Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking Bootleg, a set of tools and methods which constantly evolves. You can start wherever you want.

design-thinking-phases Process modules diagram
Process modules
The diagram shows five “modes” or steps that we identify as the components of design thinking. 

Empathize 🔵

Empathy is the foundation of human-centered design. The problems you’re trying to solve are rarely your own, they’re those of particular users. Build empathy for your users by learning their values.


The define mode is when you unpack your empathy findings into needs and insights and scope a meaningful challenge. Based on your understanding of users and their environments, come up with an actionable problem statement: your Point Of View. 

Ideate ⭐️

Ideate is the mode in which you generate radical design alternatives. Ideation is a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes—a mode of “flaring” instead of “focus”. The goal of ideation is to explore a wide solution space—both a large quantity and broad diversity of ideas. From this vast repository of ideas, you can build prototypes to test with users. 

Prototype 🔴

Prototyping gets ideas out of your head and into the world. A prototype can be anything that takes a physical form—a wall of post-its, a role-playing activity, an object. In early stages, keep prototypes inexpensive and low resolution to learn quickly and explore possibilities. 

Test 💜

Testing is your chance to gather feedback, refine solutions, and continue to learn about your users. The test mode is an iterative mode in which you place low-resolution prototypes in the appropriate context of your user’s life. Prototype as if you know you’re right, but test as if you know you’re wrong.


Bootleg 2018 written and produced by: Scott Doorley, Sarah Holcomb, Perry Klebahn, Kathryn Segovia, and Jeremy Utley.

Photography by: Patrick Beaudouin

Illustrations by: Jennifer Hennesy, Soleil Summer, Felix Talkin and Kim West.

Graphic design and Art direction: Jennifer Hennesy

Copy writing and editing: Eli Elbogen

Typefaces used: Styrene, Commercial Type and Vulf Mono, OHno Type Co.