What kind of design does Dash represent?

Published on
July 11, 2018

“What is design” is a question with no satisfying answer. It is a part of developing process or a field of profession with so many applications it is hard to restrict by any definition.

Dash exists to promote design and implementing of design thinking across different fields of professions. Design being such a wide concept, it is suitable to specify what is the type of design Dash is about. Hopefully, this post and few following ones clarify what is the design Dash wants to represent.

Design thinking

Let’s get back to this buzzword that is basically what that Dash is about. Design tools and perspective is being applied to more and more varying and untraditional fields of duty. Many are talking about design thinking without much considering what it really means. As design, neither does design thinking have a one approved definition, but a few different ones that are more or less compatible with each other.  Most of them define design thinking roughly as a human-centered innovative process and the message is usually same: Design could be used more in solving bigger and more influential problems.

Human-centeredness is widely accepted as a major part in design as a field of profession and in design thinking as a working method. This can be understood more easily in traditional product design; designers tend to start working from the experienceable and perceivable features of the product down to technical details. For example, in an early sketch of a vacuum cleaner you can’t define where every component will be. Still it represents what is perceived from the final product. This approach can provide new clever solutions in technology side also, just as innovations and limitations of technology provide changes in design.  

When design perspective is implemented in the early conceptualizing stage of a product, results can get even more innovative. By considering the meaning a product has for the user, the outcome might have some major changes or be a completely new solution for the same problem. If you think about why people need vacuum cleaners at home, instead of just developing a new more suitable one, you can end up with a robot vacuum or even a cleaning service.

Innovations trough creativity is something that has always been connected to design. Creativity is often thought as a quality of certain people or as a result of happy accidents. But sometimes, especially in design, what seemingly is just plain creative can be a result of a well-executed work process. When things are planned and visualized with an open mind, clever solutions become apparent. There are multiple ways to describe this work process and Dash represents one model called “double-diamond” which stresses a good research as a base for design work. This is a subject we’ll get back in a later post.

Design problems in Dash

Dash aims to focus on problems that are real. The problems are chosen in collaboration with companies, so the resulting concepts should become beneficial. However, the form of solution is not restricted in any manner, even if companies would benefit more from solutions they can easily apply. If the form of solution would be defined, some of the conceptualizing would be already done and in a design hackathon we want to avoid that.

We want problems to be as open for design as possible, so they should be broad, yet clear about the desired effect. We want the problems to be in the core: not in the solutions, but not in the causes either. A vacuum cleaner is a solution for a problem that is caused by the nature of our way of being. The core of the problem could be that homes get dusty. For problems to be influential and suitable for easy implementation of design thinking, we want them to have apparent relation to people. This way participants are forced to think about the end-user and the concepts won’t become too focused on technical details.

Solutions for these kinds of wide and open problems aren’t comparable by certain technical aspects because the resulting concepts can be just about anything. There is no right answer because the effectiveness of the solution depends on conditions that vary in different situations and environments. Compromises must be made between different user groups, preferences and technical constraints. Only tool for measuring the effectiveness of the solutions would be a wide long timespan study about the wanted effect. And even that is a way easier said than done.

Now think about any of your daily encounters with things that seem to cause problems. What is the problem they are solving? Can you come up with a better solution? This is, in a nutshell, the type of design Dash represents.

Leevi Vahvelainen

Design student

Head of participants