Design Thinking and Cities

Everyone is talking about design thinking! But what, exactly, is design thinking? And how do these ideas relate to city making?

Design thinking is an increasingly valued skillset across a wide range of industries, with high demand for design-based skills in the workplace. Organisations are increasingly looking to theories of design to improve their businesses and the services and products they offer. But can these ideas also be applied to city making?

Dr Martin Tomitsch is Associate Professor of Design and the Head of Design Lab at the University of Sydney. His research looks at how design thinking can be used to make better cities. Martin talks us through the design thinking process, within which the user-experience is central.

“Think. Make. Break. Repeat.

The ‘thinking’ step is about understanding the problem.

The ‘making’ step is about actually making a tangible solution.

The ‘break’ step, where we’re trying to break our solutions in order to come up with a better solution.

And the ‘repeat’ step is a reminder that this is an iterative process.”

Dr Martin Tomitsch

In a world where more than half of the population lives in cities, Martin is looking at new ways to engage with the smart city with design thinking. We’re talking to Martin about his new book Making Cities Smarter – Designing Interactive Urban Applications. Design plays a critical role in the rollout of smart city technologies and their acceptance by the end users. Drawing on the field of user experience design, the book Making Cities Smarter introduces a human-centered design framework for interactive applications that provide an interface between citizens and smart city systems.


Dr Martin Tomitsch is an Associate Professor in Design and the Head of Design Lab at the University of Sydney, where he teaches interaction design and human-computer interaction. He is the Director of the Design Computing program and a member of the Design Lab, an interdisciplinary research group within the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning.

His primary research interest is the application of user-centred interaction design methods and the study of user behaviours to inform the development of novel interfaces and interaction techniques for everyday life. In his research work he emphasises the design and evaluation of new approaches to human-computer interaction.

He is co-author of ‘New Media Facades’ published by av edition and over sixty articles published in journals and academic conferences. He holds a visiting lecturer appointment with the Research Group for Industrial Software (INSO) at the Vienna University of Technology, is a founding member of the Media Architecture Institute (MAI), NSW state co-chair for the Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group (CHISIG) of the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society of Australia (HFESA), and committee member of several international workshops and conferences. Prior to commencing his position at the University of Sydney, he worked as interface designer in large software and IT projects.

For more information, please visit Martin’s personal webpage

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