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Enhance Library User Experience with ‘Design Thinking’

by on October 3, 2016

What is it?

Design Thinking and Human Centered Design are two different terms for the same basic concept. The idea is to use techniques to help shift the human brain out of familiar ways of thinking and generate creative solutions. The end goal is always to foster empathy and see things from a different perspective, usually the user or service consumer. In this way design thinking is a great way to enhance your library’s user experience philosophy.

As an architect and librarian, I find that many people don’t consider themselves designers, or creative in any way. In actuality, we are all designers simply by living our lives – what we choose to wear, how we arrange our homes and workspaces (or don’t), what books we read, and TV shows we watch (or don’t). These are are all design decisions. You are the designer of your life, whether you do it consciously or not. With spreadsheets,  oil paints, words, or singing in the shower, we are all creative. The maker movement is just the newest recognition of the human need to create.

How can it shake things up?

Describing how a design thinking process or exercise works in words is tough. There’s almost always a magic moment somewhere in the process where everyone looks around with that “eureka!” sparkle in their eyes. It’s experiential, iterative, and a lot of fun. The process facilitates suspension of judgment, rampant brainstorming, and the generation of crazy moonshot ideas.  It requires stepping out of your comfort zone, though, and can feel chaotic and raw.

How do I do this thing?

It’s important to understand that design thinking is not a discrete series of steps, and there’s no easy checklist that you can go through and be done. This is a mindset shift and, if you commit to it, it will change the way you see the world. The best tool I’ve found to help with this shift in thinking is IDEO’s design toolkit. IDEO is a company that hosts a website which provides a wealth of ideas, developed specifically for libraries on how to get started. The website has an array of tools, resources, and exercises that you can use, including “how might we?” statements, personas, and rapid prototyping. I’ve also co-written (with my colleague Callan Bignoli) a LibGuide on User Experience for Librarians where you can find a Prezi we use in our workshops, as well as a targeted series of blurbs, videos and exercises.

The only way to truly understand design thinking is to jump in with both feet. Grab some Post-Its and Sharpies and give it a go. One of the tenets is to fail early and often – that’s the only way to learn.

Next month: Touchpoints

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