Specific Methods vs. Abstract Design Thinking
Methods are easier to learn and can be directly applied. Learning general concepts takes more time, but can be much more powerful and versatile.
Current toolkits such as the IDEO HCD Toolkit and Frog's Collective Action Toolkit focus on specific methods. They both place the methods in an overarching design framework, but make it difficult for someone without previous experience in design to run a project with those methods.
Generally, I found that design schools focus on the more abstract design thinking, while design firms that teach workshops focus on specific methods.
Design is a process driven by a mindset.
Understanding the a design process is useless without understanding how, when, and why to apply it. To teach the mindset, you need to teach people what it feels like to do design.
Everyone has made their own design process, and they're all exactly the same.
-Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test-
-Understand, Observe, Synthesize, Synthesize, Realize, Experiment-
There are many more. I've tried to analyze what they all have in common in order to distill the design process down to a purer form.
Here's a very abstract version of what I think happens in every design process.
1. The designer takes in information from the world.
2. The designer interprets the information from the world.
3. The world gets back ideas on how to improve something from the designer.
4. The world evaluates the ideas and creates more information for the designer to collect.