Design Thinking Workshop

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What exactly is design thinking? Design thinking is collaborative method to solve problems. The method involves basic tools – a lot of sticky notes, sharpie markers, circle stickers, and an open mind.

sticky pads and sharpie markers at the design thinking workshop

John Whalen from Brilliant Experience led participants through the design thinking process during the workshop on June 14, 2014. John started with a short instructional period where he discussed the process of design thinking with one rule – no one is allowed to roll their eyes at anyone else’s creative ideas.

group photo of the design thinking workshop attendees

The task at the workshop was to solve the problem of a foreign family coming to visit Washington, D.C. The family wanted to use the metro to get from one location to the zoo. However, getting tickets, figuring out where to go, and other systems in place are confusing for tourists.

The five teams came up with creative solutions using the design thinking process to help create a better user experience for the flow of metro, the ticketing kiosk, family turnstiles, signage, and other pieces of the metro system.

a second group photo of one of the design thinking teams a group photo of one of the design thinking teams a third photo of a design thinking group the fourth group photo from the design thinking workshop the fifth group from the design thinking workshop

The design thinking process includes:

  1. Research
  2. Ideate
  3. Prototype
  4. Test (go back to step 2)

1. Research

Empathize with the users. Follow them around, watch them in their natural environment, interview them, have a diary study, and/or take pictures to research the users. Ask yourself questions like “who are the audience?”, “what do they say?”, “what do they do?”

Define the problem after some initial research by asking yourself questions like “what are the users really trying to solve?”, “what roadblocks do they have?”, and “what opportunities are there for creative solutions?”

2. Ideate

The goal of the ideate phase is to come up with as many solutions as possible. Use multidisciplinary teams, including the client and subject matter experts in the mix. There are no constraints to the ideas and you are looking for quality and quantity through exploration of the problem.

3. Prototype

Through simple, fast, low-cost creative expression, communicate the core elements of your solution to others. This can be done through sketching, props already at your disposal (office tools), or other cheap, creative methods. The goal in design thinking is to learn through design and testing.

4. Test

Finally, test your prototype with anyone. You learn about the user response to the prototype through testing. Over time, you’ll increase the fidelity of the prototype.

group photo of the design thinking attendees

Overall, the workshop was a great learning experience and taught participants to hold these types of workshops at their respective offices.

The following books contain more information on Design Thinking:

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