3 Sub-types of Design Thinking

One might read the title of this article and say, “what exactly is design thinking?” Well, that can be a complicated question to answer seeing as how there is so much that plays into the process of design thinking. By definition, design thinking is a process of critical thinking used to solve complex problems and reach an all-around desirable and effective solution. To describe every aspect of the process would be overwhelming and intimidating, so I am going to simplify that for you by separating the methods into three different sub-types, so that hopefully you as the reader can find it easier to identify a method that works best with you and your personality.

First of all, let’s identify the main aspects that must be achieved in order to properly design think. There are certain mindsets that one must have, and they include: having bias toward action rather than thinking, embracing experimentation, having empathy for those around you, focusing on clarity, being mindful of every step of the process, and enabling collaboration. It is also important to identify the 5 different modes of design thinking. The first, and most important, is to empathize. Having empathy for those around you, which was also pointed out in the mindsets, is labeled as the foundation of the design thinking process. You need to understand the people you are working with and be able to put yourself in their position and think about what it would be like to be in their shoes. A better understanding of how they feel and what they are going through will lead to a more effective solution in the end. The next mode is to define. After you gather your empathy findings, you must use them to find an appropriate challenge, and then create a problem statement using your own point of view. Next, you must ideate. In simpler terms, you must explore many types of solutions to your problem and create lots of different ideas and possibilities. The next step in this process is to create a prototype. In reality, you should create several different prototypes that are physical models of your solutions. Finally, the last step is to test your different prototypes, in order to refine your solutions. All of this is the main process of design thinking in general, but there are a multitude of different methods that can be used to achieve this process. Finding a method that works best for you can be the hard part, so I am going to separate some of those methods into what could satisfy different personality types.

Sub-type 1: The Logical Learners

For those of you that are list-makers, and like to create checklists or diagrams, the following methods might be most appealing to you. The first method is to create an empathy map.

Empathy map template

What is an empathy map, you ask? It really is exactly what it sounds like. The idea behind this method is to create a “map,” or diagram, that allows you to get all your thoughts out on paper and organize the mess of ideas in your head. Filling in a template like the one pictured above can help you to identify ways to properly empathize with your selected audience and eventually identify solutions to your problem. As we mentioned before, empathizing is the most important part of the process of design thinking, and this method can help you achieve that.

Another method that could be useful for people with a list-making type of personality is called why-how laddering (example pictured below).

This is another way to create a diagram that would help organize the thoughts in your head. You may have an end goal in mind, but might now know how to reach that goal. Why-how laddering can help you with that process by starting out with identifying your main goal and then working your way down the achievement process by asking “why?” and “how?” types of questions. Being able to map out your thoughts in this way could help you organize your ideas and reach a more effective solution.

Sub-type 2: The Visual Learners

For all you camera people out there, this sub-type is directed straight towards you. There are a couple methods of design thinking that involve the use of a camera and video, and they can be highly effective. The first method is called: User Camera Study. In this method, the design-thinker asks the members of their selected audience if they can take pictures of them and their lives. A user camera study allows you to reach a point of empathy by seeing the user’s experience directly from their point of view. You are able to see what it is like from their eyes, which would allow you to better understand their situation and reach a more effective solution. You also have the option to go through the pictures you took with the audience and allow them to explain their significance. This can be a really great way to see things from a different perspective.

Another method useful for this particular personality type is simply called shooting video. This is exactly what it sounds like; instead of just taking pictures of the users’ lives, the design thinker takes videos of the audience and uses that to achieve a better and more empathetic understanding of their challenges. It is also useful to video throughout your whole design thinking process, not just for observation. Creating video to communicate your ideas to others around you can be powerful. In today’s world, sharing messages through media such as this can reach a wider audience than charting data can. This is a creative way to spread your ideas and gain a following that can be useful in collaboration.

Sub-type 3: The Verbal Learners

That’s right! There is also a sub-type for those of you out there who are talkers. The first method of design thinking that could satisfy people like this is called storytelling. This is a fantastic way to connect with your audience. In this method, the user attempts to convey their ideas by drawing on emotions and creating a narrative that is easy yet interesting to follow. This captures the audience’s attention and keeps them involved throughout the process while allowing the design thinker to express their creative side and use their voice. Another method similar to this is called story share-and-capture, identified below.

The purpose of this method is to vocalize your findings and ideas and share them with the people around you. This sharing of ideas allows different perspectives to be shown and can lead to a better understanding of the problem identified. People who prefer talking about their thoughts to create a better solution can benefit greatly from using this method.

Now that I have split up some of the methods of design thinking into different categories that appeal to different personality types, you should be able to find and implement a method that will be successful for you. There are so many possibilities and ways to express your creativity through design thinking. It’s time for you to take this information and use it in the real world. Go show your talents and teach others how to design think!