A wall of Post-it notes in a design thinking session.

Five Emerging Trends in Design Thinking for 2020

Some key trends and themes to watch as design thinking enters a new decade.

As we close out the first decade of the 21st century, here are some emerging themes and trends in the human-centered design landscape that I’ve observed in my work.

A team generating ideas, after reviewing the fundamentals of brainstorming “best practices.”

1. There is a “back-to-basics” focus on the fundamental mindsets and skills of design thinking.

2. There is a growing awareness around the role that equity plays in the design process.

3. More organizations are beginning to operationalize design thinking and devote in-house resources, although smaller nonprofits still lag behind.

A service hallway filled with walls of Post-it notes and books on design thinking.
A “human-centered design hallway” in a library. Image courtesy of the Richfield Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library.
Museum staff members interviewing a visitor in a gallery filled with early modern art works.
Museum staff members conducting an interview with a visitor in the galleries.

4. There are increasingly specialized applications of design thinking to niche sectors and industries.

5. Misconceptions about what design thinking is, and is not, still persist.

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