Free: A Crash Course in Design Thinking from Stanford’s Design School

If you ask a few of today’s youngsters what they want to do when they grow up, the word “design” will almost certainly come up more than once. Ask them what design itself means to them, and you’ll get a variety of answers from the vaguely general to the ultra-specialized. The concept of design — and of designing, and of being a designer — clearly holds a strong appeal, but how to define it in a useful way that still applies in as many cases as possible?

One set of answers comes from the 90-minute “Crash Course in Design Thinking” above, a production of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or d.schoolThe Interaction Design Foundation defines design thinking as “an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions we might have, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.” In a brief history of the subject there, Rikke Dam and Teo Siang write that “business analysts, engineers, scientists and creative individuals have been focused on the methods and processes of innovation for decades.”

Stanford comes into the picture in the early 1990s, with the formation of the Design Thinking-oriented firm IDEO and its ” design process modelled on the work developed at the Stanford Design School.” In other words, someone using design thinking, on the job at IDEO or elsewhere, knows how to approach new, vague, or otherwise tricky problems in various sectors and work step-by-step toward solutions., with their mission to “build on methods from across the field of design to create learning experiences that help people unlock their creative potential and apply it to the world,” aims to instill the principles of design thinking in its students. And this crash course, through an activity called “The Gift-Giving Project,” offers a glimpse of how they do it.

You can just watch the video and get a sense of the “design cycle” as teaches it, or you can get hands-on by assembling the simple required materials and a group of your fellow design enthusiasts (make sure you add up to an even number). Youngster or otherwise, you may well emerge from the experience, a mere hour and a half later, with not just new problem-solving habits of mind but a newfound zeal for design, however you define it.

“Crash Course in Design Thinking” will be added to our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. You can find a number of MOOCS on design thinking and design at Coursera.

Related Content:

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Saul Bass’ Advice for Designers: Make Something Beautiful and Don’t Worry About the Money

Bauhaus, Modernism & Other Design Movements Explained by New Animated Video Series

Milton Glaser’s 10 Rules for Life & Work: The Celebrated Designer Dispenses Wisdom Gained Over His Long Life & Career

Abstract: Netflix’s New Documentary Series About “the Art of Design” Premieres Today

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (6)
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  • Mercedes says:

    Where is the link to download “the gift giving experience” printout they mention in the video?

  • Marc says:

    It’s a great idea to have a basic introductory class on design thinking, but the one from Stanford falls short and offers little insight on the process.

    1) The support documents are nowhere to be found on the Vimeo page or on a Stanford page that is linked to from the Vimeo page (the “the gift giving experience” printout)

    2) The course is designed to be watched by an even-numbered group of people, and much of the ‘course’ is one person interviewing another and vice versa,

    3) Most of the course’s video is timers running on the screen while the participants interview each other or draw pictures of their ideas.

    4) The presenters offer little commentary on the work that the class has done — i.e., no reading of interview results, no sharing of drawings. Their involvement after the introduction is essentially giving instructions to the class (“OK, now B interview A for 5 minutes”).

    If you are watching alone and want to get the benefits of the course in under 10 minutes, I suggest that you watch until the first timer starts (a few minutes into the video) and then skip to 1:14:00 for their 5 minute wrap-up. Or look for video or article about design thinking.

  • Marc says:

    I have an update to my comment above:

    I recently read “Creative Confidence” by Tom and David Kelley, two of the founders of IDEO and one of the founders of the After reading the book — which I recommend to anyone who wants to become more creative and/or make innovation part of their corporate culture — I went to the website. I found the Crash Course described in this post, and the supplemental materials are still not supplied on that page.

    However, when I clicked the “How to kick off a crash course” link ( ), I found the materials that were intended for the video! On the right side of the screen you’ll find downloadable worksheets and other useful materials (“D.GIFT WORKSHEETS”, etc.). These materials make the video far more interesting.

  • Tripti Dubey says:

    Thank you for the education through this video. May I request you to please let me know where to download the experience certificate from? Thank you again.

  • Amit Sharma says:

    Thanks for sharing such beautiful information with us . I hope you will share some more information in future .Please keep sharing.

  • Christinah says:

    Wow! Design thinking it gives you, immediate feedback which will help you to fast forward your innovation with a speed, thank you for this education.

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