The Design Thinking Process: User-Centered Solutions to Complex and Confounding Problems

Emily Schosid Presenter
Sustainability Program Coordinator
University of Denver
Chad King Co-Presenter
Sustainability Director
University of Denver
Sun, 10/27: 8:30 AM  - 4:30 PM 
Full-Day Workshop 
Full-Day Pre-Conference Workshop 
Room: 206C - Purchasing 
After a great first year presenting this material at AASHE 2018, we found that a half-day just isn't long enough to give this topic justice! So we're back to discuss The Design Thinking Process with enough time to really dive into exercises and methods of drawing out effective solutions to the sticky problems we deal with in campus sustainability.

Originating from the Stanford Design School, the Design Thinking Process has exploded in the design fields and has been taking the business world by storm. However, the method has not been largely used in the sustainability world, a place where its unique approach to problem definition and solution generation can be especially helpful.

Often, as sustainability professionals, we frame the problems we face from our own points of view: our recycling rate is not high enough, our bike share programs are not being used enough, etc. However, approaching problems from this point of view can often lead to solutions that don't actually address the underlying issues leading to the problems we have identified. Design Thinking turns this process on its head, approaching problems from the experiences of the users, which leads to (often unexpected) insights about true barriers to success and the most effective solutions to achieve the results we want to see.

We have used the Design Thinking process extensively at the University of Denver, from using it to define our Center for Sustainability's mission statement and identity, to finding new ways to approach residential programming when old programs were not working.

This session will take participants through a series of exercises as we move through the full Design Thinking process from empathizing with our users to prototyping new solutions. This session is intended to be fully immersive and interactive and should provide a solid understanding of a variety of approaches to problem orientation and solution generation.

Audience Empowerment

This program is interactive and fully immersive from the very beginning. The program is split into six defined sections outlining some background information and warm-up exercises and each of the five steps of the Design Thinking process. Each step of the process includes 2-3 different exercises that the participants will actually engage in themselves in order to learn, rather than have the process simply explained to them. 

Primary Topic Area

Coordination & Planning

Secondary Topic Areas

Campus Engagement & Culture

Session Level

Intermediate Level

Intended Audience

Graduate Students or Above
Other Staff
Sustainability Staff