Design Thinking – Strategic Making Process to Solve Problems

Throughout my entire life, I never considered myself an artistic person. As a child, I did go through a phase where I would try to draw many book covers. However, I quickly realized I wasn’t any good. To this day, I have trouble with creating any sort of artistic design. Example A, our team’s logo.

I have friends who I can call and tell them what I what, and they can come up with multiple mock-ups within a short period of time. During this past week’s class session, Design for America came to give us a workshop in design thinking and help us solve real world problems. I think my favorite part of the workshop was the exercises they had for us to get us thinking creatively. In addition, this workshop made me realize the importance of having a diverse group of members. With a diverse group of members, we can all bring different ideas to the table, which can then be combined to solve the problem, which is exactly what happen when we were brainstorming ideas for how to help people with Parkinson’s disease.

Design thinking is a strategy-making process that examines human behavior in order to avoid collecting backward looking data and making risky bets on instinct, rather than evidence. In the article Design Thinking by Tim Brown, gives a great example of thinking outside the box. Shimano, a Japanese cycling company, hired IDEO, a design and consulting firm, to help them penetrate a market they haven’t been able to reach. They realized that this market consisted of people who enjoyed riding bikes during their teenage years but have now stopped because of high cost, dangerous roads, and intimidation. With IDEO’s help, Shimano was able to produce a coasting bike, a bike that took the complexity of a road bike and allowed users to just hop on and ride.

Overall, I’m looking forward to learning Fusion tomorrow. I have not worked with Fusion 360, however, I do have experience with Inventor. From the quick research I just did, there are many things in common. I hope that my experience with Inventor helps me learn Fusion 360 faster.


Interesting 3D Printing Articles

India’s first 3D Indigenous Jet Engine

I’m excited to see how 3D printing will revolutionize the aviation industry. The article states that by 3D printing the jet engine, it has saved them nearly 40% of the cost and about 10 months in preparing and assembly the jet engine. Not sure if those 10 months are accounted for in the savings but if they aren’t that means they are saving even more money! Click here to read more about this indigenous jet engine.


 I know someone in our Facebook page shared a video of a 3D skin printer but I wanted to share this article that explains in detail how that works. I personally believe that 3D printing will take off again because of the application of a 3D printer in the medical field. In my first reflection post, I talked about a Mexican startup company that is 3D printing personalized “breathable” cast. I just believe there is much more potential in the medical field because of the impact it can have on many lives.

Image of 3D skin printer

Image of 3D printed cast

Steps to Success

A venue change was required as we traded our cozy little workshop for a classroom with ample space for creativity to flow around the room. This creative space was exactly what we needed for this Design For America workshop led by our own very chapter at UIUC. We were introduced to their organization, their purpose and what they do. They explained to us, that they begin by looking for a problem prevalent in a particular demographic of people and then start brainstorming for ideas before they begin prototyping. Additionally, they would conduct some research to determine how a population views this problem, identify the root of the problem and see if their idea would produce a solution to the root of the cause. In fact they have a whole process guide for coming up with innovative designs which can be accessed here.

Their approach to design is extremely similar to Tim Brown’s method of Design Thinking, which is strategically designing to meet people’s needs and/or desires in a technically feasible way. This way of thinking certainly changed my long run approach for not only product designs, but also my approach for facing on problems. Thinking like this allows one to think to the root of the problem and solve the root cause rather than put a band aid on what the problem appears to be externally.

Not only does the design of an object impact how we choose to create, 3D printing has also impacted how we create things and design things. According to the article written by TJ McCue, 3D printing has forced us to think in 3D. We not only look to solve problems with 3D, we also look to do things better with 3D printing. Since 3D printing has universal applications, the possibilities are endless.

In order to give us a look at their design process and put us in a Design For America mindset, they facilitated a class activity in which we were handed 3 cards at random. One card gave the demographic which the product which we were designing for, the next gave what it will be used for, and the last card a constraint for out design. Our challenge was to design a way to make music for adventurous preschoolers and our constraint was that it grows. We interpreted the constraint, “it grows”, as that the object expands. Our team came up with an expandable “laptop”, where it has 3 folds, one has a screen, the middle has buttons in different colors and shapes, and the last fold has a piano keyboard and a xylophone. The buttons make noises when pressed and the screen can show cute characters dancing on the screen. The piano and xylophone allow the child to have a physical thing they can play with to make noise in case they do not like digital sounds. Our draft is shown below.

We later did another activity to come up with a product for senior citizens. Design For America taught us to look at a specific population and address the root cause of a problem. They told us to outline the question as “How can we *verb*  *insert population* in *location* to *verb*?” So after brainstorming what the senior citizen demographic is like and what they need or innately want, we came up with the question “How can we get senior citizens in retirement homes to feel needed/autonomous/respected?” For this, we came up with Generation Connect, a website and application which connects the older generation with the younger generation through messages and advice forums. Our poster presentation is shown below.

generation connect


After the workshop, my team and I came up with a team name and designed a logo on TinkerCad to 3D print. The name we chose is “XNihilo”. This is derived from “ex nihilo” which in Latin translates into “out of nothing”. “Ex nihilo” is often in conjunction with the idea of creation and the Latin phrase “creatio ex nihilo” which means to creation out of nothing. Anjali, Yuanzhen, and I wanted to name our group XNihilo because we are doing just that, creation out of nothing. We are bringing an idea to life with 3D Printing. Below is our screenshots in Tinkercad  and our beautiful finished 3D logo.




xnihilo 2

Just seeing this logo printed made me so excited for what the future holds for us. What can my group create from nothing? There are still so many questions we need to ask ourselves before coming up with our final idea and design. I look forward to figuring out what our final product will be through design thinking. I also plan to supplement this design thinking with a similar analysis which I have learned from another class, root cause analysis. Root Cause analysis is basically done by asking “Why?” multiple times to get to the root cause of the problem. Below is a hilarious example of how asking “why?” can lead a person to identifying the root cause of the problem, an article about what Root Cause Analysis is, and an article on how Root Cause Analysis was used with 3D Printing.

Funny 5 Whys:

Learn more about Root Cause Analysis 
3D Printing and Root Cause Analysis

The Ins and Outs of Design Thinking

Looking back at my childhood days, I created my own designs and drawings during class whether it was through my past knowledge or imagination. Most children have in some way shape or form created their own design. Therefore, we all of the ability to design and make plans for the future, and having a better knowledge of the design thinking process will push individuals to create services or products that meets consumer’s desires in a technologically feasible and strategically viable method.

In order to help all the students better understand the process of design thinking, Vishal had brought in UIUC’s very own Design For America. Two students from the organization had come into give a hands-on presentation of the different aspects on designing and providing creative methods to let our creative juices flow. The first activity was done by having each group choose three cards, the first card was the consumer the group was targeting, the next one was the location and the last card defined a constraint for the first two cards. My group had to think of a product that required a girlfriend, located on a train to make something out of glass. Sure, we realized how estranged a product we could create, we let our imaginations fly, and as a group we created a glass notepad that had the boyfriends face ingrained on it, and on the train the girlfriend could draw as she wished on the glass notepad. In this activity we tried to design a product for our so-called consumer, but this is just one step of design thinking. In this case, we had not thought about what exactly this consumer was searching for in glass products, therefore we cannot be sure the product will be profitable on this certain market. Another activity we had accomplished as a group was creating a product that would help senior citizens drive safer during the night. In this activity we had accomplished another step of design thinking which was to create a prototype, we would obviously need to further test it if we were to put this on the market for these particular senior citizens.

The presentation done by Design For America had given me a better understanding of the design thinking process because I was able to go through the steps in a quick manner but with easy topics to help grasp this concept. In the article, “Design Thinking”, I really enjoyed the video that explained the main points of the process. From the article, I realized how many companies are not truly thinking about the desires that their consumer has. Rather, many companies delve into past products and make products or services through risky bets based on instinct and not through evidence. Though the article had quickly explained the three steps to design thinking, I was able to better understand the details of the process from the videos on “Design thinking and 3d Printing” where Vishal was speaking with David Weightman, a professor of Industrial Design. Professor Weightman follows the design thinking process created by IDEO, which is what the article had been based on. In order to create designs, individuals or organizations need to create them for their consumer by better understanding their consumer whether it is through observation or questionnaires. After understanding a consumer, the product or service created needs to have a business value, in the sense that it will generate profit. Furthermore, the products created for these consumers will need to be tested from prototyping then move towards final implementation to verify that is durable for manufacturing. During our class we had created prototypes, and even mentioned by Professor Weightman, that these prototypes are evident in the thinking process and using pipe cleaners, which we had done, would be a very suitable method to feel out the results of the product. From the article and the videos, I realized the most important part of design thinking is the consumer process, without these consumers, we would not be creating such designs. Therefore, we have to understand that our main goal is to cater to the consumers and not irrationally coming up with ideas that we believe they will purchase, we need to come up with ideas that we know they will purchase.

After doing the hands-on activity in class, reading the article and viewing the videos I wanted to see how actual organizations are taking on design thinking within their work environment. The first article I had found was through IDEO that shared the thoughts of Tim Brown called “Unlock your Organization’s Creative Potential” ( In the article, Brown had emphasized how critical it was for organizations to generate, embrace and execute new ideas because creativity was the essential ingredient for organizations to survive and continue competing within their industry. For organizations to succeed it cannot be done only through the leadership team, it has to grow from the individuals learning to lead creativity throughout their work. However, the leadership team does need to begin this sort of creativity and create an environment for the organization that allows the individuals in the company to replicate. I believe that creating an environment with no constraint will help creativity grow within an organization. Allowing employees to speak their mind can generate incredible ideas. Brown’s reflection of design thinking had made me wonder if there were any strategies used by current organizations that have successfully brought the organization to a creative life. The second article I had found was called “Design Thinking as a Strategy for Innovation” ( Ultimately, when individuals think of design thinking they believe they need to be a designer, but in actuality individuals only need to map out a strategy to be considered a designer. Therefore, to design an individual can achieve that through learning by doing as designing is done through a creative thinking process. Organizations need to teach their individuals the planned out creative strategy, the culture of the strategy and the skill-sets to become a good designer. For an organization to achieve design thinking, I believe the organization needs to begin with planning out the strategy then implementing it throughout the entire organization. Sooner or later, any organization can achieve when their design principles are applied to strategy and innovation to hopefully follow the successful footsteps of many design-led companies: Apple, IBM, and Coca-Cola.

How 3D Printing Will Revolutionize Design Thinking

What is “Design Thinking”?

Design thinking is a human-centered process of designing new products or strategies by meeting people’s needs. Design thinking has five major processes: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. It may also be condensed to three stages, inventing a future, test, and adjust.

In my opinion, the process of empathize and define truly differentiated design thinking process from the regular designing process. By immersing to the life of his or her target customers, designers can find out what they might need but don’t actually have right now. Therefore, human was being placed at the center of the process

Constraints of Design Thinking — Pessimism

As we’ve experimented in the class, by combining our empathy and creativity, designers can probably come up with a great amount of ideas. However, in the real-life settings, major restriction comes in when designers need to collect feedbacks from targeted users.

In Anthony Pannozzo’s article “Why Design Thinking Initiatives Fail”, optimism is the fuel that keeps empathy and creativity running in the design thinking process. Despite how design thinking was pictured in articles, in real design thinking processes within organizations, it is usually consist of frustration and fake “excitements”. As the process repeats, pessimism will grow and eventually kill creativity and empathy.

How 3D will revolutionize design thinking?


As Dr. Weightman mentioned in the interview, 3D printing will very likely democratize the designing process by lowering the requirements for designing. People no longer have to possess multiple special skills to realize their design.


As described previously, organizations need to assure the designers with optimism to make design thinking continuable. 3D printing helps with this process by realize more of designers ideas. Under the same budget line, 3D printing can reduce the amount of work required for prototyping and make more ideas realized. Because the marginal cost for 3D printing is extremely low comparing to traditional modeling, it might even be possible in the future when designers don’t have to get their ideas authorized by organization directors before prototyping.

Early Fail

Meanwhile, 3D printing can shorten the recursive process. One of the key tenets for design thinking is: Fail early, fail often. After each fail, designers need to go back to previous processes and figure out what may be adjusted. By allowing more prototypes being produced, 3D printing allow designers to find out what is going to work and what is not in an earlier time.

What are the concerns?

3D printing might democratize the design thinking process and offer optimism for designers, but there are still other concerns ahead. Will 3D printing process encourage team work? As A functional team for design thinking should be consisted of people from different backgrounds. However, if the design process can be done by one, it may discourage people from forming teams. Therefore, as an organization adopt design thinking process and 3D printing, it must lead the designers work together and share strengths.

Here is a list of other pitfalls that people may run into during design thinking process.


Week 3 Reflection


 #Week3 #DesignProcess #LogoPrinting #HowCanWe

As written on the website of Chicago Architecture Foundation, “The Design Process is an approach for breaking down a large project into manageable chunks.”[1] Today was all about the design process. The ways in which one should go about in making a product. Coming from a major that is all about design, it was a good revision. For this, a club called Design For America had come to class to make us all experience and explain the distinct steps of a design process.

What’s so great about the design process? ‘We keep saying that there is no set start point for your own products design process, but the concepts and focuses of each phase are essential in helping you to build bigger, long-lasting products for the world to enjoy. Without a clear concise plan, you are only setting yourself up for a long road of setbacks and delayed products.’[2]

We were given three different cards, which had three different words on it. Each card had a different meaning depending on the color at the back of the card, namely, for whom the product was, what is the purpose of the product and a constraint. Our team had to make a product for preschoolers through which they could play music and the product should grow. This step is called defining a problem. Each team got a different problem. At first we were all puzzled on how to make a product grow but eventually, we were able to figure it out. We took a different meaning for ‘grow’ and that was the product could be expandable. Next, we were supposed to think of different ideas for the product, this process is called ideation. We had to share our ideas with the other team members.

After this, to actually delve into the whole process of design all of us were given one problem. The main focus of this product was senior citizens. We had to think of the problems that senior citizens come across and make a product that could solve one or more of these problems. In this activity, we went from ideation to actually making a low-fidelity prototype for our product. We even made a “How can we” statement. Our team’s ‘How can we’ statement was: ‘How can we get senior citizens in retirement homes to feel needed/autonomous/respected?’

This was not it! After this informed lesson we got on to making a design for our team logos and names. The name of my team is ‘Ex-nihilo’, which is a Latin word meaning ‘out of nothing’. For the logo design, we were introduced to the software called Tinker CAD which is basically a CAD software for beginners. It was fun using the software.

Printed logo Image

To conclude, it was a day full of learning, from getting to know the design process to actually designing a logo using a CAD software.


[1] “DiscoverDesign Handbook.” DiscoverDesign. Chicago Architecture Foundation, 2016. Web. 08 Feb. 2017.

[2] “ZURB.” ZURB – Product Design, Interaction Design & Design Strategy. N.p., 2017. Web. 08 Feb. 2017.


Week 3: Inspiring, Ideating, and Implementing


When Design for America came to talk, I was quite taken aback. I was thinking questions like what does design or art have anything to do with IS/IT? But the presentation begged to differ. I was genuinely surprised how much design and innovation was used to actually create the beginning steps of a product. Like Brown mentioned in his “Design Thinking,” the design I assumed was for aesthetics or advertising strategies. Even when I think of design, I always think of forms of art category such as graphic design or interior design. Design thinking is taking an innovation or activity and changing it to fit human needs. In this day and age, a design must keep up with current technology.

Design for America's presentation

Professor Weightmen brought up that design thinking has to incorporate the desirability of humans, the viability of business, and the feasibility on the technical side. This was also seen in the article. For example, IDEO and Shimano (Japanese bicycle components manufacturer) designed a completely new category of bicycling. in the article, Brown talks about how the majority of American adults don’t because of dangerous roads and intimidation. To conquer such a problem IDEO and Shimano created coasting bikes that incorporated simplicity and straight-forwardness with the intent of pleasure and fun. This new product from an untapped market hoped to help Americans lapse into biking.

The presentation encouraged us to think outside the box. In business and design, success usually requires innovation that gives a company an advantage over other companies. As a group, we were given three design cards that forced us to design a product for a target group, a “problem,” and then a constraint. This was very fun since we got a mid-life crisis father who has everything with a constraint of the cloud. It challenged us to think differently while still making a product attractive and possible even when we had a big restriction.

Our group's (Tiffany, Taofik, and me) brainstorming and reasoning for the activity.

We also learned the three steps in design thinking: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. During class, as a group, we had to design a type product centered around senior citizens in their day to day life. This was very memorable because we were able to go through these steps to make something that had potential to become reality. For my group, we noticed that seniors often have less balance and fall easily. When they fall, they often don’t have the ability and resilience to get back up. We brainstormed many different ideas and possible products that could help the senior get the help they needed. Using such ideas we eliminated ideas that were less plausible and focused on something efficient and more likely to be used. Finally, we crafted a prototype of our product to show how it might work. Through this week’s we were inspired, we ideated, we implemented.

Our first prototype product for senior citizens.

Steven Widen’s “How to Use Design Thinking and Agility to Reach Product Development Breakthroughs” used another example of design thinking that is closer to home, the iPhone. Back in 2004, design thinking managed to push Apple on to the radar for innovation and creative technology. Even today Apple has stood far above the rest of the companies such as Motorola, or BlackBerry, and slowly but surely edging itself out of the competition with Samsung. Apple is able to stay successful by taking risks that they predicted will become the norm in a couple of years. For example, two years ago Apple decided to make the “plus” phones that were more than an inch bigger than the regular phone. There was a lot of critics on the phone, but now two years later, a big phone is normal and almost every phone designer has an option of going bigger with the size of the phone.

Design Thinking in Today’s World

Digital Making at the Makerlab last week was an eye opener. Representatives from the Design for America team held a workshop about design thinking and creating solutions to solve real world problems. The Design for America team at the University of Illinois creates products and solutions which help impact the society we live in and it was fantastic to see them hold a workshop as part of the digital making class to help us integrate 3-D Printing to solve real world problems. For example, DFA has come up with  an innovative product called TherepAlz which aims to help patients of dementia and and related disorders by using robotic therapeutic animals. At the workshop 6 teams of about 4 members each worked on creating a solution/product to help alleviate the challenges faced by Senior citizens in our societies. The DFA team walked us through the design process which started from thinking about a big problem and then narrowing it down to creating a feasible,attractive and a marketable product. My team focused on helping the elderly socialize and express their thoughts using technology. We created a type of glasses which old people could wear and record/stream videos about them either cooking a meal or sharing some interesting experiences. Also as a team we came up with a design logo for our team name. Here are some pictures from last week:

Displaying 20170206_144220.jpg

Displaying 20170206_163754.jpg

Design thinking is a process of creating products which are not only desirable by consumers but also feasible technically and business wise. Dr. David Weightman, who is a professor of Industrial Design in the School of Art and Design at the UIUC, explains in his interview that a good design is created at the intersection of desirability,feasibility and viability. It is interesting to understand how a product is created to impact the society. One must first reach out to that very society which needs help and understand what the people really want both technically and economically. Tim Brown, CEO of the international design consulting firm IDEO, gives interesting examples in his article “Design Thinking” where he talks about creating products which meet peoples need;s and desires. IDEO worked with Shimano, a Japanese bicycle manufacturing company, which was trying to understand why 90% of American adults did not ride bikes. The team then did in depth analysis to find the various causes of this problem and then implemented strategic ways to solve this day to day problem.Recently, BMW’s venture capital arm has invested money into a Boston based 3-D Metal Printing Startup company. Car manufacturing in the next 15 years could be revolutionized by this technology if made feasible and viable. Innovation today is drastically changing and with the advent of 3-D Manufacturing, the design thinking process is going to take a whole new turn and maybe help solve many of the worlds problems.

Week 3: The Design Process


This week we took a step back from 3D printing for a little bit and instead focused on the design process. Our teacher organized a workshop ran by the Illinois chapter of the DFA (Design for America), which is an organization where members come together to help and inspire each other throughout the design process. We were first split into the same groups as our semester project groups from the previous week. We then were given a set of conditions and needs for a product, and then we had to design a product that would fill all of those needs and conditions. After that exercise we then learned about how to identify needs when coming up with a product. For this exercise, the products had to be a new idea that could help out the elderly. Our group made a prototype for a bracelet that could connect to ones phone through Bluetooth. It could then by synced up to other objects such as medicine, wallets, and shoes. If the user got too far from these things the bracelet would vibrate and show a message on it’s screen telling the user what they forgot. It could also do things like remind the user when to take medicine. This would help with senior citizens who are struggling with bad memories.

I learned a lot from the DFA workshop. Before this, I had always thought that really smart people just had good ideas out of nowhere, and then just took that idea and sold it to a company or marketed it themselves. I was not aware that there was an organized structure most people have when coming up with ideas and then developing them so they can be feasible, cost-effective, and useful. This workshop taught me the valuable skills of how to identify a problem that needs solving, and then how to create a prototype for a product that can effectively solve that problem in a cost-effective manner.

After the DFA group left, we then were assigned to design our logos for our groups. Our group’s name is IJK, as the three members in our group are named Ian, Jack, and Kenny. We then created our logo and printed it out. The print is shown below.

3D logo | by johnburke9
In the future, hopefully I can use the valuable skills I learned this week about the design process to my advantage. Hopefully one day I can use these skills to identify a problem I come across in my life and make a product that could effectively not help only me but also countless others. These skills along with the 3D printing skills I am learning in class give me the tools to make great changes in the world, and I will keep them in mind when thinking of ideas as I continue to learn more about 3D design.