Design tools for design thinking

STBY has been involved in the creation of toolkits for several clients, in sectors from education to international development to design. Recently we have finished a toolkit on innovation in emerging markets, and we are facilitating the development of an exciting design thinking toolkit for the care sector. Why are toolkits so popular? 

Clients consider tools and toolkits effective ways to capture the knowledge and skills of experts in a format that can easily be shared. Toolkits promise to make a complex process accessible to novice practicioners. However, a design thinking toolkit does not automatically make everyone a design thinker. 

With just a hammer and a saw you can’t build a house straight away, you need to learn how to use each device individually, and you can only get started if you have wood and nails. It really helps if a ‘master’ explains you the tips and tricks, so you don’t have to rely on reading the manual. If you use your tool over and over again you will be able to create stable and good looking objects. And finally, some day you’ll be able to build upon your ‘master’s’ advice and develop your own way of working. 

The risk of ’tool-ification’ is to reduce design thinking practice to a rote procedure, and in that way it can lose depth and creativity. Reflecting on our projects, toolkits are never designed in isolation. We develop artefacts, but we also design the way they will be used in practice. Sometimes tools form part of a course or training, in other cases they are used by experts to guide colleagues. It’s important to apply almost a service design approach to making toolkits, to keep in mind how they will function and be used in the broader ecosystem of an organisation, group, or class.