// design thinking //

On this page you'll find a number of resources—some created by us, some from external sources—intended to help you understand the human-centered design process, try it out, and develop those capabilities for yourself or your team.


  1. Bias toward action: When in doubt, do. Jot down questions, recruit users, sketch an idea. Get started now.
  2. Collaborate across boundaries: Multidisciplinary teams are key to exposing biases and maximizing collaboration. Having a team with a variety of skills, backgrounds, and expertise will also make your insights sharper and your prototypes better.
  3. Focus on human values: What do your customers want? What will help them? What will bring them joy? What will they find frustrating?
  4. Be mindful of process: Creativity is squishy—more art than science. The human-centered design process is your "North Star," providing structure and guidance to facilitate that creativity and keep you moving forward.
  5. Prototype toward a solution: Make something that solves a problem for your user. Then make another one.
  6. Show don't tell: Don't tell your users how you will solve their problem, show them. Hand them a prototype. Let them use it and learn it and break it and hate it and love it. They'll find it easier to understand the solution you've designed, and you'll learn more about how you can make it better.

Tools from the Innovation Summit

At CMG's own 2014 Innovation Summit in Boulder, CO, attendees used these worksheets, guides, and other artifacts to work their way through the design thinking process in less than two days. You may find them helpful in adapting the process to your own projects, or for hosting your own local workshops.

Helpful Guides

Stanford's d.school was founded by David Kelley, the founder, chairman, and managing partner of the design firm IDEO. It is one of the pioneering institutions of human-centered design. We recommend the following guides created by the d.school to help you in your pursuit of the design thinking process.

How to Interview and Observe Users

Whether you have been working on a project for some time or just starting, a core principle of design thinking is engaging with real people -- particularly the users and customers of your work. Deep understanding of your users leads to new perspectives which, in turn, spawn novel solutions.

Guide to Brainstorming, Ideation & Provocation

The secret about ideation is that the good ideas come from good questions. Brainstorming isn't about thinking of ideas in response to the "accurate" question; instead inspire your team with provoking prompts. These prompts are often most successful when they come from specific and meaningful insights about your users.

How to Rapidly Build and Test Prototypes

Prototyping can be magical in how it gets a team to stop (just) discussing, and start building. Secondly, prototypes help you engage with users in a different way -- to continue your understanding. Starting to prototype before you know what the solution will be can seem premature, but in fact taking a stab at a specific concrete implementation is a great way to bring clarity, even if you ultimately discard the prototyping concept itself.

Understanding Methods

The Design Kit website offers several quick guides to the methods of successful human-centered design.

HCD Toolkit

IDEO designed the Human-Centered Design Toolkit to provide NGOs and social enterprises with the tools to understand a community’s needs in new ways, find innovative solutions to meet those needs, and deliver solutions with financial sustainability in mind. It "walks users through the human-centered design process and supports them in activities such as building listening skills, running workshops, and implementing ideas."