Design Thinking in the Digital Age

By Peter G. Rowe
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Design Thinking in the Digital Age

Thirty years after publishing his seminal book Design Thinking in 1987, Peter G. Rowe re-examines his own findings through a new lens—during an Harvard lecture that explores, how he puts it, “how the capacities of the digital age have changed the way we perceive and understand creative problem-solving in architectural design.”

The lecture has then been transcribed and wrapped into this short book, titled Design Thinking in the Digital Age and co-published by Sternberg Press and Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Why you should read it

The essay expands way beyond architecture, exploring how we can apply different approaches in problem solving, looking for solutions through different perspectives.

Three key takeaways

  • On the existence of two different kinds of knowledge: “The first is referred to as 'domain knowledge' and encompasses how much someone knows about a particular field, such as architecture [...]. The second is 'structural knowledge' which involves knowing how concepts within a domain are related, as well as cognitive structures regarding various kinds of problem-solving approaches and when and how to apply them.”
  • On language as a cultural prism: “The semantic structure of language shapes, or limits, the way in which we form conceptions of the world. [...] languages and particular foci of representation oblige us rather than allow us to think in particular ways. [Similarly] in the more circumscribed world of architectural design, it is reasonably well-known that the manner in which we depict or draw, often if not invariably, defines what draw and, ultimately, how we design.”
  • On the effects of digital in design thinking: “The digital age certainly seems to have altered significant aspects of design thinking, probably most for the better and without necessarily altering the deeper underlying structure and fundamental procedural aspects of the process.”

My favourite quote

“Incompleteness is productive, because it enables the continued search and restructuring of problem-spaces.“