1956 Buckminister Fuller

In 1956 he officially began teaching Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science (CADS) at MIT’s Creative engineering Laboratory. His labs applied scientific methods to generating designs. Buckminister’s approach built on the knowledge of elite teams of engineers, industrial designers, materials scientists and chemists to innovate. He’s known for geodesic domes, the Dymaxion carTriton city, the “Fly’s Eye” Dome and terms like “Spaceship Earth” and synergetic.

1969 Herbert Simon

Published The sciences of the artificial in 1969 which gives design a new range of classifications and parameters. Simon argued that everything designed should be seen as artificial — as opposed to natural.

1971 Victor Papanek

Arrived on the design scene with Design for the Real World in 1971. Highly critical of the design profession he integrated Anthropology into his design practice in an attempt to design socially and ecologically responsible things. In the course of his career that lasted into the late 1990s Papanek applied the principles of socially responsible design in collaborative projects with concerns such as UNESCO and the World Health Organization.

1973 Horst Rittel and his counterpart Melvin M. Webber

First coined the term Wicked problems in 1972, he is one of the first researchers to try to define design theory while concentrating on design methods. Unlike his predecessors he championed the importance of human experience and perception when designing. For the first time Phenomenology was introduced to the designing of experiences.

1982 Nigel Cross

Was a researcher in the field of Human-computer interaction before he began investigating design methodology. His seminal book Designerly ways of Knowing looks at what makes the way designers think and make decisions different to other professions a great influence which helped in the construction of design thinking.

1983 Donald Schön

With a background in philosophy and urban planning much of Schön’s work argues against the technical-rationality of design profession seen in the 1960’s. The Reflective Practitioner highlights the importance of self-reflection to a successful design process. His work greatly influenced not only design but the field of organisational learning.

1991 IDEO

Forms out of a three-way merger. Around the same time as Buchanan was building his case for design thinking, IDEO formed out of a three-way merger. With solid footing, over the course of the next ten years IDEO attracted some highly influential people to join them, from both academia and design practice.

1991 Kelley Brothers

David and Tom are both authors of best-selling books, long term members of IDEO’s management and educators. David and Tom have skills that span from design to business management. They collaborated on Creative Confidence a book about unleashing creativity.

1991 Tim Brown

As an Industrial designer and IDEO’s CEO, Brown has been a great advocate for Design Thinking and innovation. He has written many articles promoting design thinking for non designers, and Change by Design.

1992 Richard Buchanan

By connecting the theories of Rittel and Simon with the design practice of Ezio Manzini, Buchanan re-opened the discussion of wicked problems and the role of design in solving them. In 1992 he published Wicked Problems in Design Thinking he drew a path from design thinking to innovation and it’s application. In his later writing on design thinking in Design as a New Liberal Art he noted that design as a profession is “integrative” perhaps because of its lack of specializations, it has the potential to connect many disciplines.

1999 Liz Sanders

The founder of MakeTools, Sanders is a pioneer in applied design research. Many of the tools, techniques and methods being used in human-centered design and design thinking today can be attributed to her. Not a designer by trade, her background is in experimental psychology and anthropology. She is also the co-author of Convivial Toolbox, a practical how-to guide for anyone interested in generative design research.

Jane Fulton Suri. With a background in both psychology and architecture Jane has been instrumental in co-authoring many of IDEOs human-centered design tools. To quote her IDEO bio “She evolved techniques for empathic observation and experience prototyping that are now employed widely in the design and innovation of products, services, and environments, as well as systems, organizations, and strategies.” Her book Thoughless Acts? shows the link between direct observation and design inspiration. Most recently she authored the Little Book of Design Ethics.

Bill Moggridge. Was a British designer with a background in Interaction design and on of the co founders of IDEO. He designed the first ever laptop and was a pioneer in applying a human-centred approach to designing objects and emerging technologies. He has authored books that focus on Interaction design, Designing Interactions is one of them – a 764-page introduction to and history of interaction design comprising 40-plus interviews with designers and entrepreneurs, from Douglas Engelbart to Will Wright to Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

2002 Alistair Fuad-Luke

Is a self professed design facilitator, educator, writer and activist currently teaching emerging design practices. His projects emphasise openness, collaboration and co-design with communities and individuals, social well-being and alternative economies. His books Design Activism and The Eco-Design Handbook comment on the role of design in sustainability.

2003 Ezio Manzini

One of the founders of DESIS and supporters of slow design, Manzini’s works are grounded in participatory design for sustainability. Utilising many service design tools his books and projects including Sustainable Everyday and Design, When Everybody Designs focus on inclusive ideation and testing for sustainability. Similar to the style of Scandinavian cooperative design in Manzini’s work, the designer is the mediator.

2008 Deborah Szebeko.

At the age of 23 Szebeko founded British-based social design agency of ThinkPublic who specialises in design and innovation within the public sector and NGO’s. With a focus on co-design and a focus on social issues, thinkpublic has won several awards.


 Scandinavia = Cooperative design

A vastly different approach to global design at the time. Unfortunately the language barrier makes this design movement not as well documented as others of the time. Scandinavian cooperative design from the 60’s led to many developments in human computer interactions and service design. The Scandinavian approach that is still present and distinctive today, having the same goals it had over 50 years ago of being inclusive and democratic.

America = Design Science

In 60’s America, professions like industrial design and product design made their first small steps to distance themselves from engineering and the sciences. They didn’t get very far. Industrial design was still mostly based on quantifiable facts, things that could be proven, measured, and improved on. In many instances a designers workplace was in a university laboratory or on a factory floor — not the trendy studio loft above the best coffee shop in town.

Emergence of Service Design

During this period, design broadened its scope for the second time. In the early 1990’s design expanded scope beyond creating tangible artefacts for the second time, focusing intently on interactions and services. This shift was supported by Buchanan’s seminal paper Wicked Problems in Design Thinking which explored the potential of design to tackle complex, ambiguous challenges.

By 2003 a selection of universities across Europe and Carnegie Mellon in the states began teaching service design to students. The rise of service design, and their emerging methodologies that focused on complex problems created an environment for a new wave of design tools; including tools for non-designers to participate in design.

Based off the original article by Jo Szczepanska, 2017.

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