10 signs you may be a design thinker

November 4, 2013

It can be difficult to describe  design thinking  to folks who have never heard of it before. First, you have to clear up the misconception that you are building Web sites or sewing designer clothes. (Granted, you could employ design thinking tools in either of these pursuits.) Design thinking is a process, and those who practice it here at the d.school probably identify with most, if not all, of these 10 attributes. Now, on to the list!

#1 When I say “yes” you say…

Via Willpowerthru.com

Via Willpowerthru.com

Exactly. Because when you drop a “yes, and”, this is basically what you and your design team member’s ideas are doing:


via Funnyordie.com

#2 You after conducting your first empathy interview:

via parksandrecgifs.tumblr.com

via parksandrecgifs.tumblr.com

Undeterred, you go in for another:

via FunnyorDie.com

via FunnyorDie.com

After your third interview, you start asking yourself this before every conversation:


via parksandrecgifs.tumblr.com/

#3: You show. You don’t tell.

This is the word “city.” This is a city:

via Tumblr

via Tumblr

Moving on.

#4: You’re always telling people this is NOT what you do.

via projectrunwaygifs.tumblr.com/

via projectrunwaygifs.tumblr.com/

Not to say you wouldn’t help a big name fashion house if they asked you to. 

#5: This is your happy place.



Source: Funny or Die.

Source: Funny or Die.

#6: That moment in the middle of your team’s design project when everyone is trying really, really hard not to shoot ideas out of the sky.

via giphy

via giphy

#7: When your team realizes they are on the other side of crazy:

via giphy

via giphy

Hint: What’s on the other side of crazy? Fabulous.

#8: When a non-design thinker does this during a high-pressure meeting . . .


via giphy

You do this:


via giphy

Design thinking gives you the confidence to know that it all comes together in the end.

#9: You need a steady supply of these


And These:


Or you start to do this:

via perfectlyimperfect-blog-stuff.tumblr.com/

via perfectlyimperfect-blog-stuff.tumblr.com/

#10: When you and your team realize that your  prototype failure is just the next step toward success:


via funnyordie.com


Celebrate your users and happy design thinking, folks. 

Did we miss something? Let us know what defines design thinking for you in the comments!

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  1. Maryanne Hernandez

    there are no “bad” ideas. drawing past the edge of the paper and onto the desk is a good thing! No idea or concept is so “horrible” that it can’t be re-tooled, re-edited or tweeked in some way. WAY TO GO! Design Thinkers! I’m Not Alone!

    Maryanne Hernandez
    Otis School of Design, 2005

  2. Amber Benson

    As a grad student in SCAD’s Design Management program, I often tell people I am getting a Masters in Post-It Notes.

  3. Jojalio

    When you have been in a meeting like the one pictured in #8 and you say “I’m going for a coffee” instead of smashing someone’s head

  4. Bret

    The look in #6: when someone asks a clearly clueless question and the dazed look comes over you as you realize you don’t have near enough time to go back to the beginning and explain everything to them. Then you realize this person must be dismissed (in any way possible).

  5. Maree

    It’s the process we have to succumb to
    before the we can achieve the end result
    (Where ever that may take us)

  6. chris berg

    i would say you nailed it, for the candy side.

    you missed quite a bit though, the feeling after i fail over and over and over and over and yes over, to the 73, it can be a b@tch. obviously i have learn threw trial and error and the fail to the 73 power were just new “experences” but dam it’s hard to prep for on a zero budget. please give me a “flaw in any system” E gen solar thermal wind as one or together for 100% friendly. pilot-less auto system design. i believe i can see the solution
    i have a question is there a way around the red tape of minds, cause i feel like 1 i need prof of my intellect which i can not spell 2 will someone help me help the world
    christopher j berg II
    CJBrealideas LLC i build things
    Appleton, WI

    i would just like to thank you Stanford
    regardless of this rant (it’s a rain day for me and i get to learn someting new today) i learn threw you’re youtube vid’s the WB ect. thank you thank you thank ya

    i love the “candy side” EMI KOLAWOLE thank you also :”

    • Emi Kolawole

      Thanks for the feedback! Any day where I get to enjoy Magritte is a good day. Though I think his context and mine are different, I do wonder what Magritte would have to say about the animated gif over the static image…

      More importantly, La trahison des images helps highlight the importance of getting to the prototyping stage as quickly as possible (something missing from this list). I really appreciate that. I’d love to know more about how you would improve #3 in the design-thinking context, since you find the original “comes off poorly.” I find critique without a suggestion of how to improve does that as well. Thanks!

  7. Sid and Nick

    Is it just me – I thought the 10 points in the list were soaked in the irony for potential arrogance in design thinking.

    Are you guys seriously post-it noting, white boarding, high fiving, stoke breaking, sherlock nodding, bravo smirking un-reflexively, self consciously awesome?

  8. Brett Cravaliat

    #6 and #7. I do these in all the meetings all the time. And not just design meetings.

    Also I’m usually the one on the crazy fabulous side, alone. But fabulous.

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