obsessed with keeping ideas as simple as possible for two reasons:

    • Because I truly want to share what I've learned
    • Because I really need an amplified feedback from a wide range of people, not only experts.
    My take is to share a simple, easy-to-understand statement: An elevator pitch. A short definition of DT that summarizes what it is and its value as a way to share meaning with non experts.

    My2014 DT definition (DT elevator pitch):
    "Design Thinking is a creative construction-driven process of thinking, focused in understanding the context of a problem in order to generate integral solutions leading to a collective change by creating value for people and organizations".

    This is briefing the insight I wanted to share with you.

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