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Design-Think Your Way to Your Next Book

Hear me out. I’m on the precipice of an idea, and one that I’m sure is too soon to present in blog form. And yet, here we are, because I can’t help myself.

I’m new to many ideas that may be old hat to you. So, if you’re familiar with the concept of design thinking, maybe this is the post you skip. Then again, maybe not. Maybe you’ve never heard it quite the way I’m about to write: in terms of putting a book or a story out into the world for the delight and surprise of the consumer.

Lightbulb image via

Design thinking, to the best of my knowledge, is a concept that began in the business world. It prioritizes the need of the consumer above all else, and in doing so, attempts to combine creativity with structure to solve critical conceptual or tangible problems. But, putting the consumer first? It’s essentially the opposite of what we’re told to do in the writing world. No, here in our bubble, we’re taught to write for ourselves, write what we know, and write for one true, ideal, if imaginary, fan.

But, what if we did the total opposite? What if we employed design thinking in the art of book delivery? Let’s discuss. We’ll do so by starting out with the basics.

Design Thinking has Three Principles

  1. Empathy. Your end users are your number one focus because they're the ones that will be the ultimate user of the product you put into the world.

  2. Expansive thinking. Here, think of yourself as an innovator. This is key. We've been taught and conditioned to believe there's a right way to do things. Break out of the mold. It doesn't necessarily need to be something bigger, but perhaps, just... slightly left of center. However, feel free to think as big, far-reaching, and unique as you’d like.

  3. Experimentation. You may end up with more ideas than necessary. Test them out and see which one or ones work best.

At its core, design thinking asks you to think beyond the typical. Push past where and how you'd normally approach a project.

Design Thinking has Five Phases

  1. Empathize. Who is the end-consumer? What type of product will they delight and revel in? Sometimes the consumer might not even recognize what they want/need before they recognize they want/need it.

  2. Define. Ask the right questions to identify the correct challenge. This will help you to design something brilliant.

  3. Ideate/Collaborate. This is the "messy" phase. Here's where you brainstorm, mind-map and sticky-note everything.

  4. Prototype. Turn your brilliant ideas into something tangibly beautiful.

  5. Test. Use those you trust to see if you've properly executed your idea.

These five phases do not always happen in this order. You, the creator (and thus, the creative person) can reiterate any, all, or none of the steps in the design phase to hone the product. Break outside the box, but allow the process to be intuitive. What comes most naturally to you?

An Interesting Coincidence

In 1961, scientist and creativity scholar Mel Rhodes tried to determine a single definition for the word "creativity." It was summarized as the "4 P's" and looked like this:

  • Person - as curious, as a judge, as courageous, as adaptable, and as persuasive.

  • Process - as understanding, exploring, refining, and sharing.

  • Press (environment) - as habitat, culture, management, and relationships.

  • Product - as novel, useful, defining, aesthetic, and meaning-making.

Rhodes' framework for creativity became interchangeable with the framework for design thinking.

And, there it is.

Design Thinking and Your Next Novel

I'm not saying you have to use design thinking for publishing your next book. Maybe you'll never use it at all. But, what a fun concept to consider... doing something that could "wow" the consumer with your story as the centerpiece. My very own LCP partner, Fred, is considering this right now for his next novel... perhaps Fred’s novel won't be a book with a cover and paper pages, but something wholly unlike a book entirely.

Who knows? I've dreamt of owning a bookstore where the pages of my story are plastered around the walls of the store. What about a book delivered via snail-mail in chapters once a week like a TV series? All I'm suggesting is that the possibilities are bigger than a bunch of pages glued into a cover.

Do you heart design thinking as much as you heart this blog? Leave some love! Or...

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Richard T. Hill
Richard T. Hill

"Who is the end-consumer?" is the most open ended question of the Information Age, no?

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