Design thinking is framework for problem-solving, creativity, and innovation that leverages the principles of design for solving complex challenges.
What is design thinking?
Also referred to as human-centered design, design thinking helps teams solve problems by understanding human needs and motivations, discovering opportunities, generating user-centered solutions, building and testing prototypes, and iterating on solutions.
Design thinking is a cousin to many other user-centered methodologies, and shares many traits—such as an emphasis on iteration and testing—with the Agile and Lean methodologies. It’s a complement to quantitative research, and provides the human stories and insights behind data.
What makes our approach unique?
Although trained in design thinking at the Stanford d.school, our founder Dana Mitroff Silvers takes an interdisciplinary approach, blending methods from the d.school with design sprints as practiced in the Sprint framework, tools from Applied Improvisation and the LUMA System of Innovation, and approaches from systems thinking, user experience, and service design.
In all of our workshops and sprints, we believe it is essential that participants have fun. Accordingly, we incorporate games and methods from improv into our work to promote collaboration, communication, and agility. Instead of framing these games and methods as “warm-ups” or “ice breakers,” we incorporate them as essential skills that help teams solve problems better, together.
Equity and inclusion + design thinking
We practice design thinking with an eye towards equity and inclusion. We recognize that many systems have inherent inequities, so we, as designers, must be aware and intentional in our work of the potentials to continue perpetuating the status quo.
As such, we look to leaders in the field such as the the National Equity Project and the Stanford d.school K12 Lab’s work in Equity-Centered Design. These approaches expand the design thinking framework to bring awareness to the impact of the designer’s identity, values, emotions, biases, and assumptions on the process, and consider ways to work collaboratively with stakeholders through co-design and participatory design work.
The values that we incorporate in our work include:
- People First: start with humans, not technologies, tools, or policies
- Collaboration: teams are better when they work together, harnessing the diversity and complexity of the group
- Have Fun: we believe that people do better work and are more creative when they are having fun, and as such, we incorporate activities, games, and a playful approach to all of our engagements
- Iterate + Experiment: this is not a one-shot process; it’s iterative and cyclical
- Bias Toward Action: we focus on doing, not endless meetings, talking, and over-thinking
- “Yes, And:” this is about accepting colleagues’ ideas and building on them
Why does it matter?
Audiences, customers, and consumers increasingly expect products, services, and experiences that are usable, intuitive, responsive, and well designed. In our fast-paced, media-saturated world, organizations are competing for people’s time and attention, and struggling for ways to develop meaningful solutions. Design thinking offers a framework and process for achieving this.
Read our case studies to learn about organizations that have successfully applied design thinking.