Reflecting on Design Thinking

Tap Into Your Creative Zone Animated Clipart Thinking - CloudyGif
Representation of the Logic side of the brain and the Creative side of the brain

I have officially reached the end of this seven-week design thinking experience. I learned how to think about who we are building products or services for and now how to build the product. This process added to my design capabilities a single word that changed the way I did things – thinking. Instead of focuses on just design, I focused on design thinking to create innovative solutions and ideas. It helped me learn about the users and making the experience fit them instead of wishing the users fit the experience.

Below are all the activities that I took part in over the past seven-weeks. I split them up by module to make it easier to follow. Throughout this time I was able to explore and practice strategies gush as user personas, ideation mash-ups, point-of-view statements and journey maps.

Module 1: Design Thinking Overview

Design thinking is a method of problem solving that focuses on understanding the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify strategies and solutions that were not apparent during the initial level of understanding. It is also a solution-based approach to solving problems; it a way of thinking and working combined with hands-on methods.

Through a facilitated, digital exercise called the Crash Course in Design Thinking from the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stamford University. This course provided an opportunity to go through the entire design thinking process in under an hour. It was an interactive activity where I followed the process in real-time. There was a worksheet I needed to follow, it was super fast-paced and fun.

Page 3 of the Crash Course for Design Thinking

Module 2: User Psychology

After participating in the process of Design Thinking, I took a deeper dive into user psychology. In order for designers to design from the user perspective, they have to understand the particular characteristics of our users. They need to understand the science behind the way people think, what they pay attention to, how they process information, and what motivates their behavior. For the designers to understand how these concepts apply to design, they explore their own feelings and needs about the product, service or device.

To further examine this in real-time I created three examples of a product, service, and device that I use and how I feel about them. This was a warm up exercise for another assignment where I needed to take two different websites and analyze them in detail with the statement “This website makes me FEEL ________ because my NEED for ________ was OR was not being met.” This sentence structure makes us think about why we enjoy the website, and whether it satisfies what we want. We can describe our reactions and experiences on the site.

Module 3: User Empathy

Now understanding the basic psychology behind how users respond to design, it is necessary to dig deeper into the specific emotional responses and mindsets of individuals. A powerful tool to learn more is an empathy map. These maps uncover the thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions of a specific individual within the learner population. To fully understand this concept, I was assigned a television show to watch, where we had to analyze characters within the show. Using an empathy map, I charted my observation of each individual to better understand how I could approach solving the characters problems.

Module 4: Creating Comprehensive Personas

Empathy maps can be useful while looking at individuals; personas are useful for capturing the overall essence of the learners – who they are, the skills they have, their goals, their motivations, and their frustrations. Creating personas are a way of capturing the users on paper and can be used as a guide for future decision making. I developed two personas based off one of the websites I chose during the user psychology module. I was able to see the different types of people who engage with the website. I learned the differences and similarities of these people through their personas.

Module 5: Problem Definition

Now that we have figured out ways to understand the user we can use that form of design thinking into instructional design but we can’t solve a problem that we can’t define. Design thinking can be built upon that analysis by providing the designer with tools to define the problem in a way that is clear, specific, and actionable. To further examine how to create problem statements, I used the sentence structure “________ is a challenge for ______ because __________.” For a product, service and device. This then lead into another assignment which made me do research on apps and create point of view statements, which had the sentence structure “[User … (descriptive)] needs [need … (verb)] because [insight … (compelling)].” Both these statements would reveal compelling insights.

Module 6: Ideation Methods

Once the problem is fully defined, it is now time to come up with the solutions. In the ideation phase of design thinking, solutions are explored without judgement. The goal for ideas is quantity over quality. Even the ones that are completely unrealistic and not possible can be refined and have the possibility to be the most practical. It’s important to never let anyone say your ideas aren’t good because they can be awful at the beginning and created into something fantastic. Creating a wide range of ideas allows your mind to think freely and more creatively than doing so with restrictions and limitations. There are many different methods to generate new ideas. To fully understand some of the methods I focused on a few of them: mash-ups, brain-dumps, mind-maps, and sketch-storms.

Module 7: Journey Map

There are many strategies in design thinking that share commonalities with the instructional design process. It is easy to find where they overlap. One of the very interesting applications is the customer journey map. Customer journey maps visualize the interactions a user has with the company or service. Journey maps help designers gain an understanding of the user’s perspective and what they want to achieve. We can use the maps to identify pain points and areas for improvement, or to track their interactions with individuals in the process. To fully understand the impact that a journey map has on a company, I created one about getting a haircut.

Customer Journey Map for getting a Hair Cut

Design is more than a process, it’s more of an experience. Design doesn’t end with the sold product or service, it developed and changes as cultures and people change. To create what doesn’t exist yet, we have to understand the needs and problems of what does. This course taught me so much. It taught me all about the user experience design field. I had the opportunity to practice a variety of methods which will be useful moving forward. The design thinking approach can have a powerful impact on the design of effective user-centered experiences.

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