Stop thinking. Start doing. A design toolkit by Hillary Chin.
Anyone can create. You just need the right tools. This is a toolkit that focuses on instilling Design Thinking practices that can be applied to anything. You can create a game, a rocket ship, an improved shopping cart, a car anything that humans use, with these principles. Thatâ€™s the power of Design Thinking. Creativity and problem solving lies all in the process. The Design Thinking process of finding a solution for a problem or opportunity is humancentered and involves the user throughout all the steps. This toolkit will explain several different methods in the four main stages of design. With these tools in your belt, youâ€™ll be ready to design anything!
W H AT I S D E S I G N ? Introduction *
i D E AT E
* Identify a problem * The Five Whys * User Interviews * Contextual Inquiry * Diary Studies Surveys * Problem Statement * * User Personas
I T E R AT E
* Breakup/Love Letter Sketching * * Brain Dump/Concept Map Frankenstein * Bodystorming * * Design Charrette
What is design? Everything.
Design is solving for a problem or an opportunity to make something better. Design is all around us, from the jeans that you wear, to the pencil you use, to the train you take home after school.
“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” – Tim Brown
Nielsen Norman Group
The Double Diamond model, by the UKâ€™s Design Council
Design thinking is a cylical process. There are many different models to represent the design thinking process but they all share common characteristics. Design thinking begins with understanding the problem space through research, followed by analyzing all the research gathered and defining the constraints, exploring a range of possibilities, and testing the ideas to decide the best solution.
IDENTIFY A PROBLEM In order to design a solution, you need to decide what the problem you want to solve or opportunity to improve something is. In design thinking, problem finding is just as important as problem solving. To find a problem, we start with observation and seek to understand the context surrounding a potential problem rather than focusing on the actual problem itself. You can begin with a general idea or audience that you wish you design for. From this starting point, you will then research and engage directly with users to define a more specific problem.
S TA R T I N G P O I N T E X A M P L E S : *
New York City homes
Come up with 5 of your own starting point examples. Think in a general sense of areas or audiences you are interested in learning more about to find a problem to solve within that group.
METHOD: THE FIVE WHYS Now that you’ve chosen your desired general audience to work with, it’s time to get out and start engaging with them! Start a conversation with someone from your user group and ask them about what problems they face. When they give you a problem, ask why. Continue asking “why” four more times, and you’ll probably learn that the real root of the problem isn’t what you or your user thought it was!
Y O U : Hi, I’m interested in finding out more about what problems dog owners face on a daily basis. Could you tell me a little about the problems you encounter? D O G O W N E R : My dog barks too much at home and it’s disturbing my neighbors. Y O U : Why do you think this happens? D O G O W N E R : I haven’t trained him to not bark. Y O U : Why’s that? D O G O W N E R : I don’t have time to train him.
Y O U : Why? D O G O W N E R : I find that training takes too much time. Y O U : Why? D O G O W N E R : I don’t know any reliable and efficient training techniques. Y O U : Why? D O G O W N E R : I have difficulty finding them. Aha! While it may seem annoying to ask “why” so many times, it offers valuable insight to dig a little deeper past the surface of an apparent problem. More often than not, you learn through this method that the real problem is different than the percieved intial problem. Here we learned that the dog owner needs to find better training techniques that don’t take as much time, rather than a vague problem that their dog is barking too much.
N OW T RY I T YO U R S E L F !
Ask a partner about some problems they face at home or school. Ask “why” 5 times to dig deeper to the root of the real problem.
METHOD: USER INTERVIEWS User Interviews are a personal way to gain insight with an individual user by directly asking them questions. These one-on-one conversations can lead to rich and deep information about the feelings and reasonings of your audience. You can uncover unexpected and targeted information about your users. While they can be time consuming to conduct and does not necessarily represent realistic use of a product, user interviews are often crucial to much of design research. Their personal nature deeply increases user empathy, wich is essential to design thinking.
CONDUCTING AN INTERVIEW *
Be prepared. Have your questions ready.
Make participants feel comfortable. Explain the goal of your interview and ensure that your participants are at ease to answer questions honestly and in detail. Let them know that their answers will be confidential.
Respect boundaries. If your participant feels uncomfortable answering a certain question, donâ€™t push them. They are volunteering to be interviewed, after all.
Listen actively and ask follow-up questions when necessary. You might find out something unexpected, confusing, or too general. Ask follow-up questions for more clarification. Take notes! Conduct the interview without an audience. Having others can distract or sway a participantâ€™s answers.
A BAD EXAMPLE Q : So do you think itâ€™s difficult for New Yorkers to keep their homes tidy and organized? A : Yeah, I guess so.
Q : And would you say that your bedroom area is the messiest? A : Oh yeah, now that you mention it. Q : Could a cleaning service help alleviate this problem? A : Maybe, yeah.
Can you figure out why this was a bad interview? Jot down some notes by the questions and answers above pointing out the reasons why.
The bad interview example was filled with biased, leading questions that manipulated the user into answering in a desired manner. These questions did not generate any valuable insights on the users actual feelings or attitude toward the cleanliness of New York homes. Here are some examples of how you can turn a bad question into a good one!
ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS Ask open-ended questions.
Is it hard for you to keep your home clean and organized? What problems do you experience in your home regularly? Ask about actual behavior, not intention.
How often do you plan on cooking this year? Describe how often you cooked in the last year.
Avoid leading, biased questions.
Do you think cooking every day is healthier and saves money?
What are you feelings on cooking regularly? Avoid compound questions.
When youâ€™re shopping online do you browse the sales first or look a specific item or apply coupons or...
Describe your typical online shopping process. What steps do you take?
Avoid pointing out specific issues.
A lot of people are mad that the iPhone 7 removed the headphone jack. How do you feel about that? What do you think about the iPhone 7?
Particpants 2 Tools Pen/pencil Paper Goal Understand your partnerâ€™s morning routine
Grab a partner. You will be the interviewer and your partner will be the interviewee. Before you start the interview, come up with questions that you want to ask your partner. Make sure they follow the guidelines of good questions that you just learned. Interview your partner. Take notes and ask follow up questions if necessary. Summarize your findings. Switch roles.
METHOD: CONTEXTUAL INQUIRY Contextual Inquiry is an even more personal way to understand your user and their behaviors by directly observing them in the environment and context of your problem area. By putting yourself in the shoes of your user, you gain true empathy and learn more explicit and detailed information than interviews, survey, or other data. For example, if you are trying to find out what problems people in New York City have in their home, you would visit the home of someone living in NYC and quietly observe their behaviors. You can ask questions for clarification while you are in the context of what you are trying to solve. Obviously, it is even more important to make your participant feel comfortable and understand your goals and what exactly will happen during the contextual inquiry. Comfort is especially important so that the participant carries out their normal behaviors as they would if you weren’t there.
Particpants 2 Tools Phone or computer Goal Understand your partner’s online shopping habits
Grab a partner. You will be conducting the contexual inquiry. Before you start, explain to your partner that you will be quietly observing their online shopping process and asking questions when clarification is needed. Let them know that they shouldn’t do anything differently than normal. Have your partner go to their favorite online shopping store and browse as they normally would. Observe what steps they take, how they navigate the website or app. Take notes and ask questions when necessary.
METHOD: DIARY STUDIES Diary Studies is a method that allows for personal observation over a long period of time. Participants themselves document their life and behaviors, providing information that is rich in detail and allow you to see the usersâ€™ experiences from their eyes and perspective. However, it can also be hard to recurit participants and for participants to maintain their documentation or diary, in addition to creating potential for misinterpretation of information.
An example of a kit given to a participant of a diary study. Everything they will need to record their behaviors and needs should be provided to them, whether or not that includes a camera, voice recorder, paper diary, post-it notes, etc.
METHOD: SURVEY Chances are, youâ€™ve probably taken a survey at some point in your life. Surveys are a popular method to quickly gather large amounts of data and information at the same time, and to reach a large audience. However, it is also difficult to get detailed responses and understand the reasoning behind the problems that are being reported. Surveys also risk a sampling bias, where part of your intended audience is being represented less than others.
Now you have a much better understanding of your users and the real issues that they are actually facing. Did your initial thoughts about your intended audience and what problems they had differ from what you discovered in your interactions with them? A lot of times, they do! And even if you predicted correctly, you now have actual research to confirm your hunches.
DEFINE A PROBLEM STATEMENT After you finished conducting your research to understand your users and now it’s time to begin generating many creative ideas and potential solutions for the problems you observed and learned about. Before you start prototyping solutions, you should create a defined problem statement that will help focus on designing for the users’ problems and stay on track. A problem statement should be focused on the problem and not the solution. It should be narrow enough in scope so that the problem statement will measure when you have solved the problem.
CONSTRAINTS All design must have constraints. Without them, we wouldn’t know when to stop designing! Constraints usually come in the form of time, audience, and platform. For example, the design of this toolkit had a time constraint of 1 week with an audience constraint of 7-8th grade students. Without these constraints, I would not have known who I was designing for, or when I need to be finished.
EXAMPLES Keeping a small, shared space clean and organized is difficult. People do not have enough time or space to do so, and find it an unattractive and uneasy task. How can people utilize their space effectively and fit everything they need in the right place? How can they maintain cleanliness daily?
Ensuring that there are always fresh groceries stocked in the kitchen is important to working professionals in New York City, who also have trouble knowing what to cook with what they have after getting home from work in a timely manner. How can we people shop and cook more efficiently? Typically, a good problem statement will describe a challenge, a reason, and a goal.
For one of the starting points used in the previous exercises, such as online shopping habits or morning routine, conduct more research with other users. Try interviewing more people or posting a survey online for people to fill out. Then, use the post-it notes in your toolkit to summarize the key points you learned from your findings. Are there shared problems that people are experiencing?
USER PERSONAS The participants in your research are not all exactly the same. We create user personas to summarize our research findings and understand who our user base is. Personas represent the real people who were involved in your research, without actually exposing their real identity or information. They represent the different types of users that may use the product similarly and their goals, needs, and interests. The following examples of personas show the different elements that are typically included, but visually they can be organized in many ways, as long as the information is clearly communicated.
First Name, Last Name Tagline
Bio and demographics
Behaviors and habits
Okay, so now that you have a defined problem statement, it’s time to start designing a solution for it. But hold up - you’re not on your own for this either. Your users are still involved! Participatory design is a huge part of design thinking. It’s pretty much even more research, but more visually than verbally like in our problem-finding ideation methods. It’s a collaborative effort that involves non-designers in the design process. The users are pretty much getting to directly help design their solution, with you guiding them along the way and learning a whole bunch of valuable insights. In participatory design we visualize the problem, learn more about what our users need and prefer, innovate, and generate many potential solutions in a low-cost and quick manner. The exercises in this section of the toolkit are framed so that you can practice the methods yourself to understand how they work. When you are utilizing them to prototype or test your solutions, you will have your users participate instead of yourself. So try getting other people to participate and you can practice facilitating!
METHOD: BREAKUP/LOVE LETTER This is a narrative method that involves participants writing a letter to a product, service, or company explaining what they love and hate about it. It gives them an opportunity to express the features and elements they want and don’t want, what they value, what they expect, and how it impacts their daily life.
Write a breakup/love letter to your phone or the company that sells your phone. Express to your phone or the company what you love and hate about your device, the features you wish it had, and what you expect from it or them.
METHOD: SKETCHING Sketching involves participants sketching and drawing out their ideal solution to their problem. For example, they can sketch how they want the interface of an app to look like or how they want modular furniture to organize their room to look like. They can express how they want the problem to be solved. From this you can learn unexpected and new ways of designing a solution directly from the users themselves.
This is a sketch made by a user for a customizable modular storage furniture design.
Sketch out what you want a mobile app for your school to look like. What would the interface look like? What menu options would there be? How do you want to access important information?
METHOD: BRAIN DUMPING/ CONCEPT MAPPING Brain dumping is a very straightforward and easy method. It simply involves taking everything that comes to mind when thinking about a problem and writing them all down - all of it! Itâ€™s a list of words and phrases that you immediately think of. From there, your participant (or even yourself as the designer) can create a concept map, to visualize how the concepts you wrote down in the brain dump relate to each other. It is a graphical representation of the concepts in the brain dump.
BRAIN DUMP EXAMPLE
CONCEPT MAP EXAMPLES
Make a brain dump using pen/pencil and paper and an accompanying concept map using post-it notes for finding a quiet place in New York City. The exercise under Define a Problem Statement that you did eariler is actually the concept map method in action!
METHOD: FRANKENSTEIN Frankenstein is similar to sketching but involves having parts of the interface or product already created and given to the participant. They can then rearrange and move the parts around as they see fit. This is a Frankenstein for the same furniture design mentioned earlier. I provided my participant with the possible storage compontents such as varying shaped drawers and different types of storage from cubes to trays, shelves, and hooks. My participant then rearranged the components to reflect how they would want their furniture to look like.
Frankenstein can also be used for rearranging elements of a user interface, such as for an app or a website.
METHOD: BODYSTORMING Youâ€™ve probably heard of and practiced brainstorming a lot throughout school right? Brainstorming is a group discussion to generate and gather creative ideas. Bodystorming is similar but takes the group dynamic to another level. With bodystorming, participants act out a scenario or product in a closed environment. Essentially like roleplay, participants walk through steps they would take with a product if it actually existed and act as though it exists in the place that it would be used. From facilitating a bodystorming session, you learn where you need to redesign as you discover challenges and issues. This method is particuarly helpful in designing physical spaces or products and itâ€™s a powerful technique in that it gets people up and moving and using their bodies in addition to their brains.
Looks weird, I know. But bodystorming was a helpful method in testing how users would assemble their modular furniture by representing real finished storage units with cardboard and plastic boxes and acting out the scenario.
METHOD: DESIGN CHARRETTE More often than not, you will not be working alone on design projects. Design Charette is an intensive design activity where team members come together in a collaborative meeting and quickly sketch or prototype designs to product a broad and diverse range of design ideas. This is extremely helpful in design thinking because each team member will have a different approach and vision to a problem. Everyone can come up with their own quick sketch and the team can then come together and figure out the best parts of each personâ€™s design to create a collaborative design that is better than the designs made by each individual.
Neilsen Norman Group
In these photos of a team participating in a design charrette, the four members individually come up with their own sketches and then discuss and explain their designs to the rest of the team.
Particpants 4 Tools Pen/pencil/marker and paper Goal Design charrette a sleep tracking mobile app
Form a group of 4. Take 15 minutes individually sketching your own designs for a sleep tracking app. It is up to you what features you wish to incorporate in your sketch. Then, take 5 minutes for each person to explain their design. Figure out amongst your group what the best features from each design are. Take 15-30 minutes to collaborate on a final design together.
CONCLUSION After you have finished conducting participatory design methods, you then must come up with prototypes that incorporate all that you learned from your research. The amazing thing about participatory design is that a lot of the work has probably already been done for you, because you learned what the user desires and wants in their solution. Itâ€™s your job to consolidate the different designs made by your participants along with the constraints of your problem statement, the challenges you came across during your research, and the unexpected findings you learned. When it comes time to test your prototypes, you will probably repeat a lot of the methods you already used. You will learn more valuable insights and unexpected findings in testing, and you will probably go back to the same methods again and again until you finally come up with the best solution.
Design thinking is an iterative process. First, you must conduct research to understand your users and intended audience. After you gather your information and summarize your findings to create a problem statement, you then conduct participatory design methods to prototype a solution, and you test your prototypes with your user. From there you once again gather the insights you collected and go back and do it all over again! The process repeats itself until you are sure you have reached the best solution that works for the majority, if not all, your users. Iteration is a key part of design thinking because the first solution is usually not the best one. We must continue designing and redesigning in order to come up with the best one. From there, we can develop and implement our vision. But until then, continue flexing your design thinking skills that you have now learned. With the skills and methods described in this toolkit, you can design anything.