Design Thinking Tutorials for Beginners and Advanced Users

Design Thinking (DT) is a framework for taking an interactive, human-centric approach to problem-solving. Unlike other models, its nonlinear process enables it to return to previous stages (see the d.school Bootcamp Bootlegs).

Approach is particularly useful for dealing with complex or intractable problems where solutions may not be readily apparent at the outset. The process entails several stages: empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test.

Stage 1: Empathy

Empathy is at the core of Design Thinking. This means getting to know your end users intimately through user research activities such as surveys, interviews and observation sessions. Empathy plays an integral part in this process as it allows you to set aside assumptions and gain real insights about those you aim to serve – not simply basing your ideas off of personal biases or preferences.

Once the Empathize phase has been completed, it’s time to move onto the Define stage. Here, you will begin making sense of all of the information gathered, identifying core problems, and creating a problem statement which encapsulates what will become your main challenge during design process.

Setting goals and creating a problem statement are great ways to keep your team focused and engaged, while simultaneously making sure that human-centric solutions are developed. Furthermore, your statement serves as a guideline for future work done – helping ensure you remain on track towards meeting them!

Ideation is the second stage in the design thinking process and involves brainstorming potential ways to tackle an identified issue. You may utilize several generative ideation techniques during this stage, such as brainwriting or crazy eights (where everyone sketches out eight ideas in 8 minutes). Be open-minded during brainstorming; don’t limit or rule out new or different possibilities that come your way.

Stage 2: Defining

At this stage of design thinking, you take all of the empathy data collected during Step 1, and organize it into insights, connections and patterns that you can use to define the problem at hand. In design thinking terms, this process is known as creating a point-of-view (POV). Establishing one will help clarify which human needs your problem aims to meet as well as assist with moving towards potential solutions during subsequent steps.

At this stage, creativity flourishes; it is important to keep in mind that this stage may involve several iterations before arriving at an ultimate solution. Because of this, design thinking teams are less concerned with results of this phase and more focused on how their team can collaborate to come up with ideas together – there are numerous techniques such as brainstorming and mind mapping as well as bodystorming (roleplay scenarios) or provocation-a highly lateral thinking technique-that may help the process along.

Start designing with design thinking by participating in an intensive bootcamp that covers its fundamentals. Stanford University provides such an experience, featuring four-day workshop that allows participants to tackle real business issues while applying design thinking methodologies throughout.

Online you’ll also find free self-paced courses to teach the fundamental concepts of design thinking. These courses usually focus on problem solving techniques that you can implement within your office setting, with activities for you to try at work in order to put this methodology into action. Many also feature free trial periods so you can test it before making any commitments; this way you can be certain the course meets both your professional goals and needs.

Stage 3: Ideation

Design Thinking courses online provide you with tools that help you innovate ideas and design products for customers. In addition, you will learn the design thinking process and its steps: research methods; customer empathy techniques; prototyping/testing as part of the design process, prototyping as an essential step of design thinking etc.

Once insights from the empathize stage have been collected, the defining stage allows you and your team to make sense of them and identify the key problem that needs solving. At this point, solutions and ideas for resolving it may begin being brainstormed by all.

At this stage of the design process, it’s time for you to unleash your inner creativity! Don’t limit yourself when coming up with ideas in this stage; the more creative thought processes that emerge will lead to better ideas that are likely to succeed. Be sure to incorporate any empathetic findings that were revealed during Phase One into ideation sessions for optimal success.

One of the greatest challenges during the defining stage is identifying what really matters to your target audience. Therefore, it is vital that you take your time in this phase and gain an in-depth knowledge of user’s problems, wants, and needs so you can ensure your solution will truly address a core need while reducing wasted time on ideas that won’t have the desired impact. Defined problem can act like a North Star to keep you focused when shiny distractions threaten to divert your focus away.

Stage 4: Prototyping

After ideation, design teams must implement their ideas into reality. One effective way of doing that is through prototyping. A prototype is a scaled-down version of a product or service which incorporates potential solutions discovered during earlier stages; unlike full-scale designs, prototypes tend to be less costly to produce and can be tested with users to gauge how well it functions; they also help reduce risks by helping identify any hidden flaws or functional gaps before they make it into final products.

Designers need to experiment with many potential solutions and resist being hasty in rejecting any. Sometimes what may appear obvious at first can turn out less effective in practice. Prototypes can take the form of simple sketches to interactive digital mock-ups using software such as Adobe XD. They may be low fidelity (basic versions that don’t fully reflect the look or feel of the final product) or high fidelity (more polished, polished and accurate versions).

Goal of this phase: create as close a prototype as possible so that users can evaluate it effectively. An ideal prototype should be interactive and closely resemble its final form for quality feedback from participants. When testing, remember that testing should not just collect large volumes of data but rather find solutions that will actually assist users solve their problems.

Therefore, prototyping may take more than one round before you arrive at your ideal design. This is completely normal; keeping your design process flexible allows for this possibility and ensures you can adjust as needed during your project’s development.

Stage 5: Testing

Once you have compiled and explored multiple prototype solutions, the next step should be putting them to the test. Here is where you’ll determine which of them actually provide an effective answer to the problem statement you identified in Step One of this process – lots of ideas may get rejected; that’s perfectly acceptable too.

As you introduce prototypes to users for testing, you will gain invaluable feedback that allows you to assess whether your problem was properly defined, unearth new insights, and find gaps in your designs that need improvement. With this insight at your disposal, iterating will become possible in order to produce products as close as possible to what was originally imagined by their creators.

One of the hallmarks of Design Thinking is its human-centric focus, so it is vital that users be engaged from the very start in every stage of development, not just at launch time. When designers focus on users early on they can create products and services which truly meet user needs.

Design Thinking is an iterative creative process designed to foster creative solutions to problems, create products and services people love using and increase human-centric innovation in projects. If you follow its five stages you can bring human-centric innovation to more of your projects.

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