I’ve had the fortune of having some great conversations with some great people that are at the forefront of the design industry. Most of what I’ve found is validation. There are a few things that I’ve been sharing on my journey as an advocate for design thinking and human-centered design. These things were based on my own limited experience (in comparison to the collective experience of the design world) and apparently my own insights were spot on (or at least shared by a couple of people who have gained the trust of the design community, such as FROG and IDEO.) But with everything (and I hope you hold yourself to this) all that is asked of us is to make things a little bit better than we found them, so here is my short spiel on Design Thinking.

So what is design thinking?

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”Tim Brown, president and CEO

There is some great stuff in there as well as a few buzzwords and a plug for one of IDEO’s own products. (Which is a brilliant move. Tim Brown embedded his own product into one of the most widely adopted definitions of Design Thinking.) Here is my beef though (if people still say that), This definition doesn’t do a lot to help the average human being to wrap their head around design thinking.

So here is my take on it:

Design Thinking is the iterative approach to solving problems that is grounded in empathy for the people who are impacted by both the problem, and your proposed solution. – Me (my name is the one on the building – if you could count a very small wordpress site as a building.)

IDEO has done a great job of visualizing the design process using circles (which we designers, and perhaps humans, love):

IDEO des think

This is a great visualization. When I share it (and use it myself) the goal is to realize that most of the time we jump into the CREATE step and usually don’t seek outside help until we are looking for validation (or God forbid, development). It helps illustrate the need to take a step back and learn more about who we are doing this for, why they need it, and what else is going on in that space. My only (minor) complaint here is that there is an end. I understand why. It’s easier to sell services when there is a buttoned up ending to it all, but in reality, you shouldn’t stop the refinement phase. When you create something and send it into the world, you have just found a way to get a wealth of information and validation to further refine your product or project. why stop once you’ve developed something? In such a way, I bring to you:



So this is a good way of talking about process, but it doesn’t do a great job of conveying what that process looks like: For this we can turn to FROG for their design thinking graphic:

FROG Des Think

So now we see these choke point of creating and developing to refine a concept that is worth moving forward. FROG design also has a super version of this that is a little more honest (but to clients may look like an inefficient waste of time) so I recreated it from memory as best I could (it’s pretty much spot on, though.) They said I couldn’t have it (it’s pretty well documented, so there isn’t any reason to disguise the truth here) so, I guess don’t share this? I mean. I obviously did (and had to jump through the hoop of recreating their incredibly simple graphic.) and I’ll trot down a rabbit hole here for a minute. I think we should stop hiding things from each other. It’s a vain pursuit. Let us all build on the work of each other (as we have been doing for hundreds of years) and eliminate the redundancy of people having to recreate your work to build upon it. Share it. (in fact, if you need something on this site to build off of. Ask me for it.) Now these aren’t my graphics, so I’m not at liberty to give you permission to steal them, but I did find them on google.

So here is the super secret FROG design graphic (recreated from memory by me)

So this is real. You will chase leads and they will peter out, and you will have to track down new ones. Ideas will fail, and come back later with a vengeance when the right information and pieces fall into place to support them. The biggest point from all 4 of these graphics is that the process is nonlinear, and cannot, with any sense of honesty, be planned beyond forcing those choke points to occur on certain days (which can still cut the process of discovery and creativity shorter than it needs to be.) And all of these can be used to step back from the process and help you identify where you are specifically, but in the end, they don’t let you know what being in the middle of this process feels like, so I’d like to introduce this photo, which I like to use to illustrate the feeling of being in the middle of the design thinking process:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *