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Thinking Beyond the Page

Story by: Katie Cannan Design By: Akane Ohara

In spring semester of 2017, the Department of Design unveiled its new Design Thinking minor. Available to all majors, this minor focused on the application of design as a process and problem solving method that is useful to non-designers. This minor is meant to a continued effort by the Department of Design to give non-designers an overview of design concepts which they are able to most efficiently with only 15 credit hours.

Historically, the design minor has been most heavily used by students in the Fisher College of Business,  College of Engineering, Knowlton School of Architecture and School of Communications. However, the Design Thinking Minor is more accessible to students in other majors now that the focus has been shifted from design mechanisms to how design can solve problems. This shift is meant to get rid of the “designer lite mentality” and create designers that have the skills that will benefit them in any career rather than just teaching them technologies associated with design. In the past students with the minor believed that just because they were proficient in Photoshop and InDesign they were designers, which is the mentality that Ohio State’s Design Department is trying to eliminate. Knowing how to think like a designer is more important that knowing how to use software, which is why the Design Thinking minor has developed. With the Design Thinking minor the Department of Design foresees a greater influx of students from the College of Arts and Sciences as well as students interested in public health.

Misconceptions about Design

For most people, design brings to mind concepts like advertising, product design and art.  In reality, design is much more than that. Designers create new ways of looking at objects and solve problems which are based in a creative world view. In the digital age, skills like drawing are much less at the forefront of the design field; rather, companies bring in designers to solve problems which cannot be solved through the typical routes. The design field has become more focused on how to creatively solve problems which to the unskilled eye might seem impossible. Examples of this focus might be figuring out how to make products more efficient or how to create more user friendly systems.

According to undergraduate design advisor Gabe Tippery”,in our modern culture problems are becoming increasingly multidisciplinary and designers have that ability to intersect multiple disciplines because designers are an expert in a process.”  

New vs Old

Prior to this semester, any student who wanted a design minor would receive the General Design minor. This minor was an 18 credit hour curriculum where students could take a wide variety of upper level design courses without first taking the foundational courses. The Department of Design found that students who skipped the foundational classes lacked the baseline knowledge which is crucial to understanding the design process. Through conversations with employers the design department found that one of the biggest flaws with the General Design minor was that it was mostly focused around using creative tools and technologies. In reality, simply knowing how to use design tools has very little to do with design itself and didn’t produce the creative, outside the box type of employees companies were looking for. Students who complete the design major are able to get the well rounded technology and thinking based education, however, in the past students with the General Design minor were lacking the critical thinking portion of the curriculum.     

Starting in the spring of 2017 students can only declare the Design Thinking minor. (Students who have already declared the General Design minor are allowed to finish the curriculum or they will have the option to transfer into the Design Thinking minor with almost no issues.) This new minor has a 15 credit hour requirement, which is completely pre-planned for students. The courses are designed to help students develop creative problem solving techniques through the lens of Design Thinking, which covers basic principles, processes and applications of design. One of the major benefits of the Design Thinking minor is that students will easily be able to enroll in courses they need as opposed to previous years where classes  filled up quickly. Since the Design Thinking minor is process-based as opposed to skills-based, classes will now be taught in lecture format. The Department of Design also hopes to offer classes in an online format or in a flipped classroom type of environment in the future, which will allow more students to take design classes and pursue a design minor.

The goal of the new minor is to create a program that will help students of all majors to succeed in an increasingly competitive and technological marketplace. By teaching problem solving processes, students will be able to creatively think of solutions that go beyond the bounds of their individual majors and curriculums. The Design Thinking minor will be an excellent addition to any major and make you more marketable to potential employers.

Interested in learning more? Contact Gabe Tippery at


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