Design Thinking

Build a product that matches the needs and interests of the user.




Made Especially for You

Ever wondered how people design successful toys, apps, beauty products, tools, websites, meals and everything else?

Well designed things are made with the user in mind. Makes sense, right? A good school should be designed with real students in mind. A good game should be designed with real players in mind. A good dog toy should be designed with real dogs in mind. You get the idea. When things are designed especially for the user, they are more personal and more useful.

Step into the shoes of a designer with this crash course on design thinking. In these activities, you’ll be designing something for an actual person, so find your person! Grab a friend who will walk through this module with you.

Now that you have your partner, you need a design challenge. For this project, your design challenge is to design the perfect bag (it could be a backpack, purse, wallet or anything else) for your partner.

If you really enjoy it, you could try the design thinking process to design anything you like -- an ideal school, a better teen center, the next mobile tech device, a website. Design Thinking can be used to design anything. We’re just starting with “the perfect bag” because it works well to begin with a simple example.

Start this module by playing a video about the Nike Flyease Shoe.

Lead your members in a conversation about how great designers can design a perfect fit for specific users. Let them know that for these activities, they are going to pair up with partner, and be both a designer and a user. This module is meant to teach them how designers think. Now, help everyone find and sit with a design partner.


What the User Needs and Wants

Before you can design the perfect bag for your partner, you need to understand your partner’s needs, interests and preferences. You’re only going to have three minutes to ask your partner as many questions as you can in order to design the perfect bag. What types of questions might be useful?

1. Choose one person to ask questions first.
2. Set a timer or stopwatch for three minutes. If you don’t have a watch on, you could use this Online Stopwatch.
3. Ask your partner all about his or her bag preferences. You might start with questions like:
-- Tell me about your favorite bag. What do you like about it?
-- What is not-so-perfect about it? What do you wish were different?
-- What would you like to use your perfect bag for? What do you need to carry around every day? Where would you take your bag?
-- Does your bag need to have any special qualities? It could be waterproof, glow in the dark, separate into smaller bags or have hidden speakers for your music, for example.
-- What are your favorite colors or designs?
4. Take a few minutes to jot down your notes and then get ready to switch roles and start over with the other person asking the questions.
The goal of this activity is for each member to figure out how to design the perfect bag for their partner. Tell your members that the partner who has the biggest hand can ask questions first. Project an Online Stopwatch on a screen or otherwise set a timer for three minutes.

Tell members they should try to ask as many questions as possible to figure out how to design the perfect bag for their partners. Share some question examples like “What do you carry around every day? What types of bags do you usually like? What types of bag do you usually dislike? Why?” When everyone understands, start the timer and say go. After three minutes, have the partners switch roles


Define Your Goal with a "How Might We" Question

Do you have an idea of what your partner is looking for in a bag? As an example, let’s imagine that we interviewed Joshua and found out that he wants a bag for his school books. He walks to school. Sometimes it rains, so he wants the bag to protect his books in all kinds of weather. He also carries a camera to school and it’s pretty fragile. Joshua says he always loses his keys in his backpack and that frustrates him. His favorite colors are red and black and he hates bags that roll on wheels.

Our “How Might We” question for Joshua might be:

How Might We design a rainproof backpack that will protect a fragile camera and make it easy for Joshua to find his keys?

Can you define your partner’s needs and desires for a bag? Try to summarize what your partner needs with a “How Might We” design question. Write it down, share it with your partner and then adjust your wording if your partner thinks of something else that you should include.
The goal of this activity is to pull all ideas together into a “How Might We” question. Write “How might we…” on a board or project the question from a screen. Ask your members to share some of the things they learned.

When you’ve heard a collection, propose a “How Might We” example like the Joshua scenario in the Youth Instructions. Challenge each member to write a “How Might We” statement for his or her partner’s perfect bag.


Brainstorm Ideas

Defining your partner’s needs and interests gives you some constraints. While some people like the idea of designing with no limits, rules and limitations can actually help people be more creative.

Set your stopwatch for 5 minutes. You and your partner can both come up with ideas at the same time (separately -- no peeking). This brainstorming process is often referred to as ideation.

When you ideate, you come up with as many ideas as possible. Think simple. Think complex. Think funny. Think practical. Think outside the box. Think inside the box. Think of something that isn’t a “bag” but meets all of your partner’s needs for a bag.

As you think of each idea, try to draw it or write it down on a separate sticky note, notecard, or section of a sheet of paper. Right now, all your ideas don’t need to be good. Just get them on paper.
Now that your designers have a “How Might We” question, it is time to come up with as many ideas as possible that might fulfill their goals. You could model this part by drawing on the board or thinking out loud. If you use the Joshua scenario, ideation could include a backpack made of bubble wrap, a plastic camera bag that inflates to protect the camera and an over-the-shoulder bag with a hook outside for keys.

Tell your members that they have five minutes to come up with ideas. They can sketch each idea on paper and add notes to describe things, or they could sketch each individual idea on a separate sticky note. Set your Online Stopwatch, and let the ideating begin.


Make a Prototype

If you’re going to paint a mural, you’d probably want to sketch out your idea first.
In the same way, if you’re going to build a product, you might want to build a prototype first.

A prototype is like a 3-D sketch of something you want to design. The prototypes in these photos of a plane, car, and backpack are all made of much cheaper materials than the real things and they won’t exactly work like the finished products. Still, the prototypes offer a good idea of what the real plane, car or backpack would be like.

Choose your favorite idea from your list. Can you build a prototype of the bag you want to design for your partner? Use simple materials like paper, tape, markers, rubber bands, pipe cleaners or other craft supplies.
Show the prototype images of a car, airplane, and backpack. Ask members why it might be smart to design a prototype or model before you start producing the real thing in a factory or store. Tell members to find out which one of their designs their partners like best. Then, challenge each member to build a prototype of that favorite bag out of craft materials.

Distribute craft supplies or show members where materials can be found. Tell members that these simple materials can be used to create a prototype of the bag they have imagined.


Test Your Prototype

One really important part of user-centered design is testing your design with the actual user. Present the prototype you made to your partner. Explain some of the features and how your design choices will fit his or her needs, interests and desires. Ask for his or her thoughts. Would your partner use a real life version of your prototype? Why or why not?

If you have a little more time, make a few changes based on the feedback you get. (That process is called iterating).

What else could you design-think? Can you use any of these practices when you design something else, like a website or app? Great inventions are born out of this process and yours could be next.
When members have finished their prototype (or it’s almost time to go), explain that “user testing” is an important part of thinking like a designer. User testing means showing the design to the person it was created for, and asking them what they think, how they would change it and how they could imagine themselves using the real version of the prototype. Encourage each pair to have a conversation about what they think of each other’s designs.


Save and Submit Your Work

Snap a photo of your prototype and write the statement from Activity 3 that explained what your partner needs. Send the photo and definition to work toward your design badge.
Take pictures of each design duo with their prototypes. Encourage members to upload those photos in order to earn a star.

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