discover empathize experiment produce

The DEEPdt Process

Why DEEPdt as a design thinking process?

Thankfully Stanford's d. School is extremely generous with their experiences and have an open source repository of all things design thinking.  When I began learning about design thinking over six years ago (February 26, 2010, to be exact), I went right to the major leagues in K12 design thinking education, Stanford's d. School and Kim Saxe and her work with Nueva School.  Utilizing their resources and following their guidance, I  implemented this methodology that would truly change the course of my students' learning and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School's trajectory.  After the first DT Challenge of redesigning the 21st cent. classroom, which was a huge success and learning opportunity for all involved, I quickly realized the DT Process that the d.School utilized would not meet all Designers' needs. As it was my learning playground,  Mount Vernon Presbyterian School is PK-12 and the d.School's design thinking process was designed for older designers in various fields.  At the time, their process was more involved then their current version today.


To meet my students' needs, I needed to be able to deliver a DT methodology to our youngest learners all the way up the grade chain.  When I created DEEPdt, the d.School's process had six modes and I felt our younger students needed to fully participate in the dt conversation. The terminology we utilize at various junctures serves as an entry point and the experience grows with the students.  In addition, where adults have a pretty solid content knowledge in many different areas that can carry them through the initial interviews and topic discussions, students need time for discovery.  In May of 2010, before the 2nd season of implementation of design thinking into the K12 arena, DEEP design thinking was born.  

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As I have said before with back up from @thelock85,  for it to truly be design thinking it must have people + empathy. Design thinking is a human-centered approach to learning, creating, and being through Empathy. Utilizing the DEEPdt framework of Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce allows for designers (aka students) to enter into the process at any point. It is not rigid. What it is is easy to remember, practice, apply, and get messy.

In DEEPdt, designers are given the chance to "discover" their design topic, "discover" what's broken, "discover" what is curious to them, "discover" content to help them understand their topic or challenge through research, questions, observations, etc.  The Discover mode presents itself with several methods to "unpack" what their topic is all about so the designers’ frame of mind are prepared to engage with their users.

In the Empathize mode (the heart of design thinking), students go to users to better understand the situation, the needs of the users, and be empathetic so as to be in a better position for understanding and solving their needs.  Typically, my students are aware of the topic/subject of the design thinking challenge, yet it is through needfinding, interviewing, role playing & analogous empathy, that a problem is revealed worth solving.  I love in the beginning of the Empathize mode there's a topic yet NO targeted problem/need because when it is revealed, students know they have really empathized with the user.  After collecting and synthesizing the "data" (aka stories, experiences, feelings) of the users, students synthesize, define, and formulate their understanding and empathetic connection for a single user.  (By the way, this Mode does not end here, empathizing with the user is ongoing, exploratory, revisited, renewed, reexamined, & sometimes needs to go deeper so you go back to the user)

Experiment mode is a mode that our students know well and love.  After defining a true need of their user, there are rapid fire brainstorms of HMW... statements followed by rapid ideation of prototyping. Going for Low-res, low attachment, recycled material prototyping. (btw here is a great #dtk12chat archive of Why Prototype?)

After all the building and making of prototypes, students return to the users for showing, not telling of their prototype. This is in the Produce mode.  In Produce, there is testing, collecting of feedback from users and then applying feedback as we return to Experiment mode.  DEEPdt is a nonlinear process ever mindful to return, pause, or restart the process to ensure the user's needs are at the forefront.  It is important  not hesitate to go back to the drawing board, scrap the solution, start over, iterate etc. as long as it is needed .

The Produce mode allows for students to gauge how well they have empathized with their user and communicated their solutions.  It is a wonderful opportunity for students to realize how far they have developed through the DEEPdt process, evaluate other students' work, and receive critique and feedback for their own growth & process.  When the time comes, it is time for story-  Who is the user, what are their needs, how have you designed a solution, and what is it?

I might be biased yet I believe the most important aspect of the DEEPdt  is the flexing and opening of our hearts and minds creatively towards others and their needs.  Developing empathy towards others brings us together as a society in a way like no other and through design thinking, we collaborate, create, and connect together...

So the question, "Why DEEP design thinking?" As a teacher I want my students to utilize design thinking methodology in their studies but more importantly in their lives. The sooner we can expose and refocus our little ones' lenses through empathy, the greater all our lives will be.  Impact. Heart. One

ps. HT/Tip my hat to d. School & Kim Saxe ~~ Pioneers in K12 design thinking arena.  They are about learning & being in the trenches along with the teachers (and not in the clouds) and that has made all the difference in the world to this teacher.