12 Key Design Thinking Terms You Need to Know

January 30th, 2014


To help you understand some of the key terms associated with design thinking, we compiled a handy list of the Design Thinking Terms to Know. So why not take two minutes, review the terms and expand your vocabulary?

Top Design Thinking Terms to Help You Understand the Approach

1.     Challenge

To apply design thinking successfully, it is crucial that the team has a common understanding of the problem they are facing. During the initial scoping phase of the design thinking process, the problem is defined along with the customer in a challenge statement. At the end of a project, the developed ideas and concepts will be measured against the previously defined challenge. Thus, it is important that each participant correctly understands the challenge. Rephrasing may be necessary.

2.     Customer-centricity

In design thinking, key players are involved throughout the process. The constant involvement of these key players will push your team to incorporate their ideas into the creative process, guaranteeing that the expectations of the customer are met by the proposed solution.

3.     Experimentality

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Source: Shutterstock

Design Thinking encourages people to try something new and think outside the box. Attendees should forget all of the conventional views they’ve adopted as an adult, and they shouldn’t worry about any of their ideas sounding crazy or far-fetched.

4.     Facilitator

The facilitator of the design thinking workshop provides the space and guidance to experience, embrace and practice design thinking. He may support the team to help refocus their activities on the challenge as it was originally defined in the beginning. He is also responsible for timeboxing.

5.     Ideation

Ideation is about generating as many ideas as possible for a given challenge and based on previously collected data. At this point in the design thinking process, the team starts to imagine what is possible without checking if their ideas are feasible and viable first. Various ideation tools and techniques like brainstorming or morphological analysis can be used here.

6.     Interdisciplinarity

Participants are mixed so that groups are as diverse as possible. Collaboration between individuals from different disciplines helps groups to view problems from more perspectives, allowing them to wholly embrace new ideas as possible solutions.

7.     Personas

Personas are fictional characters created to represent user types. They are used to consider the goals, desires and limitations of customers and to help to guide design decisions. Personas make the collected, abstract data about customers more personal and give it a human face.

8.     Prototyping

A prototype is an early model of a concept built to test and receive feedback iteratively and learn from that feedback. With simple prototypes, teams will produce something tangible to represent their ideas as soon as possible. Techniques used to experience the idea are role plays, storyboards or mock-ups. A prototype doesn’t need to be technical and complicated—it can be a simple visual aid to help guide further development. As long as it embodies the product as the end-user will experience it, the prototype fulfills its function.

9.     360° Research

In this phase of the design thinking process, participants research, discover, explore and capture information that serves to inspire the team and gain empathy for the involved stakeholders of the challenge. Diverging activities include field research (interviewing people) and competitive and industry research among others.

10.  Sticky notes

Sticky notes are an important tool in design thinking sessions because they force participants to put their ideas down on paper. They should be plentiful, and available in different colors and forms. Since they are small in size, people are forced to express their ideas in a short but precise way. Bold markers are recommended to increase their legibility from a distance. We suggest even using drawings to visualize ideas and concepts on sticky notes.

11.  Timeboxing

In a design thinking session, there are strict time limits. The facilitator gives people just enough time to get done and clearly define the required deliverables for each phase of the process. This way the workshop will move along at an exciting pace which encourages intense bursts of creative activity.

12.  Whiteboards / Flipcharts

Whiteboards and flipcharts of every shape and size are the center of attention at every design thinking session. They get covered with ideas by sticky notes and can be used to separate teams from each other. Thus, it is of utmost importance that they are light and portable.

Now you are well prepared to learn more about design thinking! Feel free to scan through some of our other design thinking blog posts on OpenPDA. Links can be found on the right hand side of this page.

If you are now interested in finding out how these terms and concepts work together within the entire complex design thinking approach, join one of our design thinking workshops or watch our free introductory webinar on design thinking.

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