A Design Thinker’s Process

Chapter 3 of Change by Design is called “A Mental Matrix” or “These people have no process!”

The Design Thinker’s Process: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation

Brown describes the Design Thinker moving through three major processes: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation.

The book doesn’t dive too deep into each process because Design Thinking is never that linear or clean. I agree with Brown when he says that inspiration/ideation/implementation are not strictly defined “stages” separated by “gates.” They are overlapping “spaces.”

As Brown aptly puts it, opportunities and insights don’t arrive on an exact schedule, so flexibility in this larger process is important.

I’d also argue that Brown doesn’t spend much time on the high-level process because it isn’t very applicable to the day-to-day work of the designer. The Design Thinker’s toolbox is much more applicable; the key tools of observation and insight and empathy can and should be used throughout the design process.

The other key take-aways from this chapter are the two major loops that happen over and over in the design process: divergent and convergent thinking, and analysis/synthesis.

Loop 1: Divergent and Convergent Thinking

This concept is perhaps one of my favorites in the ENTIRE frickin book! I love it. Great framework.

Divergent thinking = creating choices

Convergent thinking = making choices

A Design Thinker goes back and forth between the two. A Design Thinker knows when she needs to create new ideas versus narrow focus. A Design Thinker employs the proper approach at ANY stage of the project, depending on what is called for.

Be mindful of what you are trying to accomplish with any given task and consider which mindset is appropriate.

Loop 2: Analysis and Synthesis

Another great framework here.

Analysis = breaking complex shit down into something simpler

Synthesis = building whole narratives or stories from smaller things

From 30,000 feet, design can look very linear. First comes analysis, where you observe the problem space and gather all kinds of data. Then comes synthesis, where you examine your data and knowledge to form insights about the larger, deeper problems and possible solutions

While design can be that clean and linear sometimes, Brown says you should also consider analysis-synthesis to be a loop, just like divergent-convergent thinking.

Design Thinkers need to apply analysis and synthesis loops at different times throughout a project as needed until they find the insight they need.