Methods and frameworks for design thinking

Published on January 31, 2024   13 min
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Hello, my name is Marg Konkel and I'm an Associate Professor of Design Thinking at Radford University. Today I want to talk with you about the practice of design thinking. The methods and frameworks that have developed in order to enact the potential of this creative approach to solving problems.
First, let's remind ourselves of what design thinking is. In the core principles of design thinking lecture in this series, you will know that design thinking is at the same time a toolkit or a set of methods that designers use. It's a process by which those methods are combined in order to flex between divergent and convergent thinking, and it's a mindset that designers cultivate over time when practicing these methods and processes. In addition to the methods and processes, design thinking has a set of core principles that guide the work of creative problem solving. Design thinking uses empathy or human centeredness as a core foundation for everything. It values experimentation and learning from the small failures that come from testing ideas quickly and early. Design thinking celebrates collaboration and bringing together diverse perspectives and it invests as much, if not more, energy in ensuring the problem is correctly identified or framed as it does in generating solutions.
Now that we have a better sense of what design thinking is, let's look more closely at the methods and frameworks used in design thinking. Methods make up our toolkit and they help us enact the core principles of design. For example, in order to build empathy for a user or a customer to live up to the human centered thinking that describes design thinking, we reach for certain methods that reliably allow us to understand with empathy that user experience. Interviews and empathy maps allow us to engage directly with the user in a way that we can appreciate the forces that shape them, what they see and hear in the world around them, and what their fears or motivations might be. Alternatively, we might conduct an exercise in which we immerse ourselves in the world our customer inhabits through a walk-a-mile immersion. In this method, we can begin to appreciate the customer experience through firsthand knowledge though it's important to point out that there are always limits to this. It's always best to engage the customer in a problem solving effort from start to finish. Do not replace their daily lived experience with our one hour immersion experience. To engage the user in an even more participatory way, we might ask them to prioritize their ideas or needs on an issue with a method like what's on your radar. In doing so, we can understand and empathize with what's most or least important to them and use that to guide our problem solving work.