• Figure 1. Design Thinking Continuum.
• Figure 2. Design Thinking Framework.
kept commingling references to designers with
Perhaps Martin simply lacked having the ben-
efit of a strong co-author like Tim Brown had: “My
silent partner Barry Katz, through his skillful use
of words, made me appear more articulate than I
an individual who may have one or both hands
busy?” If it had asked this question, it would have
invented the water bladder years earlier.
Other critics have suggested that neither author
sufficiently communicated how to apply design
thinking. With a deep reliance on the context of a
problem, I’m not sure that anyone can “prescribe”
enough of an approach to satisfy these detractors.
My guess is that people still need help figuring out
how the parts and pieces apply in various situations (if anything, this was where Martin excelled,
as he gave example after example as to how the
validity versus reliability continuum applied).
Neither author sufficiently addressed the
The design question. Martin has addressed the
relevance of asking “why” in past articles, and
Brown mentions it briefly in his summary. “A
willingness to ask ‘Why?’ will annoy your col-leagues…but…it will improve the changes of
spending energy on the right problems.” But it
is through repeated inquiry that the core design
question is identified. In an earlier book, David
Kelly gives a perfect example of not getting the
question right (though his example is intended as
a positive one). In the redesign of a water bottle
for bikers, IDEO did not start with a non-product
question, such as: “How do we deliver fluids to
In the end, both books—and both authors—
contribute significantly to the discipline of design
thinking. My armchair recommendation for practitioners is to leverage both books. If your goal is
to share the value of design thinking with others,
I’d suggest Brown’s book over Martin’s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Championing the needs
of individuals, predominantly in information tech-
nology settings, Paula Thornton fights to address
real points of interaction and truly influence design
that is often left to chance. She morphs her past
roles (technical writer, decision support analyst,
March + April 2010
© 2010 ACM 1072-5220/10/0300 $10.00