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Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life, and Maybe Even the World Hardcover – October 15, 2009
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The answer to the above question is "a lot." We can learn how to solve problems better. How to look at the world around us with a fresh eye. How to think more creatively, and ultimately, how to open up new possibilities in our lives.
These are the things that great designers do every day. But the premise in my new book Glimmer is: "You don't have to be a designer to think like one." There's a whole way of thinking used by designers, and a step-by-step process they follow, that really can be embraced by anyone—whether you're in business, out there trying to contribute to the world in some way, or if you're just looking to improve your own life.
What I found, in studying some of the world's most innovative designers, is that—in addition to being immensely talented and bright people, of course—they tend to have two big things they rely on. First, they have a certain mindset that enables them to be fearless and optimistic and open to all kinds of new possibilities. And second, they have a framework they use—a proven methodology that helps them to bring their ideas and plans to life, to get things done, and to be successful. I sort of dejargonize this methodology and give lots of examples of how it works in Glimmer.
One of the things designers are known for doing is questioning everything. In fact there's a joke that asks, "How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb?" To which the answer is: "Does it have to be a lightbulb?"
It's a joke, but it's not: Designers all the time really do ask basic things like Does it have to be a lightbulb? The design process often begins with questioning the conventional wisdom about how we currently do things.
Of course, it's one thing to question the world around you-but it's much harder to begin to change it. As I write in Glimmer, if you just question everything without trying to improve it, you may end up being more of a whiner than a designer. Designers actually must take action in order to create new possibilities—that's their job. And so it's not surprising they've developed proven methods to help them do that.
I examine those methods in detail in the book, but they involve, for example:
- Teaching oneself to be open to new ideas by "thinking laterally" (which is really about tricking your brain into moving in unexpected directions, instead of the usual straightforward ones).
- Developing a better antenna for figuring out what's missing & what's really needed in the world around you—that's how designers find great opportunities.
- Learning how to bring ideas to life, and make them real. All of us have ideas in our heads, but designers make their ideas real and tangible-by sketching, by modeling, by scotch-taping things together. It's what designers call prototyping, and it's the way you take a dream and gradually build it into a reality. And this is a technique anyone can use.
- Another important thing designers do is, they "fail forward." Most of us are afraid to fail, but designers fail every day. What they understand is that every failure—if you know how to react to it and use it—can be a critical step that brings you closer to the end goal.
These are just a few of the basic tools and principles designers use. And what really surprised me, as I worked on the book, was to see just how accessible these tools are to anyone. And how applicable they are to just about any situation.
In today's world, with all the challenges and problems we have to grapple with—both in our daily lives and in the world at large—we can benefit from having that designer mindset and methodology. Because the truth is, we all need to become better at facing up to tough challenges and finding new solutions.
From Publishers Weekly
Humanity's problems can be designed away with ingenious products and catchy marketing, according to this giddy manifesto. Journalist Berger (Advertising Today) channels the insights of celebrity designer Bruce Mau, whose grandiose projects—he's helping the University of Arizona to reinvent higher education—yield such pensées as everything communicates. He distills Mau's wisdom into high-concept glimmer principles, including work the metaphor and design for emergence, and applies them to everything from disaster relief to personal life. Berger tries to both abstract and systematize the process of innovative design and to give it a populist spin: you don't need expertise or money to solve problems, just optimism, an attentive eye and a childlike readiness to Ask Stupid Questions. Nifty gadgets are showcased, including a nut-sheller for Third World farmers and a wheelchair that climbs stairs. But much of the book is just a retread of self-help bromides (you have to be willing to grow) and familiar business buzz concepts, one that treats a pet food company's promotion of an international holiday for dogs as a humanitarian crusade. The result is an overhyped brief for a shallow approach to the world's ills. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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By the way, I was reading this book and another book on design, Change by Design by Tim Brown, during the Thanksgiving week, and thus, I finished both of them! On reflection, both are excellent book, but to my way of thinking, both are leaving out a whole area of design thinking that's sorely in need of being addressed by serious design thinking, namely, how to represent scientific data and information?
Glimmer explains designers' innovative approaches to taking on -- and solving -- such disparate problems as making a readable and useable prescription pill bottle, to getting a million teenagers to stop smoking, to accessing clean water to supply a small African village. Berger uses the design philosophy of Bruce Mau (to whom everything, including one's life, is a design project) to put in context the endless possibilities of what design can achieve, and on the way, improve our lives. This book presents a fascinating and hopeful look at design, and shows us how a "glimmer" could just maybe change the world.
(OH -- and the illustrations and graphics add a very nice touch.)