Published In

Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researchers

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Design -- Study and teaching, Design -- Methodology, Design (Philosophy), Learning strategies


‘Design Thinking’ commonly refers to a set of cognitive activities one engages in during a design process. These activities are regularly applied by design practitioners to external problems – often in the role of mediation between ourselves and our environments, objects, and information (‘material culture’). A designer’s efforts are intended to solve the problems of others, but this externalization is only one half of the equation. Rarely is such energy and focus turned inwards mastering the self first. Students from ART 111: Design Thinking (fall 2014 and winter 2015) at Portland State University investigated how specific tactics and tools of design (including divergent thinking, mapping, ethnography, ‘wicked problems,’ systems thinking, and process) augmented selfdiscovery and awareness through their own lived experiences. Tasked with addressing a minor personal dilemma, students learned to apply design thinking to meaningful outcomes. The goal was not to solve the issue at hand but to understand how to change one’s relationship to it through a series of cognitive, design-based explorations. By applying design thinking to one’s own lived experience, students become aware of how to approach problems first for themselves, while also broadening and deepening their understanding of complexity.


Originally presented at the 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researchers, June 28 - 30, 2015,School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

©2015 Aalto University, DRS, Cumulus, DESIGN-ED and the Authors. All rights reserved.

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