The Elements of Design Thinking (Version 2.0)

As a follow up to my original post on the Elements of Design Thinking (Version 1.0), I present to you the Elements of Design Thinking Table, Version 2.0.

This second version builds on the feedback from version 1.0, and has been organized differently into families and periods based on my ever-evolving understanding of the concept of Design Thinking. I have had the good fortune of interviewing incredibly intelligent and insightful designers and design thinkers through a research study I am co-leading called Design Thinking Foundations. My learning through this project has prompted me to reorganize the elements the way I have and has brought some more clarity to my own personal definition of design thinking. As my Adobe Illustrator skills have also evolved (for the better, I hope!), I give you a more polished graphic above.

As you can see, there are more elements then last time, but I suspect the list will keep growing and the elements will continue to be reorganized. Compared to the first version, this one has fewer gaps — maybe indicative of some cohesive thinking around my own definition of design thinking?

In any case, I’m still facing the challenge of determining if something is truly an ‘element’, that is, a basic building block of design thinking, rather than a higher level concept that would be constructed from a combination of these elements. Understanding how these elements relate to one another in order to formulate higher level “molecules” is a design challenge in itself. I think it’s worthwhile putting some more thought into this though as it might help visually and conceptually explain the varying approaches and unique interpretations of design thinking that people have. For instance, you’ll probably notice how I have included elements that reflect my public health background such as “Sj: Social Justice”. This is an element I would expect to be very prominent in building a design approach or stance in health promotion, but probably not for someone working in the area of business design, for instance.

In this 2.0 version, I have included definitions below for each of the elemental categories for some additional context:

Mindset: Elements that refer to ideas, constructs, and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation

Meaning: Elements indicating the significance of design

Humanize: Humanizing elements that bring design closer to human nature or human use

Interaction: Social elements denoting the ways things effect or relate to one another

Process: Elements emerging throughout the creative/design process

Understanding: Elements representing mental processes for comprehending information

Included here as well is a “2.0” version of the Design Thinking trading cards that pair with this version of the table. I’ve included a preview below, and the full pdf can be downloaded here: DT Trading Cards 2.0. Currently, they are only one sided but have been resized into full sized playing cards (2.5×3.5 inches).

The next steps for the Table and cards are to more fully put together the definitions of these concepts…and any suggestions in this area are more than welcome! Be prepared for further iterations and more text!

I’m also excited to discuss the periodic table of design thinking further with the Plexus Institute today! Feel free to join in on the conversation by phone at 1PM EST, it should be a lot of fun 🙂 Details are in the link.

The Elements of Design Thinking Trading Cards

As a quick follow up to my previous post on the Elements of Design Thinking, I wanted to share some ‘trading cards’ of the elements that I hope will help stimulate thinking, discussion and development of the Table. To me, the most useful way of being able to understand the relationships and relevance of the listed elements is to play around with them, re-arrange them, add new ones, and take away others. Feel free to print off the pages, cut out the cards and play around with them.
I’d love to hear what you come with up!