What is Design Thinking?

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Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.
Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a set of methods and mindsets for solving problems, discovering opportunities, and generating innovative, human-centered solutions.

Also referred to as human-centered design, design thinking is a framework comprised of a series of steps and associated methods, and it is accompanied by core mindsets.

At its heart, design thinking, is about adopting a human-centered perspective and an attitude of continual experimentation.

The Steps

The steps we teach in our workshops, which are based on the Stanford d.school approach, are:

  • Understand
  • Define
  • Diverge
  • Converge
  • Prototype
  • Test

The cesign thinking cycle

Why does this matter for museums?

Museum visitors increasingly expect programs, services, and experiences that are intuitive, responsive, and well-designed. The design thinking process can transform the way a museum or cultural institution develops digital or analog products, visitor experiences, and services by giving staff the analytical, creative, and intuitive techniques and tools to frame and solve multifaceted problems.

Design thinking is a close cousin to many other user-centered methodologies, and shares many traits—such as an emphasis on iteration and testing—with the Agile and Lean methodologies. It’s a complement to evaluation and quantitative research, and provides the human stories and insights behind user data.

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