Design thinking
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - May 25, 2019 - 12:00am

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan — I arrived here last Sunday after a 2.5-hour flight from Cebu to Taipei, followed by a 1.5-hour high speed rail trip from Taoyuan Station to this southern city’s Zuoying Station.

It’s my second time in Taiwan and one of the things I look forward to in this country is the food. To be greeted at the train station with that wafting scent of distinctive Chinese spice and seasoning pleases the senses. The average cost of a meal here, by the way, is a little over P120 (NTD$65). But it has more than just rice and your choice meat; it comes with a plateful serving of four kinds of vegetables.

Last Monday I presented my research paper on the topic of green design and user-centered design at the 12th International Conference on Interdisciplinary Design and Industrial-Academic Collaboration (ICIDIC 2019) at the College of Design in Shu-Te University here.

A brief background: In 2017 I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Applied Art and Design of Shu-Te University, together with 18 other students in Cebu. It was a masteral course offered by Shu-Te University in partnership with the University of the Philippines Cebu. Classes were held at the UP Cebu fabrication laboratory and its SRP campus with professors from Shu-Te University and UP Cebu.

The major requirement of the course this final semester is a design thesis which I defended orally before a thesis defense committee last May 3. My mentor and thesis adviser in Taiwan then encouraged me to submit a copy of my work for presentation at the ICIDIC 2019. Fortunately my paper was accepted for this research conference and that’s one of the reasons I’m here. The other reason is my graduation ceremony on June 1.

Some of my colleagues and friends ask me what a lawyer like me is doing in a design course. If you too might be curious, indulge me a bit to briefly explain why I decided to study design. Try typing the words ‘lawyers and design’ in a Google search box and you’ll get the idea. Search results such as ‘Design Thinking for Lawyers,’ ‘Why modern lawyers should care about design,’ and ‘The role of design thinking in law’ appear.

Admittedly, design and law are not always thought of together. “Design thinking is a concept that can be tempting to ignore when you work in law,” wrote lawyer David J. Larsson and paralegal Elizabeth A. Larsson in the October 2018 online version of The Legal Intelligencer, a Philadelphia-based law journal published in the United States. “Design could sound like the domain of creative professionals,” they added, “but consider this: Are you sure you don’t work in a creative field?”

Design thinking is generally described as a process for creative problem solving. The, an online community of small firm lawyers in the US, describes ‘design thinking’ for lawyers as a ‘perfectly replicable process’ of how you intentionally craft your legal practice over time to deliver legal services ‘simply, functionally, and beautifully.’

Nearly all professions actually benefit from design thinking, more even so the legal profession which is not known for innovation. Law is recognized for its strict adherence to tradition, of conventions, ‘stare decisis’ and precedents – which to a large extent is good for social stability. But rapid social, technological and economic changes call for most fields to adapt to new realities. This is where design thinking comes in.

“Design thinking is a hands-on, user-focused way to relentlessly and incrementally innovate, sympathize, humanize, solve problems, and resolve issues,” says When we try to sort out legal challenges or come up with solutions to our clients’ and justice system’s problems, ‘design thinking’ drives us to look at the people and the actors in the system.

We thus need “a systematic approach to innovation and problem-solving that is, fundamentally user-centered, experimental, responsive, intentional, and tolerant of failure.” That is design thinking – when “you’re pulling together what’s desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable,” says, a subsidiary of IDEO, an international design and consulting firm based in California’s Silicon Valley at Palo Alto.

In my next column, informed in part by my own personal observation, I will write about how design thinking and the scientific method helped Taiwan modernize and become a technological giant, and what lessons we in Cebu and the entire country can derive from Taiwan’s experience.


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