8a. Reflecting on the process

How might the design thinking process vary from project to project?

Variations on the design thinking process

You’ve now gone through a basic design thinking process with an example project - well done! The steps you went through map to the typical design thinking stages we identified at the beginning of this course:

But not every design thinking process occurs in this order, and not every stage in the  process is equally represented in each project. Here are some typical variations you may encounter:

The essential part that must always be represented, however, is “empathize.” Design thinking cannot occur without incorporating people’s wants and needs.


What to do if the empathize stage is limited

Sometimes a project won’t have the time, budget, or resources required for an ideal “empathize” stage that includes in-depth user research.

When this happens, you have a few options to make sure the empathize stage of the process is still represented:

  • Conduct brief “intercept interviews” with people out in public to get a quick sense of their opinions and attitudes about a given problem or topic; here are some tips on conducting intercept interviews. 

  • Read blogs, social media posts, and product reviews from target users online to better understand their current activities and thinking

  • Talk to your own friends and family about the problem or topic area to get additional perspectives

  • Look for existing reports about people’s behavior and activities available online - such as those from Pew Research, Gardner or IBISWorld (the latter two mainly offer reports for a high fee, but you may find useful free insights in related press releases or blog posts)

Which of the following are acceptable variations in the design thinking process?

  • Empathize > Analyze > Ideate > Empathize > Analyze > Prototype > Evaluate > Iterate
  • Ideate > Prototype > Iterate
  • Empathize > Analyze > Ideate > Iterate > Evaluate
  • Prototype > Evaluate

Reflecting on your experience using design thinking during this course

Share and reflect

Take a few minutes to reflect on key pivotal moments in the design thinking process you experienced during this course.

Share your thoughts on the topics below with your problem-specific learning group:

  • What surprised you or changed your thinking?

  • What part of the design thinking process was more helpful than you expected? Less helpful?

  • What piece of feedback did you get, from users or from other Scholars, that was most helpful?