• Akshayta Rao

Change by Design by Tim Brown

When Tim Brown (CEO of Ideo, the most influential design consultancy in the world) writes a book, designers all over the world jump at the prospect of owning a copy. And even though this book was written back in 2009, when lifestyle technology was relatively more nascent, its engaging narration managed to leave me wanting for more.

For starters, Change by Design is divided into two sections respectively titled “What is design thinking?” and “Where do we go from here?” The sections are further divided into chapters, each relevant in driving home the message that design thinking truly inspires ground-breaking innovations. Right from page one, Brown introduces the concept through an example from the 19th century, subtly hinting that design thinking was a part of our lives even before we realised it. He manages to establish a unique pattern of story-telling that can be easily detected throughout the book, but in no way does that make the read any less exciting.

What makes it bookshelf-worthy?

This book has many positives, so penning down the ones that truly make a difference was quite tough. Early on, he talks about the power of a good problem statement, cleverly calling out that the best briefs are those with a right balance of specific and vague. And just as I begin to doubt this premise, Brown smartly pushes his agenda by citing a relevant case study. Now, I did expect this book to have many such examples given that Ideo’s portfolio reeks of genius, but I was pleasantly surprised by how each example was perfectly mapped to the right idea. In a single breath, Brown talks about failures just as candidly as he does successes, and that instantly elevates the overall impact of the story.

The examples, however, aren’t the best part about this book. The true champion of Change by Design is how Brown breaks down the entire process of design thinking and explains it to his readers. His narration is succinct yet meaningful, as he beautifully shuffles between being technical and relatable. His description of humans moving from being passive consumers to active participators is wildly insightful for both designers and non-designers alike. He argues that design has become too important to be left to designers alone, proving that this is definitely a book for everyone.

Through the course of the book, Brown educates the user on how to inject design thinking into the DNA of organizations. He talks about the value of team-building, the benefits of fostering a creative environment and relaxing the rules to let people be who they are. He is bold enough to call out that it is these constraints, both organizational and personal, that hamper our ability to think creatively. To combat that, he offers a clean, step-by-step guide on how to use design thinking to solve the problems we face each day.


Unfortunately for this book, the first half is so gripping and story-like that the factual manner of the second half starts to seem dull. I personally wish that the book had maintained its tempo right to the very last page because I found myself drifting in and out towards the end. This, however, is not the fault of the author as he tries his best to impart as much knowledge in as few words as possible. Since this book is almost a decade old, a few examples seem a little dated, but that in no way implies that their relevance is lost. I just wish I had read this book sooner so that I could’ve related to some of the stories better.

It’s safe to say that this is by far the most significant book on design that I have read. If you’re worried that it is written just for designers, get ready to be blown away. In under 250 pages, Tim Brown makes such a fantastic case for adopting design thinking that you can’t help but take his advice. Anyone who reads this book is sure to walk away feeling more empowered to transform their lives. Don’t let the book’s subtitle fool you into thinking it’s only for organizations. Design is first about people, then about businesses, and Brown makes that known every step of the way. So, do yourself a favour, grab Change by Design and let it change your life.


About Me

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Welcome to Tryst with Design. This blog has added immense value to my life, and I love having the opportunity to share my musings with you. Read on, and enjoy.