College of Liberal Arts

Design Thinking

Fri, May 31, 2019

Daunting problems require new ideas and a new way of thinking — design thinking.

Design thinking is a human-centered, creative, problem-solving method. It encourages a variety of approaches towards finding solutions, emphasizes experiential learning and is quickly becoming a relevant skill within many organizations. Fortune 500 companies, top business schools, and universities across the nation are turning toward design thinking as a critical 21st century skill.  

“At its core, it is fundamentally a way of thinking and doing—oscillating between reflection and action,” explains Tamie Glass, an associate professor in the School of Architecture who leads a three-day Design Thinking workshop at The University of Texas at Austin, alongside Julie Schell, from the School of Design and Creative Technologies.

The school partnered with the College of Liberal Arts’ Human Dimensions of Organizations program to host two on-campus workshops in 2019. The first, hosted in April, served a general audience; but the upcoming workshop, scheduled for July 24-26, will be geared toward educators.

“The instructors do a good job of taking things that we’re already doing subconsciously and evolving that into something that could be better,” says Adam Green, a business professional who participated in the April workshop. He also commented on Glass and Schell’s teaching philosophy, which blends formal design education practices with established principles from learning science. “We’ve always been told to understand our employee’s strengths and weaknesses, and Design Thinking introduced smart teams, where you identify people’s personality types and group them together strategically.”

April Design Thinking workshop. Photo by Maria Limon

Design thinking unlocks innovation, or the continuous pursuit of original thinking and action, explains Glass, who uses variations of the method in all aspects of her work as both an educator and a practicing designer.

“Designers are trained to work iteratively to reframe problems, challenge assumptions, and prototype possible solutions,” Glass says. “The beauty of design thinking is that it offers non-designers a way to occupy the mindset of a designer and learn new strategies for addressing problems in their life and work.”

Both Glass and Schell believe design thinking could be adapted to address and solve a lot of real-world problems, including those faced by schools and their students.

“I think a lot of the most pressing problems we’re facing in the world don’t have known solutions, like poverty and hunger,” says Schell, the executive director for Extended and Executive Education in the School of Design and Creative Technologies who found herself exploring the discipline to better help her students solve extremely demanding problems, such as learning difficulties, access to education, and inequity in work and school.

“Design thinking sparks creative solutions for complex social and organizational problems that have no known solution. It generates ideas that might not have otherwise been thought of through more traditional problem-solving methods,” Schell offers.

April Design Thinking workshop. Photo by Maria Limon

For the July workshop, Schell is eager to share ways in which design thinking might help educators solve intractable, real-world issues by using design oriented problem-solving skills to explore issues in and out of the classroom in a new light.

"We want to transform the way people are thinking and give them the tools they need to be successful in any workplace, even educational environments, where educators, administrators and students have to work together to face and overcome new roadblocks every day," says Schell.

To learn more about Design Thinking, or to sign up for the educator's workshop in July, visit:

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