around the globe

A medley of views and updates on Design Thinking


History of Design Thinking


Design Thinking exploding in India

  • TinkerLabs is born! and takes DT to leading Indian universities and business houses
  • Varied organizations like Infosys, IIM Ahmedabad, YES Bank adopt DT

Design Thinking enters the business world

  • Companies like SAP, IBM start adopting Design Thinking
  • Stanford is founded, and executive education in DT flourishes and Academics like Roger Martin and Jeanne Liedtka advocate Design Thinking

Formal methods of Design Thinking emerge

  • IDEO is born, and Design Thinking grows in popularity
  • Liz Sanders publishes 'Convivial Toolbox' on applied design research

Interest in the designer's thought process grows

  • Donald Schon highlights the importance of self-reflection in design
  • Nigel Cross publishes his seminal paper 'Designerly Ways of Knowing'

Design starts intersecting with social sciences

  • The term 'Wicked Problems' gets coined for the first time
  • Victor Papanek introduces a blend of Anthropology and Design

Design gets recognized as a formal profession

  • Participative Design starts growing in Scandinavia
  • Industrial and Product design professions emerge in America
Affinity diagram is a tool used to organize ideas and data. It allows large numbers of ideas stemming from brainstorming to be sorted into groups, based on their natural relationships, for review and analysis. It is also frequently used in contextual inquiry as a way to organize notes and insights from field interviews. It can also be used for organizing other freeform comments, such as open-ended survey responses, support call logs, or other qualitative data.
The qualities of design or material that affects or suggests how it can be used. For example, the affordances of a hammer (weight, handle and grip, scribed head, etc) suggest it should be used for striking objects. Looking at affordances is especially useful when analysing how designs or materials prompt certain behaviours.

This is one of the ideation techniques used in Design Thinking. It is important to note that brainstorming tends to be the most structured part of the Design Thinking process. Specific guidelines for brainstorming include:

  • Defer judgment (of the ideas of others and your own)
  • Encourage wild ideas (and mundane ones!)
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Go for quantity
  • One conversation at a time
  • Be visual
  • Stay focused on the topic
  • Headline (don't ramble on)
Oftentimes, a design team can become mired in discussing the pros and cons of proposed solutions. This guideline reminds designers to limit discussion and move toward actions such as field research, creating/prototyping, and testing. The most common sticking point is not a "lack of creativity" but an inadequate understanding of the design space you're working in. The best way to unstick is to prototype and to make your ideas real for the team and for your users. Build to think, don't think to build.
The perceived or actual qualities of a design that limit how it might be used. Note that surveying the constraints of materials and designs is usually a source of creative design solutions.
This step is where focus becomes very narrow. A team works together to synthesize the data and observations gathered during the Understand and Observe steps and articulates it in a way that allows for the creative generation of ideas. One way to do this is to produce a Point of View, which is one or two sentences that define a user, a need and an insight. A team could also produce a short movie or use other media too. Work done in the ‘define’ stage is not only important for creative brainstorming, it can be essential for the cohesion of a design team.
Refers to the aggregate of users, affordances, constraints, and existing solutions that relate to the work that a design team is tackling.
The use of this emotional term helps remind designers that they must always consider the human experience of real people. It's more than just seeing it from their perspectives, it's about understanding how they feel about it all and what it means to them.
The testing phase is when users interact with a prototype. Many cycles of iteration, prototyping, and testing can occur as prototypes uncover new insights about users. Early tests are usually very simple exercises with early, low-resolution prototypes.
An extreme user is a person who lies at the periphery of a group of users. Extremes can include age, ability, occupation, experience, etc. Rather than designing for a composite or "average" user, a design team will oftentimes look to extreme users for surprising and actionable insights. Focusing on extreme users can lead to more innovative solutions, more profound insights about a group of users, and new, untapped markets for a product or service.
In the brainstorming process, to headline means to put things in short, simple language (as opposed to adding more details), the way a journalistic headline is simple and broad and lets the story give the details. Headlining keeps the energy high in a brainstorm, generating a greater range and quantity of ideas, and helps ensure that all team members remain engaged.
To generate ideas; to brainstorm; to seek solutions to the users' needs; to innovate new things/processes, etc.
To iterate is to cycle from this to that. In Design Thinking, it usually refers to the cycles of prototyping, testing and revision.
In Design Thinking, this term is used to describe prototypes that are very simple, focused on one or two features of the design. Low resolution prototyping allows a team to quickly express their ideas and gather feedback. This is done to avoid getting hung up on details that don't matter much in the earlier stages. For example, a low-resolution prototype of a new shoe might be a pencil sketch showing its crucial new shape. A slightly higher-resolution version might add three-dimensional views of it; a next level up might be a quick clay model, not to scale, and so on. The point is that a prototype is a tool for discovery, rather than a rough model of a final solution.
In Design Thinking, a POV means the point of view of a particular person. Creating a point of view involves synthesizing the data gained in the Empathise phases to create a common reference/inspiration for later ideation and prototyping. The idea is to focus on a real person, with many of the concrete details found during the Understand/Observe phases. One approach is to develop one or two concise sentences that express User+Need+Insight.
A prototype is a tool for discovery-it seeks to answer a question. It is possible to prototype products, experiences, or services. People commonly consider a prototype to be a less-refined or incomplete version of a final product. But because prototypes seek to answer specific questions, they often look completely different than the "final" design. So, it is useful to reframe student understanding by asking: "What are you trying to learn from this prototype?" In general, prototypes should answer one or two specific questions well, rather than generic questions like: "Is this thing any good?", "Does it work?" etc. It can be useful to classify a prototype broadly according to the types of questions it seeks to answer: functional (questions about how the thing will work), look and feel (questions about the aesthetic qualities of a thing), and experience (questions about how a user will experience the thing).
A method of working that relies on building teams from extremely diverse disciplines with the goal of producing pattern-breaking innovations.