Design Thinking Toolkit, Lesson 30 – Design Studio

Get ready to unleash your inner creative genius with Design Studio, a collaborative brainstorming session that gives all team members a chance to play “designer.”

Primary Goal To generate and develop multiple design solutions to a specific problem or challenge
When to Use When in a creative rut and looking to craft many possible solutions
Time Required ~60 minutes
Number of Participants 3-10+
Who Should Participate? Any members of the team
Supplies Whiteboard, PostIt notes, Sharpies, and any other craft supplies needed to inspire interesting ideas and solutions

Creative Problem-Solving with Design Studio

Design Studio enables individuals broken into groups to generate a large number of diverse and creative solutions collaboratively in a relatively short time. Because each team brings its own unique perspective, the activity encourages a free-flowing exchange of ideas. It also stimulates healthy competition, a great way to promote innovative thinking that meets the needs of users and stakeholders. The feedback and critiques provided throughout the activity refine and improve the solutions, resulting in more robust and well-thought-out ideas.

Interestingly, just the name of this activity alone gets team members into a specific mindset that encourages creative problem-solving. When everyone feels they can contribute to crafting solutions it creates camaraderie and team engagement that can’t be bought.

How to Prepare

  1. First, define the problem or challenge statement. There are a few ways this can be expressed; a design brief or single statement is a great place to start. You can also provide supporting materials like a user persona or journey map. Example problem statements could read something like:
    Customers are having difficulty understanding the difference between Product A and Product B.
    Patients aren’t adhering to their required daily vitamin regimen.
    • Drivers aren’t able to clearly understand navigation instructions en route. 
  2. Now, set up your workspace and gather materials. Arrange your working area with large sheets of paper, sticky notes, pens, and other materials that can be used for brainstorming and sketching. Feel free to add in extra materials to inspire interesting solutions like pipe cleaners, modeling clay, etc.

Running the Activity

  1. Share the problem statement. Read your problem statement aloud, write the problem statement on a whiteboard, or pass it to everyone on a sheet of paper.
  2. Break into teams. Divide the group into teams of 3-5 individuals. Each team will be responsible for developing a unique design solution to the problem or challenge.
  3. Brainstorm ideas (10 mins). Give teams 10 minutes to begin brainstorming as many ideas as they can on Post-it notes. Quantity over quality is encouraged at this time.
  4. Teams pick their top 3 ideas (5 mins). After all the ideas have been expressed, the team should pick their top three favorite ideas. Five minutes should be enough time for decision-making. Have them place stars on their top picks.
  5. Share and critique ideas (10 mins). This next step is one of the best parts of the activity because it’s now time to present ideas to members of a different group. Have one member from the group stay back to present ideas and the rest of the group shifts one group over. The original group member then presents the top three ideas to the neighboring group. After the presentation, the visiting group provides constructive feedback and critiques to help improve and refine the ideas. After the critique is provided, all members move back to their original groups. This step is important because it provides valuable feedback to groups and gives the visiting group new ideas to bring back to their original team.
  6. Select and develop a final solution (20 mins). Each team takes the feedback and critiques into account, selects one solution from the top three, and works to develop a more refined and detailed solution. Ideas can be expressed through drawings, storyboards, or 3D models using craft materials supplied. Encourage teams to be creative in their presentations and final solutions.
  7. Present and refine (2 mins per group presentation, 3 mins per presentation for critique). Once the solutions are developed, each team presents its solution to the rest of the group. The group then provides additional feedback and suggestions to further refine and improve the solutions.
  8. Choose the best solution: After each group has done presenting and receiving feedback all participants can now vote on the best solution. Votes can be cast by placing stickers on the best solutions, placing votes in a ballot box, or simply by raising hands. After capturing and determining the final winner the group does one final evaluation to discuss how the solution can be made more feasible and impactful.

And that’s a wrap for Design Studio. Leave us a comment and let us know how you ran yours!

Atomic’s Design Thinking Toolkit


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