International Journal of Art & Design Education

Developing a (Non-linear) Practice of Design Thinking

Volume 29.3   2010



Design thinking can be a powerful way to engage the world, allowing interactive understandings that are both analytic and experiential. When fully functioning, design thinking necessarily calls upon faculties often considered a-rational, a-causal and a-logical. Unfortunately, such faculties often give rise to academic suspicion. That is to say, the indeterminacies of design thinking often spawn unhelpful (and undermining) reductions. When this occurs, the fullness of design thinking gets channelled into a series of steps, rules of thumb or professional categories, thereby diluting its potency.
In order to encourage a richer image of design thinking, particularly for the education of design students, this article explores ways to complement more familiar logical understandings of the design process with the functional complexity of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's ‘rhizome’. As a heuristic device, the rhizome and its related concepts are employed to provide a more complete picture of design thinking and to develop a practice that imbues design work with meaningful complexity. In this way, the rhizome promotes design thinking as a process comprised of both linear and non-linear aspects.