Design thinking

design thinking

Making magic

By Adrian Regan

“The challenge is to understand what people want and then build the product in a way that makes it magical.”

Most new cars today have built-in screens, which can connect to the internet. But how could we improve this technology? And as we travel, should apps be customised for each place we use them?

These are the types of problems that Patrick Hofmann, senior user experience designer at Google in Sydney, works on with the rest of the Google Maps team.

For two years, they’ve been working on a version of Google Maps for cars.

“It isn’t just a map; it’s about the data behind the places that you select,” says Patrick.

The challenge, he says, is to understand what people want and need, and then build the maps in a way that will “make the product magical”.

One of the team’s biggest challenges was to make a version of Maps that gives people the information they want in a way they can safely access while driving.

Patrick says it’s about putting the needs of people at the centre of his work – it’s a creative approach that’s referred to as ‘design thinking’.

“Putting the user experience first is critical,” he says. “If people have a terrible experience with your product, they’ll share this online and never use the product again.”

Design thinking can also lead you to invent things that people are excited to use, and will make a positive impact on their lives.

Biochemist Dr Kastoori Hingorani implements design thinking in the field of biotechnology. She completed a PhD at the Australian National University and is working on artificial photosynthesis – recreating the way that plants harness the Sun’s energy. Once it reaches the market, this discovery has the potential to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, which could help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

“My work is solution-based, and that’s what I think of as design thinking,” she says.

In her role as a business development consultant in the engineering faculty at the University of Sydney, she solves problems by connecting scientific exploration with a commercial mindset.

“I’ve always had a passion for the business side of science,” she says.

Innovators – like engineers, biotechnologists and computer scientists – are driven by design thinking.

It gets people like Patrick and Kastoori thinking about how their work can make a real difference.

design thinking


Check out some work and study options…


Biochemist, business analyst, industrial designer, nanotechnologist, science communicator, user experience designer + more!


Innovation and Design, Swinburne University 

Science (Nanotechnology)/Science (Applied Sciences), RMIT 

Commerce (Mechanical Systems Sequence), University of Melbourne 

Creative Industries, QUT 

Mathematical and Computer Sciences, University of Adelaide 

Engineering (Hons)/Creative Intelligence and Innovation, University of Technology, Sydney

STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

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