Everyone Can Become a Design Thinker

Presented by James Schmiedeler, Ann-Marie Conrado, and Wendy Angst

Design thinking is a formal approach to problem solving that aims to create innovative solutions through direct observation of people’s unarticulated (and often unrecognized) needs and wants. The methods have traditionally been associated with novel consumer product development by design firms such as IDEO, famous for its design of the first Apple mouse. Design thinking, however, is more broadly applicable to any problem that can only be solved through real innovation, including design of services and experiences. The approach is heavily human-centered, encourages wildly creative outside-the-box thinking, seeks perspectives from individuals of varied backgrounds, and emphasizes iteration to refine and combine ideas. As such, design thinkers value empathy, optimism, ability to integrate disparate concepts, experimentation, and collaboration. In the end, design thinking reliably produces better and more novel solutions than many alternative strategies, whether those solutions are the next must-have tech gadgets or real resolutions of a complex social problem. This seminar, itself a collaboration among an industrial designer, a business strategist/entrepreneur, and an engineer, will present the nuts and bolts of the design thinking approach by directly engaging the group in practical design challenges. It will provide sample (fun!) exercises that help to enhance critical skills in creativity, ideation, observation, and rough prototyping. Ultimately, the seminar aims to demonstrate the power of design thinking through hands-on experience of the process.

About the Presenters

Ann-Marie Conrado, Assistant Professor of Industrial Design, conducts research on using design to address social and humanitarian concerns. She is the founder of Hope Initiative, an international nonprofit working in Nepal to utilize design thinking to address humanitarian concerns in developing countries. Wendy Angst, Associate Teaching Professor of Management, is a former entrepreneur in the healthcare space. She teaches courses in innovation, design thinking and consulting. Jim Schmiedeler, Associate Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, conducts research on the design of legged robots and technology-aided rehabilitation strategies.