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Alumni in Action

Alumni Webinar Series: Design Thinking

By Alumni Relations

April 15, 2021

Design thinking belongs at every level of a business and has led to innovation and success at companies worldwide. Sandy Speicher, chief executive officer of the design and consulting firm IDEO, defines design thinking as “being aware of the world around you, believing that you play a role in shaping that world, and taking action together toward a more desirable future.”

During this webinar, Lennon Rodgers (College of Engineering), Michelle Kwasny (School of Human Ecology), and Giustina Parisi (Wisconsin School of Business) focus on strategies for testing assumptions using prototyping in product and service development while introducing the concept of design thinking and the role it plays in business today.

What are the phases of design thinking?

Design thinkers are collaborative, human-centered, experimental, and optimistic for a better world. In design thinking there are three phases: inspiration, ideation, and creation. The inspiration phase is about articulating the challenge and learning all you can about the problem at hand. The ideation phase involves brainstorming new and innovative solutions to try. Finally, the creation phase is where designers start to obtain tangible solutions and test ideas in order to learn what the best outcome will be.

What is a prototype?

A prototype is a question made tangible. It can be anything from a sketch on a napkin to a 3D printed example of what the end product should look like. Prototyping is about bringing ideas to life before launching them out into the world. It’s important to make sure prototypes can help answer questions by testing them with real people and role playing real scenarios.

How do prototypes help designers?

Prototyping is a cyclical process. Designers frame assumptions and hunches as questions, then design prototypes to test with real people that answer those questions and build evidence. It’s important to determine if the question is regarding human desirability, technology feasibility, or business viability. Prototypes help ensure that a business doesn’t spend too much money or use too many resources before knowing if a product or service will work. A fully thought out prototype can help a designer do the following:

  • Ask the questions they didn’t think to ask
  • Make ideas tangible so designers can engage with them
  • Help choose among and across options and test the mechanics of an option
  • Create emotional experiences
  • Determine technical risks

This webinar was presented by the Wisconsin School of Business, College of Engineering, and School of Human Ecology at UW–Madison. The featured speakers all teach in UW–Madison’s Masters of Science in Design + Innovation. To learn more, visit the MDI program webpage.