Making Design Process Your Own: Visualizations and Variations

Making something your own is a key marker of learning. It is true for both individuals as well as for organizations. As design thinking as a way of learning spreads in schools and programs across the globe we are watching to see how people vary the design thinking process and make it their own. We think it is an exciting sign of the growth and development of the movement.

Over the years at the we’ve visualized the design thinking process in different ways. Our current standard visualization has 5 phases:


After students at the have worked through the design thinking process over a couple of project cycles we specifically ask folks to come up with their own process visualization. The prompt is a simple one, meant to elicit their visceral sense of the process and to ground them in the habit of being mindful of process.

bootcamp process image big process wall

Being “mindful of process” makes you keenly aware of what stage of the design process you are engaged in and what behaviors and goals you may have at any given moment. For instance, when do you need to be highly generative vs. when you need to converge on a single path? Or when you need more empathy vs. more ideas?

What follows are a few examples from schools of different visualization of the design thinking process. For example at Nueva’s I-Lab a key part of the visualization is the question: “What Next?” This question encourages students to be mindful of process. The goal is not simply to do what is on the page, but to interrogate:  “What do I actually need to do next?”

nueva process

At the Henry Ford Learning Institute schools the process looks like this:

HFLI design-thinking-circle

At Urban Montessori we’ve made the key elements of the design thinking process into the school’s core values. The words — notice+care, work together+create, share+reflect — are things that we hope all members of the community, from kindergarteners to board members, parents to teachers, will actively use as they discover opportunities and solve problems.

UMCS Core Values Cube

Of course not just schools/programs are visualizing the design thinking process… IDEO/Riverdale’s Design Thinking for Educators has conceptual buckets:

design thinking for educators

And designED: Integrating Design Thinking into Your Classroom (new e-book by Maureen Carroll and her Lime Design partners) has these three modalities:

designED image

We love collecting visualizations and seeing how you are making design thinking your own. Please let us know: How are you (and your students?!) visualizing the design process?