Design Thinking Meets Computational Thinking – An Interdisciplinary Exercise in Developing Smart Product


MThere is little argument today about the value of teaching interdisciplinary product development in industrial design education. It’s the basis for some of the most widely recognized and respected graduate programs around – Stanford’s being perhaps the most heralded - and many undergraduate programs strive to provide this kind of opportunity at least once during their students’ education. Collaborative, interdisciplinary education prepares students for the professional product development environment that they will be entering after graduation; an environment in which team members are expected to contribute creatively across disciplines, to work with people whose experience and methodology are markedly different than their own to identify opportunities for new products and systems. Often at an undergraduate level it is the Industrial Design program that advocates for and initiates these collaborations, usually with the Engineering and Business departments. Hence the curricular issues addressed and initial directions taken in interdisciplinary projects tend to have an Industrial Design bias. But product development is a rapidly changing field; user needs and product capabilities are continually shifting even as we attempt to define them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the next generation of pervasive computing products and environments, where the very nature of the interaction is determined computationally. This new set of products, systems, and environments is driven by “smart” materials - computationally malleable materials1 - that evolve throughout their life cycle, requiring design, engineering and manufacturing processes that are significantly different and more complex than current processes. Product development teams are entering a world where the look, feel and sound of an object will be dynamically determined by computation rather than by mechanics, and with which, at this time, most design students have little or no experience.

Industrial Design Society of America Education Symposium