In my education as a designer at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences I have always wondered about why design is so effective at solving problems. What makes design so useful and what part of the process should we focus on to make it more effective? Now in my more science focused master at Leiden University I see processes and field that might answer thesequestions. I don't pretend to know it all or that these ideas are scientific. I do think that is gives a perspective on design that made a lot of sense for me. In this first post I will focus on the link between evolution and design. Later I will focus on other subjects for example emergence, complexity and behavioural economics.

Evolution the greatest show on earth, the only game in town. These are the words Ritchard Dawkins uses to describe evolution. Ritchard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist who modernised the Darwins evolution theory with "The Selfish Gene". Dawkins describes in his books how not the animal or a groups of animals fights for survival but the gene. The gene view of evolution explains for example how social behaviour within groups of animals can evolve. So why are design thinking and evolution related? They are both innovation processes that can cope with complexity. Life is versatile and has millions of expression. It can create simple one celled creatures and the most complex machine in the universe the human brain. This complexity has just one source evolution. So how does evolution work?


If you just look at the process of evolution it consist of three things. If these three conditions are met evolution is an inevitable outcome. The conditions are variation, selection and heredity. How these work in biological evolution I will not go into(Just read "The Selfish Gene"). I will show how they raise questions in a design process.


  1. Variation: For me variation has to do with "comfort zone". People have the tendency to repeat what they have done before. They tend to behave as other people do in there vicinity. This what makes the world work. We can plan ahead because we know how other people do there things. Useful but not if your innovating. You need to change something. You need something new.
  2. Selection: After a brainstorm or research you have a pile of ideas. You need to find the idea or perspective that solves your problem. How do you select this one idea?
  3. Heredity: There is no such thing as a standard design or a perfect process. You need to ask yourself what could I do better next time? What did I learn from this?


These three things are key in a design process. I the next post I will take these conditions and show how to make them part your design process.

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