This week I partnered up with a fellow student to work through Stanford d.school’s Design Thinking Crash Course. I hopped on zoom from a hotel room in San Francisco and joined my partner Maggie to kick-off the virtual workshop. We both made friendly introductions and shared our feelings of intimidation and uncertainty over what to expect from the session. Nevertheless, we jumped right in and found ourselves pleasantly surprised by what we had experienced and created in such a short time.
The course explores the five stages of design thinking (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test) by putting them into practice. The objective was to improve the gift-giving experience for our users (i.e., our partner). We both played the roles of designer and user, and by doing so, we were able to understand each role’s interconnected relationship in problem-solving.
In just an hour, this exercise brought clarity and confidence into my design thinking capabilities. I realized that meaningful solutions emerge from working through the process and collaborating with users. This understanding makes me feel less pressured to have the right answer right away or that the solution needs to come from my head alone. Despite not ever meeting each other or contemplating the process of gift-giving, Maggie and I were both able to generate unique, catered solutions by asking questions, ideating, testing, and re-iterating.
I also learned the value of sharing work early and often. Traditionally trained in graphic design, I’ve spent a lot of my career waiting for a design to be “perfect” before sharing it with others—holding on to it for too long, then feeling disappointed if changes are requested. So naturally, I felt uncomfortable sharing raw sketches with Maggie for feedback. But with every sketch I shared, we discussed the ideas further and molded the solution into something better each time. This has taught me the value of inviting the client or user into the conversation earlier and more frequently. The sketch quality isn’t as important as the idea it represents and the discussions those ideas can generate.
Overall, the experience was extremely valuable in gaining a solid understanding of design thinking by putting it into practice and witnessing its potential to generate solutions. It made me feel more confident in problem-solving by recognizing the answer is not mine alone to solve. The solutions are the end-product of the design thinking process, and our ability to define and defend them becomes more tangible with every step we take.
If you’re interested in trying out the crash course yourself, you can find it here. Below is a cleaned up version of the results from mine and Maggie’s session.