David Kelley

Design Thinking 101: An Introduction

“Can you exchange one life for another? A caterpillar turns into a butterfly. If a mindless insect can do it, why couldn’t I?” – RD

We are bombarded with content in the age of information. Some great. Most bad. The key is to curate the best of what you’ve discovered and narrow down which resources work for you. After all, everybody learns differently.

When I began to research the basics about Design Thinking (DT), I sought to establish a reliable foundation on which I could build my education. I like to call this period the “surveying the landscape” phase. In this post, I’d like to share some of the key resources I discovered early on that were beneficial to my learning and some basic concepts to get you started.


Human-Centered Design: A framework born from the tech industry that was a response to machine-centric design. Think of this as the overall umbrella.

Design Thinking: A creative approach rooted in empathy that is used to solve business problems or social challenges. It puts the designer in the shoes of the end-user to understand their needs and motivations. It has five stages: Empathize. Define. Ideate. Prototype. Test. By understanding and empathizing with the end-user, the designer is able to ideate, prototype and test their solution around the needs of their respective audience.

I love this definition of DT by Idea Couture (a design firm).


Service Design: A methodology which enhances the interactions between users, touchpoints, and other stakeholders in order to improve the quality of a service or product.

Design Leadership: A style of leadership that produces innovative design solutions combining business skills and creativity. It happens to be the program name for a degree at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).

Essential Resources

  • Creative Confidence by David Kelley
    • This book is a fun and easy to read. And I don’t like reading! The author help start the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, commonly known as the d.school, at Stanford so students could learn more about Design Thinking, Creativity, and Innovation. He also founded IDEO: the premiere design thinking consultancy in the world.
  • Lynda: Learning Design Thinking: Lead Change in Your Organization
    • This is an excellent introductory course presented by Turi McKinley of Frog Design. Her relaxed and accessible presentation style makes the subject matter easy to understand. It’s over two hours long with a loads of content to digest, but I highly recommend it.
  • Medium Article: “Agile, Lean, Design Thinking, Continuous Delivery… which should I use?”
    • This article does a good job of explaining the pros and cons of Design Thinking relative to the other methodologies.
  • LinkedIn Article: “Human-Centered Design (HCD) vs Design Thinking vs Service Design vs UX …. What do they all mean?”
    • This article is a helpful resource to understand the HCD umbrella and where all the methodologies fall within it.
  • OpenIdeo: A global community of chapters/clubs that host events (i.e., workshops) and solve social challenges (i.e., improving clean water access to communities in [fill in the blank]. The DC chapter of OpenIdeo put together some amazing packets for the Introduction to Design Thinking and Facilitation workshops. These are my “bibles” when it comes to DT. A big thanks to Jo Golden and Emily Mann! Find out if there is a chapter near you.