Design and Design Thinking

Designing ideas
Designing ideas

Design is the discipline of innovation. If you want to innovate, you need to design. Design isn’t just about making things pretty or functional, its about envisioning ways of being and developing the blueprints for making something into being.

Design thinking is a structured way to combine problem finding, frame and solving together that is an approach to looking at innovative, complex ideas and issues. Below are some resources that help anyone consider more about what design thinking is and how to use it.

There is a special section at the bottom looking at design thinking for education.

Digital Toolkit and Resources:

Service Design Tools is a great collection of user-focused tools and methods to help you imagine and focus.

Design Research Techniques is a brilliantly curated collection of the methods of design all in one place by Suzanne Stein at OCADU and a team of collaborators.

Hugh Dubberly and his Dubberly Design Office offer a truly stellar compendium of design methods illustrated in an accessible and free download called How Do You Design along with a treasure trove of other writings.

A spectacular collection of resources on design thinking and the service sector has been put together and posted on Design Observer (also see link below).

IDEO has a set of methods cards that are available for special order or as a paid iOS (Apple) app. A great collection of tools, ideas and methods to support design work.

IDEO has also published as a free download (or paid hardcopy) its two toolkits. The first is a generalized toolkit for use with NGO’s and non-profits and introduction to the human-centred design approach. The second is directed towards educators who are looking to use design thinking as a means of transforming education and inspire students.

A provocative look at ways design and design thinking can help us address complexity and seemingly intractable problems from the leaders at the Austin Center for Design: Kolko, J. (2012). Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving (pp. 1–89). (Free and pay-what-you-can download)

The wonderful Helsinki Design Lab, which is no longer operating, has some wonderful downloads including this gem of a book: Boyer, B., Cook, J. W., & Steinberg, M. (2011). In Studio: Recipes for Systemic Change. Helsinki, Finland: Sitra.

One of SAP’s partners PDA Group has a storehouse of articles and cases its used with design thinking on its website.


A great annotated bibliography on design and the social sector (mostly books and print resources) is located at Design Observer. Here are some other notable books:

Berger, W. (2010). Glimmer: How design can transform your life and maybe save the world. New York, NY: Penguin.

Carlopio, J. (2010). Strategy by design: A process of strategy innovation. New York, NY: Palgrave McMillan.

Cross, N. (2011). Design thinking. Oxford, UK: Berg.

Farson, R. (2008). The power of design: a force for transforming everything. Norcross, GA: Greenway Communications.

Kelley, T. (2001). The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm . New York, NY: Crowne Publishers.

Kelley, T. (2005). The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Kelley, Tom, & Kelley, D. (2013). Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (p. 304). New York, N.Y.: Crown Business. Retrieved from

Kolko, J. (2011). Exposing the magic of design: A practitioners guide to the methods and theory of synthesis. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Kumar, V. (2013). 101 Design Methods: A structured approach for driving innovation in your organization. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

Laurel, B. (Ed.) (2003). Design research: methods and perspectives. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lim, S. C. (2013). Realizing Empathy: An inquiry into the meaning of making. Providence, RI: Seung Chan Lim.

Lockwood, T. (Ed.) (2010). Design thinking: Integrating innovation, customer experience, and brand value. New York, NY: Allworth Press.

Lockwood, T. & Walton, T. (Eds.) (2008). Building design strategy: Using design to achieve key business objectives. New York, NY: Alworth Press.

Maeda, J. (2006). The Laws of Simplicity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Martin, R. (2008). The opposable mind. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Martin, R. (2009). The design of business. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

NBBJ (2009). Change design: conversations about architecture as the ultimate business tool. Atlanta, GA: Greenway Communications.

Nussbaum, B. (2013). Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire. New York, N.Y.: HarperBusiness.

Sanders, B.N. & Stappers, P.J. (2012). Convivial Toolbox: Generative research for the front end of design. Amsterdam, NL: BIS Publishers.

Simmons, C. (2011). Just design: socially conscious design for critical causes. Cincinnati, OH: HOW Books.

Stickdorn, M. & Schneider, J. (2010). This is service design thinking: basics-cases-tools. Amsterdam, NL: BIS publishers.

van Abel, B., Evers, L., Klaassen, R., & Troxler, P.  (2011). Open design now: why design cannot remain exclusive. Amsterdam, NL: BIS Publishers.

Papers & Reports:

Design Council (U.K.) (2013). Design for public good. London, UK: Design Council.

Liedtka, J. (2011). Learning to use design thinking tools for successful innovation. Strategy & Leadership39(5), 13–19.

Mulgan, G. (2013). Design in public and social innovation – what works, and what could work better. London, UK.

Westley, F., Geobey, S., & Robinson, K. (2012). What is a Change Lab/Design Lab. Waterloo, ON.


How to design breakthrough inventions:

Tales of Creativity and Play (Tim Brown):

Design + Thinking (Film):

Design Thinking for Education

 Web resources:

Seven Ways of Design Thinking:

Design Thinking for Educators (Toolkit):

A Crash Course in Design Thinking:

> A 90-minute crash course on design thinking, what it is, and how to apply it to all kinds of problems (not just education)

Design Thinking in Education:

> Brief article looking at how design thinking is being applied to education

Accessible Books:

Brown, T. (2009). Change by design. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Dirksen, J. (2012). Design for how people learn. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Press

Kelley, T., & Kelley, D. (2013). Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (p. 304). New York, N.Y.: Crown Business.

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