Design Thinking

Although there's no proof Henry Ford said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” his alleged quip embodies the need for design thinking. Sometimes people can verbalize a need. "I want a bigger tv screen." "I wish this cell phone case came in blue." Those are product enhancements. "I wish I had a wine glass holder that hung around my neck." "I wish I had a mop that I could attach to my baby." Those are Sky Mall products. But the most revolutionary innovations are ones people may not have been able to identify. They come about only by understanding the user and employing creativity and a deep understanding of the context to arrive at innovative solutions, and then iterating on those solutions to find and perfect the best one. Innovations big and small can benefit from a design thinking mindset – of approaching a problem from an informed position while keeping the user in the forefront.

This course offers the chance to learn Design Thinking - a human-centered, prototype driven process for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. We will be biased toward action and learn by doing. Participants will work in small, multi-disciplinary teams and dive into a hands-on innovation challenge from start to finish.

Marlene Hernandez


Marlene Hernandez

Marlene is a Designer working with the Learning Group at Steelcase. Her team oversees designing and developing learner-centered experiences that allow the organization to become more innovative, agile and prepared for the disruptive environment we live in today. She is an explorer of concepts, ideas and artifacts that can help users find confidence in creative problem solving. Her passion is to inspire others to begin their personal exploration journey to find their motivations and apply them to their life and work. She draws from her background in Architecture and Interior Design, with a tendency to jump into anything that shouts Post-its, sharpies, skits and having fun while uncovering aha-moments.

Starts Sep 12, 2017

Sep 12th–Dec 19th
Every Mon 6pm - 8:30pm
Orientation: Sept 12th
Graduation: Dec 19th

Class size: 20 students

Cost: $800

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Course Goals

Understanding the Design Thinking Process

We'll go through an overview of the design thinking process and it's major phases or steps: frame the problem, understand, observe, synthesize, prototype, measure, and communicate.

Ensure the "Right" Problem is Being Solved

Problems are much easier to solve if you know exactly what they are, and they're much more impactful if you know you have the right one. Within a topic area, we will frame the right problem to solve by questioning our assumptions and ensuring the problem is focused on the user.

Know the User, Know the Context

Once we have our general problem defined, we must seek to know the context and the users involved. What is the user doing? Where? How? Why? This includes primary methods, such as interviewing, observation, participatory design, and secondary methods, or collecting information from published work.

Drawing Insights from the Data

Once you've collected data about the user and the context, how do you make sense of it? In synthesis, we will draw connections between ideas and observations to identify patterns. These patterns will lead to insights that will help us identify opportunity areas and potential solutions.

Prototype, Measure, Iterate

Now that we have a general idea of what solutions we might create, the prototyping phase is where we make those ideas tangible. We will build prototypes not only to help us express our ideas but to learn from them. After some iteration, we will put our prototypes to the test to see if they meet the user needs.


How do you share your findings and present solutions to others? By the end of the course, you will learn how to communicate information effectively when you present your final project to stakeholders.

Building your Design Thinking Toolkit

Throughout the course, you’ll be implementing a number of exercises to gain insights and test theories. As you’re working through your project, you’ll be simultaneously building your design thinking toolkit by documenting the exercises and creating your own tests that are transferrable and applicable to present and future projects.

Before Class You Should Know

  • An intense curiosity of the world around you
  • The willingness to look at, and approach, challenges and opportunities from a different lens
  • The ability to work collaboratively with individuals from different disciplines

After Class You Will Understand

  • Key principles and tactics of design thinking
  • Ability to lead and drive the design thinking process
  • Frameworks for developing deep consumer insights
  • How to reduce risk and accelerate learning through rapid prototyping
  • Key tools and methods of design