There are many myths passed on from the greater culture that define how we think about Design. Some people think that to design, one must be an artist. Or that design comes as a flash of light into the minds of certain privileged people.

It makes sense that we wouldn’t know much about design. The design process is not part of a standard curriculum in school.

I’ve been studying, analyzing and examining the design process over the past few years. Here are ten things I’d like to share with you about design and design thinking.

Design is a process

Design is an approach to problem-solving that applies the cognitive activities of design thinking. These are the processes designers leverage to ideate and create solutions.

Paula Sirar, design thinking advocate defines it like this, “Design Thinking is a creative process of thinking backwards from people, that leads to design of a service, a product or [something] else, based on the conclusions of the knowledge gathered in the process.”

Design is messy

During the design process, there is no straight path from point A to point B. Instead, think of squiggly scribbles leading to a final destination after many detours.

Roger Martin, author and Dean of the Rotman School of Management, says that design thinking involves “integrative thinking: the ability to exploit opposing ideas or constraints to create entirely new solutions.” That process can be messy.

Design requires empathy

Design involves putting yourself in the shoes of the user, whether it is a customer or a learner. It means seeing the world through their eyes. Effective designs shift the thinking from technology or objects to people. It’s based on what humans need to improve their situation— to make things better and easier.

Design solutions are based on context

Effective designs involve thinking about the context in which they will be used. Good design observes people in context. It requires thinking, “How will people use this object?” or “In what environment will people use this course?”

Design requires prototypes

Good design practice moves quickly into prototyping in order to have peers and users test it out. In industrial design this might be a prototype of a device. In eLearning, it could be a portion of a game or several interactions.

Through observation and discussion, designers glean feedback to refine their ideas and iterate. Tim Brown, of IDEO, says that design goes from “thinking about what to build, to building in order to think.”

Design begs for collaboration

Great design can’t be done in a vacuum. Design thinking is enhanced through collaboration, particularly with teams from varied backgrounds and disciplines. It makes sense that working in diverse teams will produce a wider range of ideas, providing more innovative solutions to choose from or integrate.

Design starts with an open slate of possibilities

If we want to push innovation and fresh thinking, we must start with a “What if?” mindset. This approach allows us to imagine solutions in an unhindered way. Then we can deal with challenges, constraints and obstacles later.

Design takes time

It’s difficult to be creative on demand. Some solutions take time to simmer and brew. Considering that design involves iterative prototypes, you need to allow time for solutions to unfold.

Design impacts business

Design thinking impacts the bottom line. It transforms the approach to business and product or service development from one of calculating numbers to a human-centered approach. Which one do you think is more likely to meet the needs of customers, users and learners?

Design can change society (and the world of learning)

Design may be more powerful that you think. Consider that every object in your home and office has been designed. How many of them were powerful enough to change the way the world works? Think of every social program that changes lives and every business or service that delights its customers. These were designed through hard thinking, feedback and iteration.