5 Favorite Design Thinking Charts

This is part of my 4–5–6 series on Design Thinking Listicles.

4 Favorite Brainstorming Process // 5 Favorite Design Thinking Charts // 6 Favorite Stoke Activities


Charts are a perfect example of the power of visual communication. So often I find myself grabbing a piece of paper (or jumping in excel) and communicating in charts. What requires a verbose paragraph can be explained in a few lines on a whiteboard. In celebration of charts I compiled five of my favorites that align with the main design thinking phases. (I don’t have one for define 😞).

1) Project Mood Curve [IDEO]

The vertical axis is emotion

‘Notice what team leaders at IDEO are doing with the peak sand-valley visual: They are creating the expectation of failure. They are telling team members not to trust that initial flush of good feeling at the beginning of the project, because what comes next is hardship and toil and frustration. Yet, strangely enough, when they deliver this warning, it comes across as optimistic.

That’s the paradox of the growth mindset. Although it seems to draw attention to failure, and in fact encourages us to seek out failure, it is unflaggingly optimistic. We will struggle, we will fail, we will be knocked down-but throughout, we’ll get better, and we’ll succeed in the end.”

[This comes from Chapter 10 of “Grow Your People” in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. I highly recommend this book]

Source: Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

2) Empathy [Standford d.school]

You’re on Medium so chances are you’ve already seen 100 pieces on why empathy matters. But I like this chart because it reminds us to pace interviews — take is slow. I also enjoy this associated guidance from the d.school:

Ask why::Never say “usually” when asking a question::Encourage stories::Look for inconsistencies::Pay attention to nonverbal cues::Don’t be afraid of silence::Don’t suggest answers to your questions::Ask questions neutrally::Don’t ask binary questions::Make sure you’re prepared to capture

Source: Bootcamp Bootleg

3) Ideate [Jump Associates]

Often, the problem with a poor brainstorm is that the group just isn’t getting stupid enough. The desire to get to great ideas prevents us from suggesting the absurd. It’s those absurd ideas, though, that can help us ricochet back to get the really great ideas we’re looking for.

Source: The Ebb and Flow of Ideas by Dev Patnaik [Additional]

4) Prototype [The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship]

Cost is on the Y axis and time is on the X axis

“The reason we want you to get your idea to fail early can save you time and money in the long run. Even though it can be difficult to hear criticism, we often learn more from failure than from confirmation. In this sense, prototyping is a way to figure out: What might make my idea fail? What variables can I test to “break” my idea before I take it to the next resolution?”

Source: Intro to Prototyping by The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Graph and text)

*A similar graph is shown in Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days you can view scans here

5) Test [Nielsen Norman Group]

“So Nielsen analyzed eighty-three of his own product studies. He plotted how many problems were discovered after ten interviews, twenty interviews, and so on. The results were both consistent and surprising: 85 percent of the problems were observed after just five people.

Testing with more people didn’t lead to many more insights — just a lot more work.”

Source: Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users by Jakob Nielsen


What is your favorite chart? Share it with me!