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Design thinking refers to creative strategies designers use during the process of designing.[1] It is also an approach to resolve issues outside of professional design practice, such as in business and social contexts.[2] Design thinking in business uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.[3]


Origins of the term[edit]

The notion of design as a "way of thinking" in "the sciences can be traced to "Herbert A. Simon's 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial,[4] and in "design engineering to Robert McKim's 1973 book Experiences in Visual Thinking.[5] Bryan Lawson's 1980 book How Designers Think, primarily addressing design in architecture, began a process of generalising the concept of design thinking.[6] A 1982 article by Nigel Cross established some of the intrinsic qualities and abilities of design thinking that made it relevant in general education and thus for wider audiences.[7] Peter Rowe's 1987 book Design Thinking, which described methods and approaches used by architects and urban planners, was a significant early usage of the term in the design research literature.[8] "Rolf Faste expanded on McKim's work at "Stanford University in the 1980s and 1990s,[9][10] teaching "design thinking as a method of creative action."[11] Design thinking was adapted for business purposes by Faste's Stanford colleague "David M. Kelley, who founded the design consultancy "IDEO in 1991.[12] "Richard Buchanan's 1992 article "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking" expressed a broader view of design thinking as addressing intractable human concerns through design.[13]

Design thinking example video

Solution-focused thinking[edit]

Design thinking is a method for practical, "creative resolution of problems. It is a form of solution-focused thinking with the intent of producing a constructive future result.

Design thinking identifies and investigates both known and ambiguous aspects of the current situation in an effort to discover parameters and alternative solution sets which may lead to one or more satisfactory goals. Because design thinking is "iterative, intermediate "solutions" are potential starting points of alternative paths, allowing for redefinition of the initial problem, in a process of co-evolution of problem and solution.[14]

Solution-based vs. problem-based[edit]

In 1979 Bryan Lawson published results from an empirical study to investigate the different problem-solving approaches of designers and scientists. He took two groups of students – final year students in architecture and post-graduate science students – and asked them to create one-layer structures from a set of coloured blocks. The perimeter of the structure had to optimize either the red or the blue colour; however, there were unspecified rules governing the placement and relationship of some of the blocks. Lawson found that:

The scientists adopted a technique of trying out a series of designs which used as many different blocks and combinations of blocks as possible as quickly as possible. Thus they tried to maximise the information available to them about the allowed combinations. If they could discover the rule governing which combinations of blocks were allowed they could then search for an arrangement which would optimise the required colour around the layout. [problem-focused] By contrast, the architects selected their blocks in order to achieve the appropriately coloured perimeter. If this proved not to be an acceptable combination, then the next most favourably coloured block combination would be substituted and so on until an acceptable solution was discovered. [solution-focused]

— Bryan Lawson, How Designers Think[6]

"Nigel Cross concluded that Lawson's studies suggested that scientists problem solve by analysis, while designers problem solve by synthesis.[7]

Analysis and synthesis[edit]

The terms analysis and synthesis come from (classical) Greek and mean literally "to loosen up" and "to put together" respectively. In general, analysis is defined as the procedure by which we break down an intellectual or substantial whole into parts or components. Synthesis is defined as the opposite procedure: to combine separate elements or components in order to form a coherent whole. However, analysis and synthesis, as scientific methods, always go hand in hand; they complement one another. Every synthesis is built upon the results of a preceding analysis, and every analysis requires a subsequent synthesis in order to verify and correct its results.[15]

Divergent thinking versus convergent thinking[edit]

Design thinking employs "divergent thinking as a way to ensure that many possible solutions are explored, and then "convergent thinking as a way to narrow these down to a final preferred solution. Divergent thinking is the ability to offer different, unique or variant ideas adherent to one theme while convergent thinking is the ability to find the preferred solution to the given problem.

Design thinking as a process for problem-solving[edit]

Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking includes "building up" ideas, with few, or no, limits on breadth during a "brainstorming" phase.[16] This helps reduce fear of failure in the participant(s) and encourages input and participation from a wide variety of sources in the ideation phases. The phrase ""thinking outside the box" has been coined to describe one goal of the brainstorming phase and is encouraged, since this can aid in the discovery of hidden elements and ambiguities in the situation and discovering potentially faulty assumptions.

One version of the design thinking process has seven stages: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn.[4] Within these seven steps, problems can be framed, the right questions can be asked, more ideas can be created, and the best answers can be chosen. The steps aren't linear; can occur simultaneously and be repeated. A simpler expression of the process is Robert McKim's phrase "Express–Test–Cycle".[5] An alternative five-phase description of the process is described by "Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer: (re)defining the problem, needfinding and benchmarking, ideating, building, testing.[17] Yet another way to look at it is "Shewhart's "Plan-Do-Study-Act" "PDSA cycle.

Although design is always influenced by individual preferences, the design thinking method shares a common set of traits, mainly: creativity, "ambidextrous thinking, "teamwork, "user-centeredness ("empathy), "curiosity and "optimism.[10] These traits are exemplified by design thinking methods in ""serious play".

The path through these process steps is not strictly circular. Meinel and Leifer state: "While the stages are simple enough, the adaptive expertise required to choose the right inflection points and appropriate next stage is a high order intellectual activity that requires practice and is learnable."[17]

Design thinking is also closely aligned to "co-design, a form of design thinking where stakeholders associated with the product or service are directly involved in the design process at each stage. This process has been shown to produce more innovative solutions than more traditional perspectives of non-group based stakeholder consultation.[18]

Wicked problems[edit]

Design thinking is especially useful when addressing what "Horst Rittel referred to as "wicked problems, which are ill-defined or tricky (as opposed to wicked in the sense of malicious).[19] With ill-defined problems, both the problem and the solution are unknown at the outset of the problem-solving exercise. This is as opposed to "tame" or "well-defined" problems where the problem is clear, and the solution is available through some technical knowledge.[20]

For wicked problems, the general thrust of the problem may be clear, however considerable time and effort is spent in order to clarify the requirements. A large part of the problem solving activity, then, consists of problem definition and "problem shaping.[21]

Design thinking for social innovation[edit]

Social challenges require systemic solutions that are grounded in the client's or customer's needs. Nonprofits are beginning to use design thinking as well to develop better solutions to social problems, because it crosses the traditional boundaries between public, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. By working closely with the clients and consumers, design thinking allows high-impact solutions to bubble up from below rather than being imposed from the top.[22]

Attributes of design thinking[edit]


Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer, of the HPI-Stanford Design Thinking Program, laid out four principles for the successful implementation of design thinking:[17]

The "a-ha moment"[edit]

The "a-ha moment" is the moment where there is suddenly a clear forward path.[23] It is the point in the cycle where synthesis and divergent thinking, analysis and convergent thinking, and the nature of the problem all come together and an appropriate resolution has been captured. Prior to this point, the process may seem nebulous, hazy and inexact. At this point, the path forward is so obvious that in retrospect it seems odd that it took so long to recognize it. After this point, the focus becomes more and more clear as the final product is constructed.[24]

Methods and process[edit]

Design methods and design process are often used interchangeably, but there are significant differences between the two.

"Design methods are techniques, rules, or ways of doing things that someone uses within a design discipline. Methods for design thinking include "interviewing, creating "user profiles, looking at other existing solutions, creating "prototypes, "mind mapping, asking questions like the "five whys, drawing "issue trees (or issue maps[25]), and situational analysis.

Because of design thinking's parallel nature, there are many different paths through the phases. This is part of the reason design thinking may seem to be "fuzzy" or "ambiguous" when compared to more analytical, "Cartesian methods of science and engineering.

Some early design processes stemmed from "soft systems methodology in the 1960s. Koberg and Bagnall wrote The All New Universal Traveller in 1972 and presented a circular, seven-step process to problem-solving. These seven steps could be done lineally or in feed-back loops.[26] Stanford's developed an updated seven step process in 2007.[27] Other expressions of design processes have been proposed, including a three-step simplified triangular process (or the six-part, less simplified pyramid) by Bryan Lawson.[6] Hugh Dubberly's free e-book How Do You Design: A Compendium of Models summarizes a large number of design process models.[28]

Design thinking calls for considering the given user case from various perspectives, empathizing with users, and addressing various stakeholders.["citation needed]

The use of visual analogy in design thinking and learning[edit]

Ill-defined problems often contain higher-order and obscure relationships. Design thinking can address these through the use of "analogies. An understanding of the expected results, or lack of domain-related knowledge for the task, may be developed by correlating different internal representations, such as images, to develop an understanding of the obscure or ill-defined elements of the situation. The process involves several complex cognitive mechanisms, as the design task often has elements in multiple cognitive domains—visual, mathematical, auditory or tactile—requiring the usage of multiple "languages", like "visual thinking.

The languages of design[edit]

Conventionally, designers communicate mostly in "visual or object languages.[7] Symbols, signs, and metaphors are used through the medium of sketching, diagrams and technical drawings to translate abstract requirements into concrete objects. The way designers communicate, then, is through understanding this way of coding design requirements in order to produce built products.[29]

The process of design thinking[edit]

As an approach, design thinking taps into innate human capacities that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices.[22] The process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps: inspiration, ideation, and implementation;[30]or alternatively: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.[31] Projects may loop back through inspiration, ideation, and implementation more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions. Therefore, design thinking can feel chaotic, but over the life of a project, participants come to see that the process makes sense and achieves results, even though its form differs from the linear, milestone-based processes that organizations typically undertake.[32]


Generally, the design process starts with the inspiration phase: understanding the problem or the opportunity. This understanding can be documented in a brief which includes constraints that gives the project team a framework from which to begin, benchmarks by which they can measure progress, and a set of objectives to be realized—such as price point, available technology, and market segment.[32]


Designers approach users with empathy, understanding what humans need or might need, what makes life easier and more enjoyable, what is technologically useful and more usable. It is not only about making things more ergonomic but about understanding people - the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about the world, and what is meaningful to them.[31] Conventional research methods, like focus groups and survey, can be useful in pointing towards incremental improvements, but those don't usually lead to breakthroughs because these techniques simply ask people what they want. Henry Ford understood this when he said, "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said 'a faster horse." and no one would have said a car.[32]

Ideation: Divergent and convergent thinking[edit]

"Ideation is idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of "going wide" in terms of concepts and outcomes.[31] The process is characterized by the alternation of divergent and convergent thinking, typical of design thinking process. To achieve divergent thinking, it is important to have a diverse group of people involved in the process. Multidisciplinary people—architects who have studied psychology, artists with MBAs, or engineers with marketing experience—often demonstrate this quality. They're people with the capacity and the disposition for collaboration across disciplines.[32]

Interdisciplinary teams typically move into a structured "brainstorming process by "thinking outside the box". During this process participants ideas should not be judged and participants should take generative role.[33] Participants are encouraged to come up with as many ideas as possible and to explore new alternatives. Good ideas naturally rise to the top, whereas the bad ones drop off early on. Every member of the team needs to possess a depth of skill that allows him or her to make tangible contributions to the outcome, and to be empathic for people and for disciplines beyond their own. It tends to be expressed as openness, curiosity, optimism, a tendency toward learning through doing, and experimentation.[22] Convergent thinking, on the other hand, allows for zooming and focusing on the different proposals to select the best choice, which permits continuation of the design thinking process to achieve the final goals. After collecting lots of ideas, a team goes through a process of synthesis in which it has to translate ideas into insights that can lead to solutions or opportunities for change. This approach helps multiply options to create choices and different insights about human behavior and define in which direction the process should go on. These might be either visions of new product offerings, or choices among various ways of creating interactive experience.[32]

Complexity and mindset conditions[edit]

More choices mean more complexity, which can affect organization's decisions to restrict choices in favour of the obvious and the incremental. Although this tendency may be more efficient in the short run, it tends to make an organization conservative and inflexible in the long run.[22] Divergent thinking is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation, and a way to diverge is to define a mindset of condition in which people are encouraged to produce lots of ideas. The most notable themes fall into three general traits: open-minded collaboration, courage, and conviction.[34] Open minded refers to the concept of being opened and accept new ideas and contributions. Courage is also fundamental because innovative ideas are characterized by a high risk of failure. It permits to face failure, element of high importance in order to improve in the right way. In addition, conviction is the mindset which permits to carry on a process or an idea even if there are constraints or obstacles.

Implementation and prototyping[edit]

The third space of the design thinking process is implementation, when the best ideas generated during ideation are turned into something concrete.[22] At the core of the implementation process is prototyping: turning ideas into actual products and services that are then tested, iterated, and refined. A prototype helps to gather feedbacks and improve the idea. Prototypes speed up the process of innovation because allow to understand strengths and weaknesses of new solutions. Prototyping is particularly important for products and services destined for the developing world, where the lack of infrastructure, retail chains, communication networks, literacy, and other essential pieces of the system often make it difficult to design new products and services.[22] Prototyping, testing, "failing many times but quickly and cheaply in order to succeed"[35] are different existing methods to test solutions, but the earlier users can give feedbacks, the lower are the costs for the organizations and higher is the level of adaptation of the solution to customer needs.

Differences from science and humanities[edit]

Although many design fields have been categorized as lying between science and the arts and humanities, design may be seen as its own distinct way of understanding the world, based on solution-based problem solving, problem shaping, synthesis, and appropriateness in the built environment.

One of the first "design science theorists, "John Chris Jones, postulated that design was different than the arts, sciences and mathematics in the 1970s. In response to the question "Is designing an art, a science or a form of mathematics?" Jones responded:

The main point of difference is that of timing. Both artists and scientists operate on the physical world as it exists in the present (whether it is real or symbolic), while mathematicians operate on abstract relationships that are independent of historical time. Designers, on the other hand, are forever bound to treat as real that which exists only in an imagined future and have to specify ways in which the foreseen thing can be made to exist.

— "John Chris Jones, Design Method[36]

Nigel Cross built upon the early work of "Bruce Archer to show the differences between the humanities, the sciences, and design in his paper "Designerly Ways of Knowing".[7] He observed that in the sciences the phenomenon of study centres around the natural world, the appropriate methods being controlled experiment, classification, and analysis. In this culture, objectivity, rationality, neutrality, and a concern for "truth" are most valued. In the humanities, analogy, metaphor, and evaluation serve as methods of study of the human experience. The values of this culture include subjectivity, imagination, commitment, and a concern for "justice". Design, however, concerns itself with the artificial world and uses modeling, pattern-forming, and synthesis to study it. In design, practicality, ingenuity, empathy, and a concern for "appropriateness" are the core values.

Design thinking in business[edit]

Design thinking has two common interpretations in the business world:["citation needed]

  1. Designers bringing their methods into business by either taking part themselves in business process, or training business people to use design methods
  2. Designers achieving innovative outputs or products (for example, the "iPod)

The first interpretation has been described by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, at a "TED lecture,[37] though his blog[38] also considers the second interpretation.

The limits of the first kind of design thinking in business are also being explored. Not all problems yield to design thinking alone, where it may be a "temporary fix".[39] Design thinking companies including IDEO and "Sense Worldwide are responding to this by building business thinking capabilities.[40]

Tim Brown has argued that design thinking is now widely, but sporadically, used in business. He argues that competitive advantage comes from sustained use of design thinking, from becoming "masters of the art."[41]

In organization and management theory, design thinking forms part of the Architecture/Design/Anthropology (A/D/A) paradigm, which characterizes innovative, human-centered enterprises. This paradigm also focuses on a collaborative and iterative style of work and an "abductive mode of thinking, compared to practices associated with the more traditional Mathematics/Economics/Psychology (M/E/P) management paradigm.[42]

A study by the "London Business School found that for every percent of sales invested in product design, profits rose by an average of 3 to 4 percent.[43]

Historically designers were only introduced in the last steps of product development process, focusing their attention on improving the look and functionality of products, instead looking for a high impact on the world and the society. Design was a tool of consumerism, able to make products more attractive, easier to use and more marketable.[44] In recent years designers developed specific methods and tools to deliver products and services and businesses are beginning to realize the necessity of design as a competitive asset. Therefore, designers bring their methods into business by either taking part themselves in the earliest stages of business processes or training business people to use design methods and to build business thinking capabilities. Design thinking, as the perfect balance between desirability, technical feasibility and economic viability helps organizations to be more innovative, better differentiate their brands, and bring their products and services to market faster.[44]

Design thinking in education[edit]

Design thinking has been suggested for use in schools in a variety of curricular ways,[45][46][47] as well as for redesigning student spaces and school systems.[48]

Design thinking in education typically takes three forms: helping school administrators solve institution-based problems, aiding educators to develop more creative lesson plans, and engendering design thinking skills in students.

There are currently many researchers exploring the intersection of design thinking and education.[49] The REDLab group, from "Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, conducts research into design thinking in K-12, secondary, and post-secondary settings.[50] The Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Program is a collaborative program between Stanford University and the "Hasso Plattner Institute from "Potsdam, Germany.[49][51] The Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Program's mission is to "apply rigorous academic methods to understand how and why design thinking innovation works and fails."[51]

"SPJIMR, a top B-school in India, offers a road map to build design thinking culture in the organisation and has implemented the approach across its different management programs.

In addition to enriching curriculum and expanding student perspectives, design thinking can also benefit educators. Researchers have proposed that design thinking can enable educators to integrate technology into the classroom.[52]

Design thinking as a viable curricular and systemic reform program is increasingly being recognized by educators. "Much of today's education system guides students toward finding the correct answers to fill-in-the blanks on standardized tests, as this kind of instruction facilitates streamlined assessments to measure success or failure ... It is critical that, particularly in under-served schools this model of learning does not continue to prevail. Students need both the skills and the tools to participate in a society where problems are increasingly complex and nuanced understandings are vital."[53]

Uses in K-12 education

In the K-12 arena, design thinking is used to promote creative thinking, teamwork, and student responsibility for learning. The nonprofit Tools at Schools aims to expose students, educators, and schools to design thinking. The organization does this by facilitating a relationship between a school and a manufacturing company. Over a minimum of six months, representatives from the manufacturing company teach students the principles of design and establish the kind of product to be designed.[54] The students collaborate to design a prototype that the manufacturer produces.[54] Once the prototype arrives, the students must promote the product and support the ideas that lead to its design.[54]

An example of the Tools at Schools partnership is the redesign of school equipment by 8th grade students at "The School at Columbia University. The students were divided into groups and asked to redesign a locker, chair, or a desk to better suit the needs of 21st century pupils.[55] The students' final products were displayed at the "International Contemporary Furniture Fair where they demonstrated their product to fair attendees and industry professionals.[55] Overall Tools at Schools not only introduces students to the design process, it exposes them to the design profession through their interactions with designers and manufacturers.[55] Since the students work together in groups, design thinking in education also encourages collaborative learning.

Another organization that works with integrating design thinking for students is the corporation NoTosh. NoTosh has a design thinking school to teach instructors how to implement design thinking into their curriculum. One of the design thinking techniques NoTosh adopted from the corporate world and applied to education is hexagonal thinking. Hexagonal thinking consists of gathering cut-outs in hexagon shapes and writing a concept or fact on each one. Students then connect the hexagons by laying related ideas or facts together. The visual representation of relationships helps students better conceptualize wicked problems.[56] Another concrete example of design thinking in action is NoTosh's "Googleable vs NonGoogleable Questions" exercise.[56] Given a specific topic, students brainstorm questions on that issue and divide their questions into "Googleable and NonGoogleable."[56] Students research the Googleable questions and present their findings to the class while the NonGoogleable questions are used to create a project.[56]

Stanford University's Taking Design Thinking to Schools Initiative

Apart from non profit entities and corporations, research universities are also involved in deploying design thinking curriculum to K-12 schools. Part of Stanford's efforts to incorporate design thinking in education into a hands-on setting is the Taking Design Thinking to Schools initiative. The Stanford School of Education and partner with K-12 teachers in the "Palo Alto area to discover ways to apply design thinking in an educational setting.[57] "Teachers and students engage in hands-on design challenges that focus on developing empathy, promoting a bias towards action, encouraging ideation, developing metacognitive awareness and fostering active problem solving."[57]

Taking Design Thinking to Schools identifies the following design thinking process:

By employing this process, the Stanford team and Taking Design Thinking to Schools participants collaborate to develop coursework that students will find engrossing and "hands-on."[57] Thus, the program at Stanford combines both design thinking for teachers who must create alternative curriculum and students who must complete the design thinking-based projects.

The K12 Lab at Stanford

The K12 Lab network is a part of the Stanford University's and according to its website its mission is to "inspire and develop the creative confidence of educators and support edu innovators catalyzing new models for teaching and learning."[58] The K12 Lab Network publishes a wiki with information on creating design challenges for K-12 schools. The wiki provides tools for thinking about design challenges as well as criteria for implementing design challenges.[59]

The Design Thinking for Educators toolkit

The Design Thinking for Educators toolkit was developed in 2011 by the design firm IDEO in partnership with the PreK-12 independent school "Riverdale Country School.[60] The Design Thinking for Educators toolkit that is currently offered to the public for free download is the second version.[61] The Design Thinking for Educators toolkit is a comprehensive resource for educators to use, which includes a "walk-through of the design thinking process complete with examples and a downloadable workbook".[62] The toolkit has been used in academic research to aid in the creation of an ""iPad learning Ecosystem".[63] to help design a program to aid at-risk youth in the transition from elementary to secondary school,[63] as well as to redesign libraries.[62]

Practical Guidelines for Design Thinking at Universities without particular Design Thinking Facilities (Design Thinking on a Shoestring Budget)

Design Thinking does not necessarily require specialized facilities, tools, and environments. Design Thinking sessions in a higher educational setting can also be conducted on a shoestring budget. Hand-on guidelines fitting to the needs of typical university settings shall help to be able to conduct Design Thinking sessions within the context of normal university settings.[64] Media management education has been acting as one sample scenario for performing these type of Design Thinking sessions.[65]


"AIGA has implemented a movement, DesignEd K12, to take designing thinking to schools. This movement is guided by volunteers and there is not a specific program to follow; instead volunteer designers introduce students to the design field and consequently, design thinking. DesignEd K12 intends to motivate students to use design thinking to solve problems; to create a network where designers, students, and educational professionals share best practices; to shape a recommended approach to teaching design; and to cultivate a passion for design among young people.[66] Across the nation, many of AIGA's chapters are working with school districts. The programs range in scope; some mentor students who have shown an interest in design, while other programs offer students the opportunity to explore design and participate in design thinking projects within scheduled classed or through an after-school activity.[66]

Uses in higher education

Design thinking is currently being taught in "workshops, supplemental training, courses, or degree programs" in over 60 universities and colleges.[67] Design thinking is used by colleges as a way to instruct students on the phases of design, and to help develop innovative solutions to existing problems.[67] The at "Stanford University is a well-known design thinking program in higher education, with students from Stanford's departments of engineering, medicine, business, law, and education utilizing the to develop innovative solutions to problems.[68] The "University of Kentucky also has formalized instruction on design thinking through its dLab. The dLab serves a multitude of functions from helping schools resolve their issues with design thinking to conducting empirical experiments on design thinking to collaborating with outside organizations to provide issues that plague their organization.[69] "Radford University, located in Radford, Virginia, currently offers a "Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in design thinking.[56] The MFA degree offered is a completely online degree that emphasizes design thinking, design history, design research, design management, and design doing.[70]

The "Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School and the "Maryland Institute College of Art began offering an MBA/MA in design leadership in 2012.[71] Students simultaneously earn a master of arts degree in design leadership from an art school as well as an MBA from a research institution.

Obstacles to implementing design thinking in schools

The accountability to succeed on high-stakes standardized tests in K-12 environments prevents the implementation of design thinking curriculum. Educators feel that focusing on classic curriculum will better prepare their students to perform well on these exams.[53] Resistance to design thinking also springs from concerns about the appropriateness of applying design thinking to an educational setting. It has been argued that design thinking is best applied by professionals who know a field well.[72] Therefore, K-12 students who are limited by their reduced understanding of both the field and their still developing intellectual capacities may not be best suited to design thinking activities.[72]

Another more subtle obstacle to design thinking in schools may come from members of the academic community who believe design thinking should remain in the milieu of avant-garde companies.[73] Other issues that may prevent the implementation of design thinking in scholastic settings may be a lack of awareness of the field, educators' uncertainty in implementing new approaches to teaching, and lack of institutional support.

Even for institutions that see the value of design thinking, there is the issue of implementing these new approaches to education successfully. Admittedly "creating an effective thinking and successful team learning experience is a sticky wicked problem."[67]


pre-1960 The origins of design thinking probably lie in the development of creativity techniques in the 1950s. Harold van Doren published Industrial Design – A Practical Guide to Product Design and Development, which includes discussions of design methods and practices, in 1940.
early 1960s The first notable books on methods of creativity are published by "William J. J. Gordon (1961)[74] and "Alex Faickney Osborn (1963).[75]

The 1962 Conference on Systematic and Intuitive Methods in Engineering, Industrial Design, Architecture and Communications, London, UK, started interest studying design processes and developing new design methods. [76]

Books on methods and theories of design in different fields are published by "Morris Asimow (1962) ("engineering),[77] "Christopher Alexander (1964) ("architecture),[78] "L. Bruce Archer (1965) ("industrial design),[79] and "John Chris Jones (1970) ("product and "systems design).[80]

1965 "L. Bruce Archer argues that design is "not merely a craft-based skill but should be considered a knowledge-based discipline in its own right, with rigorous methodology and research principles incorporated into the design process". He is also perhaps the first author to use the term 'design thinking', in a limited sense, in his book "Systematic Method for Designers", in the comment "Ways have had to be found to incorporate knowledge of ergonomics, cybernetics, marketing and management science into design thinking".[79]
1967 Archer develops the relationship of design thinking with management: "The time is rapidly approaching when design decision making and management decision making techniques will have so much in common that the one will become no more than the extension of the other". [81]
1969 "Herbert A. Simon, notable for his research in artificial intelligence and cognitive sciences, proposes a "science of design" that would be "a body of intellectually tough, analytic, partly formalizable, partly empirical, teachable doctrine about the design process."[4]
1973 Robert McKim publishes Experiences in Visual Thinking,[5] which includes "Express, Test, Cycle" (ETC) as an iterative backbone for design processes.

"Horst Rittel and "Melvin Webber publish "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning" showing that design and planning problems are wicked problems as opposed to "tame", single disciplinary, problems of science.

1979 "L. Bruce Archer extends inquiry into designerly ways of knowing, claiming: "There exists a designerly way of thinking and communicating that is both different from scientific and scholarly ways of thinking and communicating, and as powerful as scientific and scholarly methods of inquiry when applied to its own kinds of problems."[82]

"Design Studies", the first research journal focussing on design processes begins publishing.

1980s Systematic engineering design methods are developed, particularly in Germany and Japan. The International Conferences on Engineering Design (ICED) is formed.

Several books on engineering design methods are published, by Hubka (1982),[83] Pahl and Beitz (1984),[84] French (1985),[85] "Cross (1989),[86] and "Pugh (1991).[87]

In the USA, the "National Science Foundation initiative on design theory and methods led to substantial growth in engineering design methods in the late-1980s. The "American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) launched its series of conferences on design theory and methodology.

The 1980s also sees the rise of "human-centered design and the rise of design-centered business management.

1980 Bryan Lawson publishes How Designers Think about design cognition in the context of architecture and urban planning.[6]
1982 "Nigel Cross publishes "Designerly Ways of Knowing", drawing on design research to develop Archer's concept that "There are things to know, ways of knowing them and ways of finding out about them" that are specific to design, and showing designerly knowing and thinking to have sufficient intrinsic worth to be included as part of general education.[7]
1983 "Donald Schön publishes The Reflective Practitioner in which he sought to establish "an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes that [design and other] practitioners bring to situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflict."[88]
1986 The business management strategy "Six Sigma emerges as a way to streamline the design process for quality control and profit.
1987 Peter Rowe publishes Design Thinking, focused on architecture and planning.[8]
1988 "Rolf Faste publishes "Ambidextrous Thinking", extending McKim's process of visual thinking to design as a "whole-body way of doing."[10]
1991 The first symposium on Research in Design Thinking is held at Delft University, The Netherlands.[89]

"IDEO design consultancy formed by combining three industrial design companies. They are one of the first design companies to showcase their design process, which draws heavily on the "Stanford University curriculum.

1992 Richard Buchanan's article "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking" is published.[13]

Eugene S. Ferguson's book "Engineering and the Mind's Eye is published.

1999 Pierre Sachse and Adrian Specker publish the book "Design Thinking" at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - ETH Zurich.[90]
21st Century The start of the 21st century brought a significant increase in interest in design thinking as the term becomes popularized in the business press. Books about how to create a more design-focused workplace where innovation can thrive are written for the business sector by "Richard Florida (2002),[91] "Daniel Pink (2006),[92] "Roger Martin (2007),[93] "Malcolm Gladwell (2008),[94] Tim Brown (2009),[95] Thomas Lockwood (2010),[96] Vijay Kumar (2012),[97] Larry Keeley (2013),[98] and Kim Erwin (2014).[99] This shift of design thinking away from the product fields and into the business sector sparked a debate about the hijacking and exploitation of design thinking.
2001 The UK based design consultancy firm livework opens up for business on the basis that the design approach should be extended and adapted to tackle the design of services, marking the beginning of the "service design movement.[100]
2005 "Stanford University's begins to teach engineering students design thinking as a formal method.[17]
2007 "Hasso Plattner Institute for IT Systems Engineering in "Potsdam, Germany establishes a design thinking program.[17]
2008 "IIT Institute of Design launches Design Camp, premier executive education program offering frameworks and tools for practicing innovation in a variety of industries.[101]
2015 Jenna Leonardo, Katie Kirsch, Rachel H. Chung and Natalya Thakur from "Stanford University's founded Girls Driving for a Difference[102] to teach design thinking to young girls across the United States.[103]

See also[edit]



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Further reading[edit]

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