Tinkering is an essential part of how I inject myself into anything that I’m trying to understand. It’s how I take the mess that I’ve created in the gathering phase of the creative process, and begin to figure out what the problem really is that I’m trying to solve. It’s also the starting point, for me, in the design process.
This isn’t the traditional way to approach design, though. The typical design process begins with a problem that needs solving, and then follows an iterative process in solving that problem. This is part of something that we call, generically, design thinking.
Conversely, my process is more intuitive. I begin by exploring something that’s bothering me, which I follow through tinkering until I find a direction, which leads into discovering a problem that I want to solve.
In Design Thinking is a Failed Experiment, Bruce Nussbaum (Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design) addresses the problems he sees in design thinking, and largely arrives at a conclusion that I agree with. One of the main threads in the above article, as well as in his book Creative Intelligence, is that design thinking has failed in delivering true creativity, and that we need to learn to be creative through exploring and making again.
I’m not really sure where this all ends up yet, but I do think it’s something worth exploring. My intuition is that what I’m really interested in is the overlap of design and making, and how making is a part of the solution to the creative process that Nussbaum writes about.