How should I start?

What’s a good first project for design thinking?

Design thinking can be used for diverse work, but it most easily adopted for the discovery phase of a project: when you are still seeking the meaningful problem to work on, or the right solution to pursue. So choose a project in its early stages or one you really want to shake up.

Second, choose a challenge that has a human element to it. Design thinking helps you excel in understanding people, gaining insights that you can leverage, and experimenting your way to a solution. So pick something in which people matter.

That said, it doesn’t have to be a consumer project. Just think about the people you are designing for (could be your clients, partners, supplies, fellow employees, etc.). Furthermore, most projects do have a human element; this could be an opportunity to bring that the forefront.

One way to frame your project around people, is to (re)state the challenge using this format:
“Redesign the [ topic ] experience for [ user ].”
The first blank is the project area/topic/goal (but make sure the solution isn’t already dictated). The second blank is a user group; don’t be afraid to be specific in identifying the user.

Some examples:

  • Redesign the sports apparel experience for elite highschool athletes (who may turn pro).
  • Redesign the supplier billing experiences for new wholesale customers of our company.
  • Redesign the in-store sunglasses buying experience for fashion-conscious women.
  • Redesign the social element of video entertainment for families.

Which mixtape should I choose?

You can think of the design process as an oscillation between engaging with people and experimenting with prototypes. Each progresses the project in a different way, and builds on each other. In between engaging and creating, you reframe how you are thinking about the challenge, and generate new ideas.

Ask yourself what your project needs right now:
Do you need to understand your users better and find new inspiration for your work?
Do you need start building, to stop planning and just try something?
Do you need to reframe the challenge and generate new solution possibilities?

Then ask yourself how to best engage your team. Balance leaning into strengths, with challenging them to work outside their comfort zone.

Each mixtape will be a starting point to jumpstart your work. As you progress through your project you will likely need to engage with people, reframe and ideate, and experiment, so just go with your gut feeling on which of the three would be the best place to start.

How should I start?