Sustainability Design Thinking - Projects | Summer 2021


NIFTI Sustainability in Education Roundtable
 👀 🤔 💡 🛠🔬 💬  Class Format — Creative Design Studio
Apply Design Thinking to Explore Ideas that Promote Sustainability

Watching what people do and how they interact with their environment gives you clues about what they think and feel. It helps you to learn about what they need.

By watching people you can capture physical manifestations of their experiences, what they do and say. This will allow you to interpret intangible meaning of those experiences in order to uncover insights. These insights will lead you to the innovative solutions.

The best solutions come out of the best insights into human behavior. But learning to recognize those insights is harder than you might think. Why? Because our minds automatically filter out a lot of information in ways we aren’t even aware of. We need to learn to see things “with a fresh set of eyes” – tools for empathy, along with a human-centered mindset, is what gives us those new eyes.

Here are some helpful tips for observing users from the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:


Interviewing users can be tricky!

  • You need to prepare and have a plan in mind -- what do you want to know?
  • But you also want to allow room for spontaneous conversations that might lead to unexpected insights...

Some useful techniques include:

  • Ask "why"
  • Say "tell me about the last time you..."
  • Encourage stories
  • Look for inconsistencies
  • Don't be afraid of silence
  • Don't suggest answers -- don't lead the witness!
  • Ask questions neutrally:
    • What do you think about..."
    • Not, don't you think this is great !?!
  • Don't ask "Yes/No" questions -- try to evoke a story

Check out these tips for interviewing users from the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:

Composite Character Profiles

Gather the attributes and attitudes from people you've observed or interviewed into specific, recognizable character profiles that can help you:

  • focus on the most salient and relevant charcateristics of your potential users
  • avoid getting distracted by non-essential characteristics.

Be sure to check out these tips for the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:

POV Statements

One of the most essential parts of the defining stage in Design Thinking is developing your point of view statement -- your framing of a design challenge into an actionable problem statement that will help launch your idea generation.  It's your opportunity (and responsibility) to clearly articulate the design challenge that you've chose to take on.

The general form of a POV statement is:


Using this format will help you make sure that you clearly specify:

  • the intended users that you're designing for
  • their specific need that you've adopted as you challenge
  • why this need motivates you to want to tackle this problem

Your POV statements should be actionable, potentially generative and intriguing problem statements that create excitement and inspire you to develop solutions.

Here are some tips for creating POV statements from the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:

How Might We... Questions

The ideation stage typically involves two stages:

  • flaring out and generating lots of diverse ideas that get you thinking outside the box
  • focussing in and narrowing down the ideas the ones that you'd like to incorporate into your design solution

How Might We  questions are great way to generate the seeds of ideas that you can use to launch your brainstorming.

Here's an overview and tips on how to use How Might We questions from the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:


After you've lined up your How Might We questions (to focus your brainstorming energy), you're ready to dive in.

Brainstorming is a great way to come up with lots of ideas by leveraging and building upon the creativity of all your design team members and collaborators.

It's typically helpful to start with each of the How Might We questions, and use them as a seed and a framework to guide your brainstorming.   Keeping the process open-ended and inviting creativity, while staying focussed and productive is an art that you'll develop through lots of practice.

While brainstorming:

  • Go for quantity -- we want lots of ideas!
  • Use headlines rather than diving into the details -- keep it moving lightly
  • Encourage wild ideas and creative approaches
  • Defer judgement -- get the ideas out on the table, but don't debate, dissect, or disparage them.
  • Stay on topic -- if you're drifting off-topic, that might be a sign that you have another How Might We question to consider

When we're together the "All-In" every person write their ideas on post-it notes and stick them to the board is a great way to capture lots of ideas.

With everyone working remotely, this is harder to do.  You might try:

  • Having one person act as a scribe, capturing the ideas on a document as they share their screen.
  • Having everyone on the team open a shared document, for example a Google Slides document, that everyone can add to freely -- similar to sticking post-it notes to the wall.

Here's an overview and tips on how to Brainstorm effectively from the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:

Creating a User Journey Map

Change isn't easy!

While we can often list a bunch of very rational reasons for why someone should want to change, they often resist.  When users have choice, we need to assess and help them move through the steps of accepting and acting on the change.

Journey Maps are a very useful framework for:

  • capturing the traits of a specific user profile and their needs
  • list the steps in the user's journey
  • itemizing their their needs at each step in the journey
  • capturing your assessment of their emotional journey -- how are they feeling? -- at every step of the way
  • identifying opportunities to improve the journey
  • ideating about ways to deliver on those opportunities

Here are some examples of Journey Maps for:

Switching Mobile Phone Plans
Shopping for a New Car

After you've flared out and generated lots of creative ideas during your brainstorming, you'll need to focus in again -- harvesting the most promising ideas that you'd like to carry forward and incorporate into your proposed design solution.

There's no single, right way to select the ideas, but you might try:

  • voting -- all team members mark the three or four ideas that they are most attracted to, interested in developing.
  • grouping and sorting the ideas into categories -- for example:
    • the rational choice
    • the most likely to delight
    • the long shot

Here's an overview and tips on how to Select ideas effectively from the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

As you're developing your design idea, it's very tempting to keep embellishing and adding features to the core concept.

We've all done it... You find yourself thinking, "well, as long as I'm doing X, wouldn't it be cool if I also did Y, and how about Z too!"  This is known as "feature creep", and it's a real danger in most design projects.

As you develop your creative design solution, it's critical to stay focussed on the core features of your design that address the needs you identified in your point of view.  You'll be prototyping these features and testing their effectiveness, and you can't let yourself get distracted by adding bells and whistles that dilute your attention.

You can consider adding in some of those extra features -- at a later time -- but only after you've fully designed and testing your core features.

To help you stay focused, it's useful to outline the features of your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) -- the essential features that you proposed design must provide.   Some define it as "the smallest thing that you can build that delivers customer value".

Try to keep the list very brief and concise.  This isn't a full product spec -- it's a bullet list of essential items to help remind you of what's absolutely essential for your product to provide.

Here are a few blog posts that describe how thinking about the Minimum Viable Product can help lead to to better designs:

Planning Your Prototyping Strategy

Before you dive into prototyping your product idea, think carefully about your goals -- WHY are you developing this prototype?

Often we prototype to:

  • Explain and inspire - by showing and sharing our vision
  • Explore - by building, developing, and thinking through the opportunities and challenges that emerge
  • Test - by testing and refining solutions with users

As you consider what type of prototype to build, think about how you prototype can be used to:

  • Learn
  • Solve disagreements
  • Start a conversation
  • Fail quickly and cheaply
  • Test specific features and chunks of a larger idea

Here's an overview and tips on how to use many prototyping methods from the Bootcamp Bootleg:

Developing Your Testing Plan

Testing is your chance to:

  • get feedback on your design ideas
  • refine your proposed solutions to make them better
  • learn more about your users

A key piece of advice to keep in mind is:

  • Prototype as if you know you're right
  • Test as if you know your wrong

Here's an overview and tips on how to use several testing strategies from the d.Scool Bootcamp Bootleg:

Sharing Your Project Idea

The final step in the Design Thinking process is communicating -- sharing your product idea with others:

  • your product ideayour design thinking process and journeythe results of your testingrecommendations for what to do next

Here's an overview and tips on how to use communication methods from the d.School Bootcamp Bootleg:

Creating an Elevator Pitch

An Elevator Pitch is a concise presentation of your product idea to motivate a reviewer or potential investor in a very short period of time -- for example, on an elevator ride.

Here's an abbreviated version of a specific format, recommend by Guy Kawasaki -- tech entrepreneur and famed Apple evangelist.

And here's a very effective example of presenting a product idea in 45 seconds.

  • Define your own problem
  • Ideate, prototype, and test
    • Choose your own approach
    • Choose your own technology
Peer Feedback & Evaluation
  • Originality / Creativity
  • Useful / Likely to Be Adopted
  • Impactful on Sustainability
  • Well-Presented
  • Use of Design Thinking Process

💡💡💡 What Should Graduating High School Students Know About Sustainability

No Singular / Simple Solution

Series of Interconnected Systems

  • Environmental
  • Economic
  • Social & Cultural
  • Political

We Can Choose Our Path

Assumption: Innovation Continues at a Decreasing Rate
Assumption: Innovation Continues at a Constant Rate
Assumption: Innovation Continues at a Steady Rate, But We Invest Heavily into Renewables
Aware > Able > Committed > Active

🟢 Design Project 1 — Product that Promotes Sustainability

Final Presentations

Design Project 1 - Final Presentations

Design Journals

Design Project 1 - Design Journals

Click the +New Button, then choose the Design Journal Template to create a new Design Journal for your team.

🟠 Design Project 2 — Service or App that Promotes Sustainability

Final Presentations

Design Project 2 - Final Presentations

Design Journals

Design Project 2 - Design Journals

Click the +New Button, then choose the Design Journal - Project 2 - Template to create a new Design Journal for your team.

🔵 Design Project 3 — Space, Place or Building Feature that Promotes Sustainability

Final Presentations

Design Project 3 - Final Presentati

Design Journals

Design Project 3 - Design Journals