Category Archives: CSU INF536

Design Thinking Literature Critique

The following essay is written in response to – Write a literature critique, which presents at least six pieces of literature which highlight the challenges facing institutes in conceiving spaces for learning that are, in the end, likely to meet the ever-evolving needs of learners into the future.

In 2008, the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australian was written on which an understanding of the need to develop a learning environment that supported, enhanced and strengthened the capabilities of children for the 21st century was founded.  As educators move towards the commitment made in the declaration, foundations have began to be set for the social, physical, emotional and cognitive development of learners through establishment of an Australian Curriculum, various state and federal government building and infrastructure programs and Australian teaching standards. The challenge for government and educational departments is designing the spaces for learning needed to cater for the ever evolving needs of learners.

The traditional role of the professional designer was generally deemed as the purveyor of all creative and innovative processes, however the works of Brown (2008), Dorst (2011), Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) and Kolko (2010) all contend that the design process should belong in the hands of the intended beneficiaries of the designed service or product. Brown (2008) and Kuratko et al (2012) extends the architect of the design process to include teams of people such as the work place. Each emphasise the point that these designers are not experts in the field of designing, but are workers in the workplace, who have been guided through the design thinking process. The design process however is the basis of several pieces of literature that attempt to explain the thinking or theory about the practices involved. The tensions and similarities of these explanations highlight the complexity that faces anyone undergoing any transformation of an environment.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Brown (2008) focused enthusiastically on the concept of ‘design thinking’ and argues that design thinking, as opposed to the approaches taken by traditional designers, uses  methods which closely analyses people’s needs with what is feasible and viable. He contends that design thinking, which requires an initial immersion stage so as to  empathise with the client and identify the problem or need, is essential to gain a picture of needs, likes and dislikes.

Kuratko et al. (2012) reiterates the processes presented by Brown (2008) but rather than simplifying the ‘spaces’ of the process, expands  design thinking as a number of steps that the designer will follow. Unlike Brown’s (2008) prototyping labelling, Kuratko et al (2012) define the central stage of the design thinking process as ‘iterations’. An essential component of iterations is the three step play, display and watch-the-reply. Kuratko et al (2012) attempts to give the process of design thinking a greater linear stepping stone approach with steps back in the iteration process, while Brown (2008) encourages a flow through.

Kolko (2010) pulls even further into the iteration or prototyping stage of designing and elaborates further  to explain the synthesis of the artefacts created. As well as producing a product as a result of the end design thinking process Kolko (2010) contends that a more tangible form of ideas, thoughts and reflections is needed. This forces the designer(s) to externalise the process into a physical realm, which enables the non-designer(s) to make sense of the acts of prioritising, judging and connections synthesised.

Although design is perhaps thought more as a function of product creation,  Dorst (2011) in his article that explores ways in which core design practices can be used for problem solving and innovation, identifies ‘design thinking’ as a paradigm for dealing with problems in many professions.  By understanding basic reasoning patterns, and the establishment indentifying knowns and unknowns, Dorst was able to draw out the productive thinking of abduction. A value is created through the creation of a working principle and ‘thing’ or object. By knowing the working principle and value, a ‘frame’ is established and the object can be created. Dorst (2011) contends that these frames are influence by levels of design expertise, the kind of design activity and the layer of the design, such as whether it is a project, a process or in what field it is carried out.

As with Dorst (2010), Kolko sought to use the concept of abductive thinking to develop frames for object creation. However Kolko (2010) proposes a method of reframing or a shifting of perspective to see things in a new way. The frame definition by Kolko, although similar to Dorst’s working system and value, describes it more as the context that can be shifted to produce new design implications and constraints.

Buchanan (1992) discusses the indeterminacy of problems faced by a designer and references the work of a mathematician and designer, Horst Rittel, who in the 1960s identifies that problems can have no stopping rules; operations are exhaustive and each problem is a symbol of another problem. The label ‘wicked problems’ is identified by Buchanan as a source of tension that exists between designers. The process of design can change the perceptions of the problem, so shifting the placement of the boundaries of the problem.  This shift in placement can lead to what is described as the intuitive or serendipitous quality of a designers work (Buchanan1992). The works of Brown (2008), Dorst (2011, Kuratko et al (2012) and Kolko (2010) place little thought into how ultimately problems may not have a final solution and will undergo continuous shifting.   

In an early work of Hatchuel and Weil (2003) they contend that earlier definitions of design lacked clarity and precision, and sought to propose a more unified design theory called the ‘C-K theory. It is through this theory they argue that creative thinking and innovation, which had for so long been external to traditional design theories, could be incorporated in the central core of design theory.  The ‘C-K theory’ seeks to identify that design is primarily concerned with knowledge development or expansion, and through the use of ‘knowledge and concept spaces’, new knowledge is created. Hatchuel and Weil (2003) outline in detail the process of turning an initial knowledge into concepts through a disjunction, or a pulling apart operation, with the concept possibly further transformed into other concepts. The concepts are later drawn together through conjunction to create new knowledge.

The ‘C-K theory’  that Hatchuel and Weil (2003) have developed is clearly a set of principles on which a way of thinking can be developed. They suggest that their theory can not only be incorporated into design or product creation but into a way of creative and innovative knowledge creation. The ideals of the concept-knowledge principle can see found buried in the works of Brown (2008), Dorst (2011, Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) and Kolko (2010).


As world economies move from industrial based services to more information and knowledge based services, there comes a need to instil within our learners the skills that enable them to be active contributors to society. Our schools will need to cater for 21st century learning, enabling them with to acquire sophisticated thinking for problem solving and collaboration. Research has shown that with an increased use of new digital technologies among young people a rethink of key competencies and skills is required. (Binkley, Erstad, Herman, Raizen, Ripley, Miller-Ricci, & Rumble 2012)

Traditionally conceiving  spaces  for learning that meet the needs and requirements of our learners has been in the hands of administration and design teams, as they juggled the constraints of budgets and the concepts of education based on the industrial age. Even with acknowledgement for the need to change educational institutions, buildings continue to be build with little input from the beneficiaries as emphasised by Brown (2008). His design thinking process contradicts the approach taken by the federal government in school building development as exampled by the Commonwealth Building the Education Revolution (BER) program, which tied funding to template specific construction.  An audit revealed nearly 60% of schools felt that there was a limited degree of flexibility and customisation possibilities as a result of template use (National Audit Office 2010).

Didactic methods of teaching traditionally sought closed spaces with tables in rows and the teacher positioned in front of the class. In shifting approaches to learning influenced by the constructivist and connectivism  learning theories, learning environments of students look to more flexible or ‘fluid’ areas that enable the learning space to shift to suit the needs of the student learning outcomes. The Australian Science and Maths School (ASMS) in South Australia is seen as an example of an innovative school that employs a new pedagogical model of CDIO (conceive, design, implement and operate). This pedagogical approach was central in the design of the school resulting in learning commons and studios in which students are able to organise desks to suit agreed social and learning needs (Fisher 2010). Although the design thinking approaches of Brown (2008) and Kuratko et al. (2012) can be identified in the pedagogical approaches of the school, the constraints of placing the school on the campus of the Flinders University of South Australia and the scientific focus of the school curriculum is strongly set in convergent thinking.  Limitations in space, time and teaching experiences also act as constraints on the implementation of CDIO model. (N Davis, personal communication, April 2012)

A visit to the school highlights the interactivity and transparency of the learning spaces, however it is evident that designers failed to consider the impact on acoustic and climate control of the building housing up to 370 students.  Student flow is also disruptive with large groups of students having to negotiate learning areas to access practical spaces and teaching staff. This may suggest that an externalisation of the design (Kolko 2010) or immersion into teaching situations (Brown 2008) may not have been utilised in the design process to discover what would be known unknowns.

The transference of design thinking considerations are more evident  in a qualitative study conducted by Wills (2014). By analysing how one school created a new space for learning through teacher, student and leader involvement  in the design process, Wills was able to demonstrate the development of knowledge and concepts through the use of immersion, research, discussion and conceptual tasks such as scale modelling within a school setting. By undergoing knowledge seeking, constraints were indentified. The process of synthesis of ideas was externalised through discussions, drawings and various visualisation techniques as identified by Kolko (2010). The ‘wickedness’ of this problem (Buchanan 1992) is highlighted by the reframing or replacement that resulted in reflection and generated shifts in pedagogy and further iterations of plans. The process also highlighted the emotional cost and personal development in using the design thinking process in this type of setting, and although the implementation of the design outcomes was realised, the intended audience of the design did not move into the new space.

The use of design thinking for curriculum design was seen in the work of Melles (2010) who sought to use the process to develop a Design Thinking unit of study. Through a number of past and present research articles, expertise in design thinking process, examples from other institutions delivering similar units and framing, Melles developed a course for delivery. Melles argues that the development of a curriculum is ‘wicked problem’ and cites Buchanan(1992) to indicate the openness of the design process for the unit development and dependence on what the designer conceives. He acknowledges the abstractness of the course design and contends that there is a number of questions that remain to be answered. Melles concluded that these questions are relevant for the development and teaching of all education programs.


When considering the principles of design theories or thinking into the practices of education it is difficult to find many examples of the approach in the development of physical structures of institutions within Australia. Educators are faced with working within the constraints of the pre-existing structures; shifting internal flexible furniture to suit the needs of the teacher pedagogy or changing teacher pedagogy to suit the changes of learner needs. Even the example of the ASMS fails to identify any immersion of the beneficiaries but highlights the constraints placed on its original construction. It is when analysing what is occurring inside the wall of institutions  that evidence of the principles of design thinking can become evident.

Design thinking principles are not just for product creation but can, and should, be embedded into the processes of thinking that educators and learners are able to take control of. Wills (2014) illustrated how the approach of teachers can lead to a shift of pedagogical approaches and a sense of ownership of learning spaces. The openness of the process enabled transparency in the development of the learning environment. This externalisation of thinking (Kolko 2010) is needed to answer the ‘what’s in it for me’ thoughts of learners as they grapple for meaning from their learning’s and it allows for a validation of a educators teaching.

Curriculum design is able to incorporate the principles of design thinking to maintain an ongoing development of learning outcomes to suit the changing needs of learners in the 21st century (Melles 2010). Even timetabling of the learning program for educational institutions needs the creative and innovative outcomes of design thinking approaches to ensure all learner and educator needs are met. With the immersion and observation approach of Brown (2008) and the framing through abductive thinking of Dorst (2011), the synthesis of curriculum and timetables, that better suit the needs of the beneficiaries, can be developed. The process ensures the constraints placed on the institution are not the controllers of the learning but a consideration.

The ‘wickedness’ of the problems posed by classroom structures, timetabling and curriculum development underline the need for ongoing thinking practices to embrace the shifting perspectives of education. Professional development in understanding changing learner needs, pedagogical approaches and new ideas in educational resources and technology, help create the shift in perspectives that lead to the continual loop through a design thinking process.

When considering  the C-K theory practices of Hatchuel and Weil (2003), they  seem to encourage the deepest theoretical considerations for education settings. With their emphasis on knowledge development through disjunction to form concepts and subsequent concept conjunction into knowledge, this approach could help develop innovative and creative thinking within our learners. The principles used in the C-K theory could also be applied to other forms of problem solving strategies such as deductive and inductive reasoning.

Design is word that connects theory and practice; the principles of which are constantly having to adapt to the changing circumstances of its context. The concept of design thinking allows for iterative and reflective learning, awareness of change and can bring about transformation of the learning space. How design thinking is processed in an environment is a source of conjecture for some examples of literature but the overarching principle of ensuring design is conducted in a collaborative, immersive and democratic setting is foremost in the ideals of the practice.


Barr, A., Gillard, J., Firth, V., Scrymgour, M., Welford, R., Lomax-Smith, J., … & Constable, E. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. PO Box 202 Carlton South Victoria, 3053, Australia.

Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., Miller-Ricci, M., & Rumble, M. (2012). Defining twenty-first century skills. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills     (pp. 17-66). Springer Netherlands.

Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking, Harvard Business Review, 86(6), 84-92. Retrieved from:

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5–21.

Dorst, K. (2011). The core of ‘design thinking’and its application. Design Studies, 32(6), 521-532.

Fisher, K. (2010). Technology-enabled active learning environments: an appraisal (No. 2010/7). OECD Publishing.

Hatchuel, A., & Weil, B. (2003). A new approach of innovative Design: an introduction to CK theory. In DS 31: Proceedings of ICED 03, the 14th International Conference on Engineering Design, Stockholm.

Kolko, J. (2012). Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.

Melles, G. (2010). Curriculum design thinking: a new name for old ways of thinking and practice. In Proceedings of the DTRS8 Conference, UTS Sydney(pp. 299-308).

National Audit Office (2010) Building the Education Revolution – Primary Schools for the 21st Century  (Pg 189)

Willis, Jill. Making space to learn: Leading collaborative classroom design [online]. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2014: 3-16. 

Design Brief – Blog Task #3


Although the space selected for this task is not one that is visited every day, it is a regular feature of my week. The coffee shop is a popular shop in a small beachside town south of Adelaide. In the summer months the district comes alive with tourists; some from the Adelaide region, but many from all over the world. The town is known for its quaintness, beautiful swimming and surfing beaches, abundance of holiday homes, bakery and cafe’/coffee shops. This coffee shop was established at least 5 years ago and has a number of regular local and tourist clientele. It’s popularity has meant it can be difficult to access a table at times, but a takeaway coffee service can alleviate the problem.

The main cafe’ area of the shop is approximately 7 x 10m, with a 2 x 7m verandah attached to one side and a 3 x 10m uncovered deck at the front of the store. Both the verandah and deck have tables and chairs, though customers need to enter the shop to access the verandah area.



Google Maps Street view of Cafe'.jpg

Retrieved from,138.681111,3a,75y,152.22h,83.26t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sGkpMYZDG5CqBnSg3X41qPA!2e0!6m1!1e1    13th August 2014



Knowing that the location of the coffee shop was not purpose built for the cafe’, it is obvious that the coffee shop has had to design the floor area to suit the constraints of the building. The previous staff/store area (out of sight to coffee shop users) are near the counter area has now become the kitchen, and the old counter has been re-purposed for greeting customers and taking orders. The coffee shop has made a point of re-purposing furniture and decorative items. In doing so they have been able to present a cosy environment. Large windows and north facing aspect provides plenty of light, while verandah roofing reduces the hot summer sun heating the shop.

The furniture in the shop is generally close but not uncomfortably. Access is reasonable for most customers, though can be difficult when all tables are full. The staff seem to cope reasonably well with the flow through the space to serve customers. The counter area is generally kept efficiently clear of people waiting to place orders and the proximity of the front door near the counter means that an incoming customers can quickly assess if they will be able to locate a seat inside.

The issue of focus for this task is that the size and location of the door at the front can cause an issue for the staff as they take orders outside to a few tables on the front deck. With the door being situated close the customer ordering area, opening into the customer standing area, having a reasonable weight and resistance, along with having a handle that is difficult to use if both hands are full, are obvious issues for waiting staff.

Floor plan :



Shop door and entrance making exit with food and drinks difficult.



Knowns knowns

   Entrance door opens into customers waiting at service counter.

   Entrance door is currently only access into and out of shop area.

Lever B50.gif

   Entrance door allows wheelchair access.

   Door   –  larger than standard

            –  heavy door

            –  double glazed wooden

            –  lever handle at waist height    


   Shop staff need to

            – balance coffee on one arm to open door

            – or use elbow or arm holding lesser amount of load to open door

            – bend / lean down slightly to reach door handle when arms full

            – manoeuvre around waiting customers to access door

            – use this door for all customers using the tables on the deck area

   Shop front entirely large glass panels with wooden frames

   Door is pinned open during ‘fine’ weather days.

   Several ‘dropped items’ and near misses over the past six months – no staff or customer injury (Staff interview 11 Aug 2014)

   One written customer complaint regarding door in past 12 months (Staff interview 11 Aug 2014)

   Two verbal complaints regarding door in past twelve months. (Staff interview 11 Aug 2014)

   Changes to building structure require architect design and three quotes according to lease agreement. (Manager interview 11 Aug 2014)


Known unknown

   Permissions needed to change building structure

   Building codes for entrance door on coffee shops

   Satisfaction of staff in using the door whilst delivering orders.

   Actual number of ‘accidents,  spills or injuries’ resulting from staff using entrance during serving

   Outcome of risk assessment conducted by workplace (OHS Manual Handling Risk Management)



   1  Automated door using proximity sensor

   2  Door opens out onto decking (change door swing)

   3  Sliding door – automated

   4  Pin larger door open on busy days

   5  Pin larger door open and install lighter swing out protective door

   6  Change door handle

   7  Change door to lighter design

   8  Staff reduce load and only use one arm for carrying customer items

   9  Two staff deliver items to deck with one opening door

  10  Food and drink are no longer delivered to deck area

  11  Shift service counter to reduce congestion

  12  Simple catch mechanism on door with pull handle to open (no lever action)


The Brief

The coffee shop is is developing into an unique aspect of a small seaside town, but the welfare of the staff in integral for the continuing success of the business. How can the current customer service be maintained, yet simplify the movement of the staff?


Moving on?


Prototype 1.jpg

Prototype 1 –

A perspex(or glass) with wooden frame door (to fit into current door style) is added to front entrance. During working hours the main door is pinned open and this secondary door, which has a lighter frame, is used. The secondary door is pushed open from the inside, swinging out onto the deck.


Prototype 2.jpg    Pull handle.jpg    door catch.jpg

Prototype 2 – Pull Handle Ball door catch

Replace lever handle with pull handle and install ball catch mechanism to keep door closed.  



Work Cover Corporation (2000) Managing Occupational Health and Safety in the Hospitality Industry Retreived from



Credit to Jim and Lisa for helping with feed back during Design Brief drafting. Thank you.

Design for learning – Blog task 1

Ill-conceived learning spaces are the bain of many an educator. Student engagement, focussed learning and even respect for the learning environment can all suffer with a space that has not met the needs of the student. Within my school a building was recently constructed for Vocational Trade Training and Information Technology. Now completed, the building is frequently utilised by classes, small working groups and individual senior students. Within the building an area that initially presents as a large foyer area, is being used as a workspace for small groups requiring somewhere for group discussion, or for quiet individual computer access. The zone, identified as HUB 1,  is essentially undefined and tends to shift purposes with each group moving through the building. This attitude tends to see teachers not utilising HUB 1 for task oriented purposes but more of an area of ‘overflow’, with greater teacher interaction happening in another room of the building. Obviously the area becomes more of a social centre, an escape from the rigours of the supervised classroom and a perfect zone of work avoidance.

The Design Thinking Toolkit identifies that the physical environment of the classroom sends a signal about how students should behave. The HUB 1 area is obviously not sending the right messages for students or teachers to engage in the space effectively. But possibly at the core of the issue is the unidentified purpose of the space and a sense of ownership by the people that use the space.

Area before 5

Photograph 1:  The HUB 1 space before


It is Tim Brown (2009) who imagines a simplified three key phases in the process of design thinking. He initially sets to link innovation and creative design through design thinking and then identifies the phases of ‘inspiration’, ‘ideation’ and ‘implementation’ as the steps towards product development that suits the need of the consumer. Each phase is linked, with intermediary phases interwoven though the whole process to finally execute the vision. (Brown 2008)  In assessing the ‘product’ of the initial building design, it is obvious that the space no longer meets the needs of the intended purpose, that is an effective learning space for students. Kuratko, Goldsworthy and Hornsby (2012) identify that a pitfall of some people is to hold on too tightly to the original insight and that an open mind needs to be maintained about the possibilities for an idea. The original idea for the HUB1 space needs to be redesigned.

To instigate initial small changes in the HUB1 space, it was essential to first talk to the students that use the area. It was clear from the conversations that they needed a space that allowed group discussions without disrupting the students working in the main computer area. Initially a small table was obtained from a nearby room, but further searching found more suitable tables. In true prototyping style the students ‘tested the product’.

Area before 4

Photograph 2: The HUB 1 trial desks in place

Area after 3

 Photograph 3: The HUB1 final look.

Although the changes to the space are small, and possibly an obvious addition to the building, this design change still needs to undergo some more consideration. How the group collaboration area affects the availability of the quiet study space needs to be considered. It is agreed the space is very under utilised and there is more that can be investigated for creating a valuable learning space.

Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking. Harvard business review86(6), 84.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. HarperBusiness. p.37.

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.



Comments left at

Katie’s Blog

Greg’s Blog

Chantal’s blog

My 30 minute immersion into ‘designed for a purpose’ – Blog task 2

A simple coffee shop experience has been turned on its head with the inclusion of an observation exercise. Normally I am immersed into my thoughts and conversions with a counterpart,as I sip a pleasurable cup of quality tea or latte. Covertly observing the normal day to day interactions of coffee shop clientèle and staff with the surrounding environment had a sense of James Bond, though in my case possibly ‘Secret Squirrel’.

Knowing that the location of the coffee shop was originally a small clothing store, it becomes obvious that the coffee shop has had to design their floor area to suit the constraints of the building. The previous staff/store (out of sight to coffee shop users) are near the counter area has now become the kitchen, and the old counter has been re-purposed for greeting customers and taking orders. The coffee shop has made a point of re-purposing furniture and decorative items. In doing so they have been able to present a cosy environment, which they are renowned for. 

In observing customers and staff for the half hour suggested it was interesting to note the concessions that the staff have had to make to work in with the shop setting. With limited space on the shop floor and the need to make the shop viable has meant that tables are close together, and uninhibited movement by the staff is not always possible. This is particularly evident when a staff member needs to exit to the outdoor area. A large door, with awkward handle, has to be negotiated with customer orders in hand. If the day is cool, then the door needs to closed behind them for continued customer comfort. 

This coffee shop is a busy place on weekends in the summer and is usually full of tourists seeking cooked breakfast, light lunches or relaxing coffee and cake. Although the day of my visit was a cold winters day, it was still quite a busy with most tables full. The talk amongst customers was casual and none seemed to be uncomfortable with the general noise or movement through the area. The temperature was cool outside but pleasant in the building. The large extensive windows provide plenty of natural light which is supplemented with a small number of ceiling lights.

To counter the closeness of the furniture on the floor, the coffee shop has kept the decorations simple with a classic/retro theme. Again the windows have helped open out the perceived area. 

Children are welcomed and the staff have a supply of item to cater for seating young toddlers, or entertaining older children. The padded seat along the back wall is popular with families and older visitors as it is surprisingly easy to access with a pram or walker frame. In the time I was there the range of customers extended from a baby in a pram to an elderly man in a wheel chair. The chairs however needed repositioning to suit the wheelchair and a table was shifted to enable access.

The staff seem to cope reasonably well with the flow through the space to serve customers. The counter area is generally kept efficiently clear of people waiting to place orders and the proximity of the front door near the counter means that an incoming customers can quickly assess if they will be able to locate a seat inside. The size and location of the door at the front can cause an issue for the staff as they take orders outside to a few tables on the front verandah. With the door being situated close the customer ordering area, opening into the customer standing area, having a reasonable weight and resistance, along with having a handle that is difficult to use if both hands are full, are obvious issues for waiting staff.

In looking at the design of the space utilisation for this coffee shop, it is evident that the owners have sort advice, or undertaken a design process. It would be hard to imagine that good fortune has lead to such a customer friendly environment. I would also suggest the the staff is also carefully selected, as some concessions need to made to cater to the needs of the customer.

Design Sketch                     Design sketch annotated