What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a collaborative process of problem solving. It uses an organized method of observation and responsiveness, generating multiple solutions that are prototyped and tested. Design thinking is particularly helpful in dealing with ‘wicked problems,’ those that are ill-defined and complex, where both the seeds of the problem and the solution are unknown. It is a methodology that encompasses a multi-disparate, active approach to learning and develops strategies that are context dependent. Design thinking solutions are long-term, sustainable, and focused on the social good of our community.

One of the appeals of design thinking is that it can be used for any problem and in any setting. Initially developed out of Stanford’s d.school, many educational institutions have adopted design thinking as a method to help students synthesize their learning experience. Createdu describes their design thinking approach with students: “The design process challenges students to combine empathy, ingenuity, and rationality to meet user needs and create successful solutions with an innovator’s mindset.”


The elements of design thinking

Design thinking relies on distinct but related elements:

• empathizing

• defining the scope of an issue

• imagining possibilities (ideate)

• prototyping ideas

• incorporating feedback

These elements create an active learning environment. Inquiry into the problem is grounded in an empathetic knowledge of those affected by both the problem and potential outcomes, with the imperative to imagine how others in multiple circumstances will be affected. The success of the design thinking process then rests upon the ability to engage multiple perspectives for input and feedback. Failure is an integral learning component of design thinking and the springboard to success.

What is Design Thinking?

GVSU Design Thinking Initiative

A short introduction to the role of Design Thinking at Grand Valley State University through interviews with different students, faculty, and industry professionals.

Page last modified April 4, 2017