Where do I start if I want to learn about design thinking?

As far as gaining knowledge and skill in design thinking, there are many choices, and, like anything, it depends on how much time and money you’re willing to spend. Here’s a list of places to find workshops in the United States, but the online options and books can be accessed from anywhere.

In-Person Options

Online/ Blended Learning Options

  • eCornell Design Thinking Certificate Program You get a certificate at the end, and it takes 3 months, $3,600
  • MIT Mastering Design Thinking, through the Sloan Executive Education program, and receive a certificate at the end, 3 months, $3,300
  • MIT’s Mastering Innovation & Design Thinking, through their Professional Education department, you get 2 continuing education units, 3 days, $3,600
  • IDEO U They’re another leader in this space, and now they’re offering online trainings. They have a variety of design thinking topics chunked into online sessions. $399- $599
  • Udemy: Cooper Crash Course: Design Thinking in 3 Steps $195
  • d.school Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking, This is the standard 101 intro I’ve seen done with a bunch of first timers. They put their recipe and playbook online, so you can follow along on your own, but it’s best to do with a small group or class. This will give you the basic idea in a 90-minute design challenge. Free
  • Coursera: has a variety of options from different universities. (pricing variable or optional)
  • +Acumen and IDEO Introduction to Human-Centered Design and Prototyping: You’re supposed to have a team so that you can run through the process together. However, even if you just log in, you can download their materials, which I think are clear and informative. I’ve found that it’s more scholarly and explanatory then some other choices. Free
  • Adobe Kickbox: a self-directed program with all the tools you need to be guided as a designer. Follow along online, or download the package files here. Free


  • 99u: a conference for creative professionals and bringing ideas to life $900
  • Better by Design: at the University of Wisconsin-Madison $349

Books to Read

There are a plethora of books that are helpful to get started, here are a few of my faves:

Websites and Online Resources

And most importantly…you have to practice

Design thinking is easy to understand, conceptually, but tricky to get the hang of in practice. Just because you understand the general flow, outline, and key terms, doesn’t really mean you’ve mastered it. See my post about how it’s more than just thinking like a designer.

You’ll know you’re a master of design thinking when you start to see design challenges everywhere, and you can teach it to others, model it in any circumstance, and explain why each part matters.

In terms of really learning design thinking, it’s a matter of doing it again and again and again as well as applying it to a variety of problems that are more than products and spaces. The art of design thinking is when you can use it to transform systems, experiences, and processes. The more flexible you can become in your application, the easier it is to see how design thinking is an amazing problem solving process to break out of assumptions and old thinking.

The way I learned and honed my skills was by watching others who were masters, attending lots of events in different locations, volunteering as a team coach or facilitator at those events, and leading and facilitating it for teams at my workplace.

To find spaces to practice:

  • Join a meetup group or attend a Startup Week in your city (there are usually design-focused sessions where you can meet and network with other designers)
  • Search your local area for events. They can fall under titles like design scrimmage, sprint, jam, flashlab, designathons, or hacks. Sometimes, it’s even combined with lean and agile activities too.

These are some of the most popular options, but please share others that should be on this list.