Design Thinking is a customizable process, but at its most basic level it consists of five phases.
In the initial stage, the Understand stage, design thinkers seek to build empathy with those facing the problem. By “deep diving,” designers seek to fully understand the user, often in ways better than the user knows themselves. This first step is a key foundation and sets the course for the remaining stages. Often termed “human- centered design,” the emphasis on empathy ensures the solution fits the needs of the user instead of the whims or ego of the designer.
The second stage, Define, seeks to form meaning from the discovery. The broad themes and ideas identified in the discovery stage are condensed into concrete opportunities. Designers take these insights, tell a compelling story of the problem, and create a clear path for the third phase, Imagine.
In the Imagine stage, we create and refine ideas. While brainstorming and dreaming outlandish ideas is exciting and energizing, the refining of these ideas offers a balance that keeps the focus on the needs of the person in need. Hundreds of ideas are often generated from a brainstorming session, but the refining process offers a reality check, resulting in ideas ready to be prototyped and tested in the fourth stage, Prototype.
Designers create and test prototypes in the Prototype stage. The rapid fabrication technologies found in the EurekaLab offer an immense amount of power to this stage. In the past, creating prototypes was costly - both in time and money. With new tools such as 3D printing and laser cutting, designers create real-life prototypes in minutes and for pennies. A fascinating power is unlocked when ideas become tangible in a prototype, both for the designer and for the user. When offered to the user, key feedback is generated that would be impossible otherwise. Similarly, when a designer is able to interact with their idea as a prototype, they quickly find needed refinements. While design thinking can happen anywhere, and prototypes can be made out of cardboard boxes, pipe cleaners and scotch tape, the power unlocked in the eurekaLab amplifies the creative design process.
The final stage, Try, tracks the learnings discovered while the solution is being implemented and seeks to refine and reinvent the solution to meet changing needs. Often, as a problem evolves, the design thinking process will begin anew.
Design thinking is not confined to the walls of the EurekaLab. The process is adapted and used whenever one encounters a problem. The future belongs to problem solvers; by equipping our students with a solving process rooted in finding solutions tailored for those in need, we prepare our students to excel and impact the world. Regardless of vocation or industry, our students will be tasked as citizens to meet the needs of our society.