Design Thinking

  Design thinking is a creative, problem-solving process which helps people design meaningful solutions. At its heart is the ability to see a situation from someone else's point of view, engineer a solution, and test it out to see how your solution works for them. The empathy required in the process is an essential skill for people working through any type of design process. Through design thinking, students understand their world by being able to see how it is put together and how the parts of any system or problem can be reinvented.

D39C Curriculum Design Process

Project Lead the Way Design Process

Mary Cantwell, Design Thinking Coordinator and IT Faculty Support at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (MVPS) in Atlanta GA has greatly influenced my thinking about design thinking (DT). A coach at Stanford's D school program, she created DEEP: Discover, Explore, Experiment, and Produce as her DT platform at MVPS. 

What all good designs have in common. 

  1. Thought-provoking intellectual challenges (inquiries, questions, problems)
  2. The challenge has been designed to optimize self-sustaining and productive work by learners, related to a clear and intellectually worthy goal
  3. The learners have become reasonably competent in classroom routines that foster productive goal-focused work
  4. The challenge cannot be accomplished by a worksheet, checklist or recipe. It requires strategic use of knowledge and skill, creative problem-solving, and critical thinking; and the eliciting of multiple perspectives on how to address the challenge and gauge progress.
  5. There is an unambiguous product or performance goal (even if there is ambiguity about how to achieve the goal), supported by clear criteria and standards, thus permitting ongoing student self-assessment and self-adjustment.
  6. There is enough feedback within the challenge (and resources) that the work can be maximally self-sustaining and productive.
  7. The teacher is therefore freed up to coach for a significant amount of time, permitting personalized feedback and guidance (as well as just-in-time mini-lessons). This coaching role also permits the teacher to determine what is and isn’t working in the challenge, and thus enables the teacher to quickly change gears if the desired learning is not occurring or the process is not working.
- Grant Wiggins in Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking

David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (otherwise known as the, believes that empathy is at the core of design thinking and being an effective designer.

Being an incredible designer isn’t necessarily about having a great aesthetic sensibility or coming up with out-of-the-box ideas. The basic premise of design thinking revolves around empathy, being understanding of what other people want, and how the world is put together from a social and emotional point of view. (

The following video clips follow a group of students as they redesign chairs and lockers and show their work at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair

Tools at Schools 1.Project Introduction

Tools at Schools 2.Research and Big Ideas

Tools at Schools 3.Scale Modeling

Tools at Schools 4.Rendering

Tools at Schools 5.Prototyping

Tools at Schools 6.Final Project Launch