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.

3 thoughts on “The Ins and Outs of Design Thinking

  1. Good job on the post! I agree with you that all humans are born with a natural creativity and that this creativity can solve many of the problems we face today if put in a structured thinking process that still allows a lot of freedom such as the design thinking process. I thought your product idea in the first team activity was very impressive, as you were given very hard conditions and you still came up with a cool product that is definitely very feasible and cost-effective. I agree that the most important factor in the design process is definitely the consumer. After all, they are who the product is made for, and making sure that the product meets their needs should be the #1 priority. Also, the articles you provided links to in the blog were also very interesting, I agree that more organizations should make sure to have a more creative culture.

  2. Hi – I think you did an excellent job with your post it is very well written and nicely done. I really enjoyed reading about your groups design thinking experience. I would absolutely agree that a consumer of a girlfriend with a train and glass as required attributes truly is a very unique set of requirements. With that being said, thats what design thinking is all about right? It’s all about exploring more ideas more quickly than you could otherwise and I think you guys came up with a very unique solution of a glass notepad! (It could be cute, maybe I’ll get it for my girlfriend).

    However, I couldn’t agree more when you stress the importance of a creative culture that is defined by an organizations leadership. This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Grainger in their Enterprise Systems department as a Business Systems Analyst and from the first day I could feel autonomy in Grainger’s culture. Working in an Agile Methodology (which is very similar to Design Thinking) all the ideas were always bottom-up. What I mean by that is that Enterprise Systems whole leadership team truly believed in ideas being generated from the bottom of the organization up. So if someone had an idea they wanted to see put in place their team would write the business requirements for the idea, prototype it, develop it, test it, and deploy it. And having that autonomy really allowed creativity to flourish. And, I truly feel that creativity fueled the success for Grainger.

  3. I thought your group’s design at the workshop was succinct and effective. Your preplanning and notes were interesting to look at as well. I love how your article looks at businesses and their take on the whole “design-thinking uprise” and how some are using it improperly or not to its full potential. True passion and creativity are indeed the key and heart of this movement, and nurturing them is the only way to truly allow design-thinking to grow and accelerate as whole.

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