New Brave Design Thinking Approach


Can you design something so that people stay politically engaged? How would you design a fabric that is made out of waste? What if it was possible to design a spot where people feel safe? Or a game that provides people suffering from Alzheimer game with a channel of communication?

The artist and innovator Daan Rosegaarde says.  “You make the things, but the things also make you. . . Good design never stops. You must remain a voluntary prisoner of your own imagination.”

Design thinking is different from analytical thinking and the underlying idea is to build up ideas that embraces big issues (we will explore  differences and similarities between analytical and design thinking in another blog post). Design thinking can be part of a way to find solutions to problems associated with social issues, politics, ecology, energy, and health. This approach is also different making something pretty and beautiful to look at. Designing a new cutlery can be an art where different materials are used to create something that is visually attractive. The cutlery should also be designed in a shape and way that it feels good to use them.

Yet you can push the design thinking  further. For example, you can design cutlery as part of a new innovation –  an incubator that transforms plastic waste into mushroom. Sounds incredible!

The Fungi Mutarium is a prototype to grow fungi around recycled plastic wastes, breaking down and digesting the material as it develops. It may take weeks for the plastic to be fully digested so they are ready to be eaten. To help with the eating of these fungi a moon spoon was designed that helps you scrape the tiny fungi from the pods.

Watch the video below and check out this idea at Livin Studio.

The ultimate goal of design thinking is the discovery of the best outcomes for all the participants. Questions are the core in design thinking,  at the Design Academy Eindhoven the focus is on the following questions.

  • What do you want?
  • What do you like?
  • What do you think the world needs?
  • What do you make?
  • And Why?

Design thinking is a fascinating topic and if you want to read more, Daan has contributed to the book Looks Good Feels Good Is Good – How Social Design Changes Our World.

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Under the soles – Thinkibility Nibble

“It’s not a skate, only for walking!”

There is no question that development in technology has pushed and will continue to push our concept boundaries. If we think of shoes and define what shoes are we might include some of the following ideas:

  • we wear shoes to protect our feet
  • shoes can be a fashion statement
  • we wear shoes for walking or running
  • we put wheels or blades on shoes to skate
  • the human body is responsible for the movement

Definition shoes from Merriam Webster:

: an outer covering for your foot that usually has a stiff bottom part called a sole with a thicker part called a heel attached to it and an upper part that covers part or all of the top of your foot

shoes : another person’s situation or position

: a flat U-shaped piece of iron that is nailed to the bottom of a horse’s hoof”

red female shoes

To invent something new, we can broaden the concept of shoe and add the idea that shoes should do all the work.  Below is a video that shows how this broadening Concetta has been used to design what has been described as the world’s first electronic undershoes. You simple strap the Rollkers ‘walking skates’ to your shoes and off you go gliding at speeds up to 11 km per hours (seven miles per hour). As a comparison speed walking or power walking is usually around 7 to 9 km per hour (4.5 to 5.5 miles per hour).

Do not have to push, all you have to do is walk and
the rollkers walkies shoes propels you forward!

It’s not too late to make a difference

Happy New Year

As we welcome 2015, some of us may think that it is now too late to make a real impact. As we reflect upon 2014, we may moan over that another year has passed and we have not make that breakthrough yet and perhaps, perhaps we never may. We believe that we cannot make a difference.

But we can! Age is not the problem.

We tell ourselves stories all the time, and the stories become self-fulfilling prophecies. In the TED-talk below, Jonathan Sackner-Bernstein shakes our idea that we are too old at a certain age to start a new company or to have  breakthrough ideas. So rather than lower your expectations with age, you should see age as an advantage.

Gijs and I wish all a readers a prosperous 2015 filled with exciting ideas and thoughts.

Bio-Inspiration and Medical Innovations

Spiderman! The perfect example of stealing from nature. A spider’s web is used to catch criminals.

Jeff Karp is not a specialist, instead he has between twenty to twenty-five ongoing projects. A multidisciplinary approach to create biomaterials and devices for therapeutics.

The Karp Lab uses bio-inspiration to develop ideas. Their innovations do not mimic nature, biomimicry,  instead Jeff and his colleagues improve and develop ideas based upon nature.

Porcupine quills provided inspiration for developing better surgical staples (quills or spines are hair coated with plates of keratin). North American porcupines have around 30,000 quills. The quills have backward-facing sharp points, barbs, which means that they are very hard to remove from the skin. They catch on to tissues and create an enormous drag.  A staple was developed that had reduced penetration  force and increased pullout force.

Stekelvarken_Aiguilles_Porc-épicPorcupine quills

Another innovation that has been developed by the Karp Lab, is a battery that is child-safe. Every year thousands of children swallow small button-shaped batteries, these accidents are sometimes fatal. The battery has a special coating that prevents it from causing harm if swallowed by a child. A special coating on the battery ensures that electricity is only conducted when the battery is squeezed, for example, inside its spring-loaded compartment. Thus, the insulating coating makes the battery inactive and safe.

Many of the problems the health care world are facing are different from problems in nature. Nevertheless, inspiration for ideas can be found more or less anywhere. Jeff believes that innovations happens in the interface between different disciplines and bioengineers at the Karp Lab work together with other scientists and clinicians.

The real challenge is understanding the problem. So defining what the clinical and biological requirements are, is a vital starting point for any project.Limiations and drawbacks of existing technology as well as a risk calculation of what it takes to develop ideas are also vital components in the innovative process.

What to challenge yourself? You find a challenge about creative thinking and redefining a problem here.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Designed to Change your Thinking about. . .

Inspiration and ideas may appear when we see something ugly or uninspiring and we decide to change it. Like international borders. . .

Reimagining things is a great way to improve upon an already existing idea. You transform an existing idea into something new and fresh.

A competition from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture challenged students to reimagine the design of border crossings.  The task was to see possibilities and design beautiful and welcoming structures using structural steel.


Crossing borders can be an emotional journey. In the photo above Ryerson University student Kyle Marren aims to lessen tensions between Spain and the British territory of Gibraltar. The UK says that Spain is using border crossing delays as a political retaliation, since they claim that Gibraltar belongs to them.The diplomatic design, Interject, suggests a shared public square and Spain is given territorial ownership of the crossing, since the border crossing itself is located on the Spanish side.


Inspired by a yurt, a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads, provided inspiration for the winning entry. Two twisting buildings were suggested for the  mountainous Kyrgyzstan-China border. Students from the City College of New York  suggested that one building for travelers moving in each direction.

Students from the  Catholic University of America chose to tackle an unusual border. Several countries have made territorial claims on Antarctica. Love the crossing border shaped like  an iceberg.much of the iceberg is underwater. Laboratories as well as inspections of gods and cargo can be carried out. This design draws people to the site, yet a port in this location may not be necessary.

Why not design your own challenge.

What places need to be re imagined to make them more beautiful, friendlier to use, healthier or safer. Any suggestions?

Here are a few suggestions to start you off. . .

  • Entrance to schools and day care centres
  • Entrance to shopping centres
  • Entrance to shops – particularly the perfume department since people with asthma and allergy may have problems breathing
  • Entrance to hospitals
  • Exits from youth detention centres and prisons

Photos: Fast Co Design

Inspired by Beauty – Biomimicry


Richard Dawkins describes in the book Unweaving the Rainbow the relationship between biology and art. To understand science does not detract from the poetry of nature, and biomimicry can be described as one way of uncovering the poetry of nature. Nature and technology has often been described as opposite poles of a spectrum. Yet this division is breaking down, and aspects that can be regarded as dealing with beauty in nature can be used to design not only aesthetic looking technology but also highly useful technology.

Take for example, the irresistible  beauty of butterfly wings – look at the colours of Morpho butterfly. The tiny wings are complex structures that reflect light in such a way that specific wavelengths interfere with each other to create intensely vivid colors one could only find in nature.


A security badge has been created inspired by the wings and the image is not a hologram, instead it consists of billions of nano-scale holes. The minuscule holes reflect and transmit light in a distinctive way making this badge difficult to copy, which is the main objective when designing a security badge.  Yet the pattern is easy to recognize. No inks or dyes have been used in this badge, which has been developed by Nanotech Security Corp.

The KolourOptik nanotechnology, with a resolution of 50,000 dpi (dots per inch), has been developed and this technique may lead to new uses such as for credit cards and passports. In the future, even banknotes may be designed with this technique.

This example illustrates not only the power of exploring nature to develop innovations and gain inspiration for new ideas. It also illustrates how limited our search for inspiration actually is and how easy it is to judge research and ideas as having little value. For years, biology research  into the structure on the gecko’s foot or the structural colours in butterflies was “ignored” by technologists. Today, an approach where experts from different fields are working together is increasingly becoming more common.

What ideas do you get when you think about the colours of butterfly wings and apply it to your area of expertise?

Photo Linden Gledhill, You can see more of his stunning macros here.