Design Thinking


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Who should attend

  • User experience/UX designers
  • Marketers and designers
  • Product managers
  • Engineers
  • Program and project managers
  • Consultants
  • Systems analysts
  • Entrepreneurs involved in product conception
  • Individual contributors, managers and leaders at all levels of an organization who are involved in the design, development, or improvement of products, services, and infrastructure

About the course

Great design isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s also about understanding your audience and their needs. Whether you’re designing a website, a physical product, or a customer experience, design thinking is an innovative approach to design that involves applied creativity, prototyping and experimentation.

In this program, you will master a robust, human-centered approach to designing and improving products, experiences and systems at any scale. Working with a team of student peers, you’ll start by defining the problem or challenge you seek to address and then gather key user insights that will help you develop powerful personas and narratives. From there, you’ll move into idea generation and rapid prototyping for potential solutions and improvements. Informed by testing and analysis, you’ll learn to iterate on and refine your prototype using design thinking methodology to ultimately generate a rigorous, viable design solution.

Throughout the courses, you will leverage design thinking to create a constant interplay of intuitive and data-driven decision making. You will also have the opportunity to bring the group project and your peer relationships with you as you move through each of the courses in this program.


Identifying and Framing a Challenge

The material in this course was developed in response to the friction created while trying to blend design thinking with traditional systems engineering. The resulting formula is a hybrid process that offers efficiency and effectiveness -- not just for engineers, but for anyone engaged in addressing problems of significant complexity.

In this course you will begin an empathy-based process that leads you to a solution which serves a broad, diverse user base. Along the way, you will identify key stakeholders who will drive critical decisions later in the design cycle. Your process begins when you identify an opportunity and develop a challenge statement summarizing what you are trying to do along with your aspirations. From there, you will gather support for your idea and refine your intent. Your effort will culminate in presentation-ready document that summarizes and describes in detail the challenge you are trying to address and what you hope to achieve by taking on the challenge.

Gathering User Emotions

In this course you will conduct fieldwork to collect information about the users whose needs you are trying to meet within a challenge and empathy space that you have defined. You will venture out into the empathy field and observe and interact with people to gain the insight you need. Ultimately the insights gained from this fieldwork will help you develop a robust model of your users’ needs, expectations, and connections with one another.

The course Identifying and Framing a Challenge is required to be completed prior to starting this course.

Crafting User Narratives

In this course you will convert the raw data from your empathy fieldwork to create a powerful problem definition that sets the right context for brainstorming solutions. You will prepare a physical or virtual space in which you will thoughtfully unpack your observations to create a robust record of your experiences in the field.

You will apply methods to extract empathy data from first, second, and third person empathy experiences. You will then distill this data into a series of needs, insights, and surprises that will drive creativity and innovation later in the process. At the same time, you will analyze the empathy data to identify patterns and connections within and among your observations.

The methods described in this course are an efficient approach to problem definition with results that are powerful and authentic. The resulting model is rich with not only qualitative data such as user personas, but also quantitative results that can be reviewed and shared throughout the remainder of the process. The act of constructing this model can bring into sharp focus the defining features of your problem. The ideas and insights generated may in fact be provocative, and this is very appropriate at this stage in the design process.

The courses Identifying and Framing a Challenge and Gathering User Emotions are required to be completed prior to starting this course.

Generating User-Centered Solutions

In this course you will build on the extraction and interpretation of emotional data generated while unpacking observations. You will work through the personas that you previously defined and situate these in context diagrams that examine the relationships between individual users and the problem space. You will also use emotional relationship data maps and flow of thoughts to create capabilities diagrams that crystallize the needs your system must address.

With an actionable model of your problem in place, you will engage in a series of brainstorming sessions that use as their core inspiration the personas, capabilities diagrams, and context diagrams. From this process you will gather ideas that will propel you toward the creative solutions in your problem space.

The courses Identifying and Framing a Challenge, Gathering User Emotions, and Crafting User Narratives are required to be completed prior to starting this course.

Design Prototyping

In this course you will evolve a first design, called design zero, for your problem. Your design zero builds on all the prior work, including your capabilities diagrams and the brainstorming sessions you recently completed. You will create visualizations of your personas in action called persona concept sketches. You will use other modified systems engineering tools to document your product features.

From this point, you will create rough prototypes and role play as end users who are working with these prototypes. From this process you will learn about your product’s strengths and shortcomings.

The courses Identifying and Framing a Challenge, Gathering User Emotions, Crafting User Narratives, and Generating User-Centered Solutions are required to be completed prior to starting this course.

Testing and Iteration

In this course you will test your design zero, which is the culmination of the design process leading up to this point. In the testing process you will use tools similar to those used when gathering emotional data. In a similar way, you will end up collecting needs, insights, and surprises along with tensions, contradictions, and synergies. The purpose here is to hone in on a viable system that truly meets user needs.

The gathering and analysis of user data will point you in the direction of a refinement of your design zero, which is referred to as design one. Your design one may look deeper into product details, and it may also lead to subtle refinements or radical changes. Your design one is the starting point for a subsequent round of testing, and in adopting this approach you will see how iterative development brings your system closer to the best possible product for your users.

The courses Identifying and Framing a Challenge, Gathering User Emotions, Crafting User Narratives, Generating User-Centered Solutions, and Design Prototyping are required to be completed prior to starting this course

Key course takeaways

  • Record a compelling challenge statement that focuses your design effort on a meaningful question
  • Perform fieldwork to gather user insights
  • Interpret user data using modified systems engineering tools
  • Develop personas that empower you to envision innovative solutions
  • Create and refine a prototype
  • Use data and analysis to test and iterate on the prototype solution


Sirietta Simoncini

Sirietta Simoncini holds a Master of Architecture degree from the University Institute of Architecture of Venice (Italy) and worked for several years as chief architect of a city in the north of Italy. She is the co-founder of InTAdesign, an architectural firm active in both Italy and the U.S., a...

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Design Thinking at eCornell

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Coursalytics is an independent platform to find, compare, and book executive courses. Coursalytics is not endorsed by, sponsored by, or otherwise affiliated with any business school or university.

Full disclaimer.

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