A design is a specific plan or blueprint for the building of something, the execution of that plan or blueprint or the end result of it in the shape of a physical object, machine, etc., or simply the outcome of that plan or blueprint. The word ‘design’ itself denotes creativity and design, and in fact, in most engineering fields, one must go through a formal education on how to come up with designs, sometimes referred to as ‘blueprints’. Designing can be used to refer to the visual aspect of the creative design, which is often the driving force behind the creation of new products or ideas. Some designers are highly skilled in visual arts, developing computer-generated designs (CAD) on screen. Others, often called ‘conceptualists’, are highly skilled in designing systems, making’s sense of interactions between people using those systems, and so on.
A design is not only about coming up with ideas, but is also the means to expressing those ideas and in so doing, putting them in form. It has been said that some of the greatest inventions, great paintings and music have come from people not thinking much about what they had done but just having an ‘inspiration’ that came into their minds. Similarly, some of the most popular television shows and movies have come from people who merely had an idea floating around in their heads, which then became a topic for serious thinking. This is why some people refer to ‘thinking outside the box’ – because truly innovative thinking requires you to think outside of the box. An abstract concept is just that: an idea that someone might have without having any concrete means of expression. In fact, many of the most famous paintings and music have come from artists who didn’t have a clear vision of how they were going to paint or perform the way they did.
In this article we have looked at some of the broad ways in which abstract thoughts help us think better and more clearly. Designing helps us think in a wider range of topics and on broader themes. It helps us explore wider areas of our lives and our creative process allows us to exploit our creative potential in new and different ways. Abstract concepts are, thus, perhaps one of the most important things we can learn from the history of design thinking. By looking at this history and understanding how different abstract concepts help us think better, we can improve our own design thinking skills and use these abstract concepts as tools for improving our own design processes.