Design Thinking: The Beginner's Guide

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How this course will help your career

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach, and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including Stanford, Harvard, and MIT. What is design thinking, and why is it so popular and effective?

The overall goal of this design thinking course is to help you design better products, services, processes, strategies, spaces, architecture, and experiences. Design thinking helps you and your team develop practical and innovative solutions for your problems. It is a human-focused, prototype-driven, innovative design process. Through this course, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamental phases and methods in design thinking, and you will learn how to implement your newfound knowledge in your professional work life. We will give you lots of examples; we will go into case studies, videos, and other useful material, all of which will help you dive further into design thinking.

Design thinking methods and strategies belong at every level of the design process. However, design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. What’s special about design thinking is that designers and designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, and in our lives.

That means that design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees, freelancers, and business leaders. It’s for anyone who seeks to infuse an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective and broadly accessible, one that can be integrated into every level of an organization, product, or service so as to drive new alternatives for businesses and society.

What you will learn

  • How to apply design thinking to your problems in order to generate innovative and user-centric solutions
  • How to make use of practical design thinking methods in every stage of your problem, with the help of method templates
  • How to initiate a new working culture based on a user-centric approach, empathy, ideation, prototyping, and playful testing
  • How to employ ethnographic and analysis methods, such as interviews, focus groups, and surveys
  • How to prototype early and fast, as well as test your prototypes so as to reduce risks and accelerate organizational learning

Who should take this course

This is a beginner-level course suitable for anyone interested in mastering the powerful and versatile design thinking approach:

  • UX, UI, and graphic designers interested in gaining a new approach to solving design problems and generating solutions that work
  • Project managers looking for a holistic process that integrates all stakeholders in order to create user-centric solutions
  • Software engineers interested in playing a part in idea generation and the design process
  • Entrepreneurs looking to empathize with users and build products that fit the market and users’ lives
  • Marketers who want to gain a deep understanding of customers
  • Stakeholders of a project/company who are keen to get involved in the process of building a product or service
  • Anyone who is interested in an innovative problem-solving approach that can be applied to all types of problems in work and in life

Courses in the Interaction Design Foundation are designed to contain comprehensive, evidence-based content, while ensuring that the learning curve is never too steep. All participants will have the opportunity to share ideas, seek help with tests, and enjoy the social aspects afforded by our open and friendly forum.

Learn and work with a global team of designers

When you take part in this course, you will join a global multidisciplinary team working on the course and the exercises at the same time as you. You will work together to improve your skills and understanding. Your course group will be made up of an incredibly diverse group of professionals, all of whom have the same objective—to become successful designers. It’s your chance to learn, grow, and network with your peers across the planet.

Gain an industry-trusted UX Course Certificate

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you complete the course. You can highlight them on your resume, CV, LinkedIn profile or your website.

Course Certificate

Our courses and Course Certificates are trusted by these industry leaders, who have taken up company memberships with the IDF:

Centure, Adobe, GE, IBM, Philips and SAP

Lessons in this course

  • Lessons become available at a schedule of one lesson per week.
  • Lessons remain open for you forever and have no deadlines.
  • There is no time limit to finish a course.
  • You have permanent access to your course material, answers, and classmates for the entire duration of your membership.
  • Estimated time to complete: 10 hours 1 min spread over 7 weeks.

Lesson 0: Welcome and Introduction

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 48 mins.

  • 0.1: Welcome (2 mins)
  • 0.2: An introduction to IDF courses (14 mins)
  • 0.3: Let our community help you (1 min)
  • 0.4: Meet your peers online in our discussion forums (6 mins)
  • 0.5: Meet and learn from design professionals in your area (1 min)
  • 0.6: Gain Timeless Knowledge Through IDF Courses (11 mins)
  • 0.7: How to earn your Course Certificate (4 mins)
  • 0.8: Mandatory lessons vs. Optional lessons (2 mins)
  • 0.9: A mix between video-based and text-based lesson content (2 mins)
  • 0.10: Breaking The Barriers to Innovation: Sharing Ideas (6 mins)

Lesson 1: Getting Started thinking Outside of the Box

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 57 mins.

  • 1.1: Breaking Thinking Patterns: Design Thinking (8 mins)
  • 1.2: An Introduction to a Design-Specific Approach: Design Thinking (9 mins)
  • 1.3: A Short & Incomplete History of Design Thinking (7 mins)
  • 1.4: The Problem is in our Thinking (17 mins)
  • 1.5: Design and Thinking Movie (3 mins)
  • 1.6: Share your Thoughts (5 mins)
  • 1.7: Discussion Forum (5 mins)
  • 1.8: Problem Solution Generation Activities: Design Thinking (1 min)
  • 1.9: Problem Solution Generation: Design Thinking (2 mins)

Lesson 2: The Fundamentals of Design Thinking

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 4 mins.

  • 2.1: What is Design? (11 mins)
  • 2.2: The Design Process (19 mins)
  • 2.3: Design Types (15 mins)
  • 2.4: Wicked and Not so Wicked Problems (18 mins)
  • 2.5: Obstacles to Problem Solving and Innovation (13 mins)
  • 2.6: Shape (13 mins)
  • 2.7: A Quick Overview (23 mins)
  • 2.8: Design Thinking Concepts (6 mins)
  • 2.9: Discussion Forum (5 mins)
  • 2.10: The Power of Thinking Outside the Box: Design Thinking (1 min)

Lesson 3: Define The Challenge

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 15 mins.

  • 3.1: All roads lead to Rome (8 mins)
  • 3.2: Mapping the Stakeholders (10 mins)
  • 3.3: Take a Team Along (13 mins)
  • 3.4: Shaping Space D-School (5 mins)
  • 3.5: Creating Some Space (8 mins)
  • 3.6: Question Everything (8 mins)
  • 3.7: Frame the Challenge (18 mins)
  • 3.8: Define your Challenge (5 mins)

Lesson 4: Empathize with the People

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 16 mins.

  • 4.1: RSA Shorts - The Power of Empathy (4 mins)
  • 4.2: Getting Started with Empathy (16 mins)
  • 4.3: Developing an Empathic Approach (8 mins)
  • 4.4: Barriers to Communication and Empathy (12 mins)
  • 4.5: Ethnographic Research Methods (8 mins)
  • 4.6: Shadowing (14 mins)
  • 4.7: Making Sense of the Research (9 mins)
  • 4.8: Design Process Communication (5 mins)

Lesson 5: The Typical Design Thinking Process

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 1 min.

  • 5.1: A Typical Design Thinking Process (11 mins)
  • 5.2: Step Two: Observation: Design Thinking (5 mins)
  • 5.3: Step Three: Define the Problem/Interpret the Results: Design Thinking (8 mins)
  • 5.4: Step Four: Ideation: Design Thinking (6 mins)
  • 5.5: Step Five: Prototyping: Design Thinking (10 mins)
  • 5.6: Step Six: Testing: Design Thinking (14 mins)
  • 5.7: The Art of Creative Problem Solving (1 min)
  • 5.8: Humanising the design process: Design Thinking (2 mins)
  • 5.9: Design Thinking Process Stages (5 mins)

Lesson 6: Analyze findings & Ideate

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 24 mins.

  • 6.1: Getting Started (12 mins)
  • 6.2: Elements that influence Ideation (15 mins)
  • 6.3: Barriers to Ideation (11 mins)
  • 6.4: Ideation Methods 1 (13 mins)
  • 6.5: Ideation Methods 2 (8 mins)
  • 6.6: Ideation Methods 3 (12 mins)
  • 6.7: Final Methods and Idea Selection (10 mins)
  • 6.8: Brainstorming: Needless Activity or Generating Solution Method? (5 mins)

Lesson 7: Prototyping

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 15 mins.

  • 7.1: Design Thinking - Empathy Based Prototyping (4 mins)
  • 7.2: Getting Started with Prototyping (13 mins)
  • 7.3: Success through failure (12 mins)
  • 7.4: Types of Prototyping (8 mins)
  • 7.5: Materials and Tools (12 mins)
  • 7.6: Prototyping Methods (13 mins)
  • 7.7: Testing Prototypes (8 mins)
  • 7.8: Prototyping Process (5 mins)

Lesson 8: Course Certificate and Final Networking

To be scheduled.

  • 8.1: Course Evaluation (1 min)

How to advance your career with IDF courses

  1. Attend lessons at your own pace

    Each week throughout the course, you get access to a new lesson, but you can move through the lessons at your own pace. This means you can learn before you leave for work, or in between breaks — in as little as 15 minutes per day.

  2. Network online and offline

    Network with your fellow course-takers online, through discussion forums inside lessons. You can also connect with your peers offline via IDF’s Local Groups. Local Groups connect you with other designers around your city who share the same passion in UX design as you.

  3. Advance your career

    Get a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you’ve scored at least 70% on a course. Highlight your Course Certificates on your résumé, your LinkedIn profile, or your website to showcase your newly mastered skills.

Start advancing your career now

Become a member to take “Design Thinking: The Beginner's Guide”. Take any other IDF UX courses at no additional cost. Take a concrete step forward in your career path today.

Frequently asked questions

I missed the enrollment date and now the course is closed. Will I have any opportunity to take the course in the future?

Don't worry if you missed the course. We will re-run it shortly. One of the reasons we continually open and close courses is to be able to control the classroom size.

Networking is a large part of our value proposition, so we want just the right number of people inside the courses. That is also why we display the "XX % percent booked" on our course icons.

We’ll re-schedule the course and make it available for sign-up on in only about a week (or perhaps a little bit longer). The actual start date of the course will be a few weeks after sign-ups begin too. We’ve found that this is the best way to maximize flexibility and convenience for everyone, especially you as you put your course program together.

Can I take more than one course at a time?

Yes, you can take all the courses you would like. For example, if there are 30 active courses, you can enroll in all 30 courses at the same time and move from one to the other as you please.

There are no further charges once you’ve paid for your membership.

Please note: If you have a student membership, you can take a maximum of three courses at the same time. As a student, you can thus still take all the courses you would like – free of extra charges – just as long as you finish them (or drop them) so that you don’t have more than three ongoing courses at the same time.

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Do I have to be online at an exact time to study?

No. You can set your own study schedule. There are no "live sessions" or "webinars" since our members are from all timezones around the world. We are a truly global community – with members in every single corner of the world.

Thus, once you are enrolled, you can take all the time you want to complete a given course. Every "classroom" in each course will never close, so you’ll have permanent access to your classmates and your course material (as well as your own answers).

Will I receive a Course Certificate?

Yes. Every time you complete a course, you get an industry-recognized Course Certificate. There is no limit to how many Course Certificates you can earn during your membership. You will also receive a 3-step guide on how to include your Course Certificate on LinkedIn and in your résumé/CV.

You can see an example of a Course Certificate at the bottom of the Course Catalogue.

I have answered questions in a lesson; when will they be marked/graded?

We do the marking/grading in so-called "sprints," where we sit down and do all the marking/grading in one go. Your answers will be graded approximately one week after you submit your work.

We do this because it is much more efficient than doing one little step every day. It's part of our lean/agile work philosophy, and that approach to efficiency is one of the factors that keeps our membership prices so incredibly low.

We are doing it to save you money and as part of our mission to lower the cost of high-quality design education.

I have updated my name, but my course certificate is not updated — how can I change it?

Please contact us at and our member support will regenerate your certificate with the correct name.

I have started the course/lesson later than the specified date, are my answers still going to be marked?

We will be marking answers for as long as there are active members. Therefore, even if you are the only person taking a lesson at that particular time, your answers will still be marked.

How are courses graded?

Open-ended questions are graded by our experts and course instructors - not by machines.

That's one of the reasons why our Course Certificates are credible and recognized by industry leaders.

I started a course after the official start date; for how long will I have access to the course materials?

Regardless of when you have enrolled on a course, you will have access to the course materials for the entire duration of your membership. So, if you pay for a one-year membership, you will have access for one year, renewing your membership for a second year means you will have access for two years, and so on.

English is not my first language. Is that a problem?

No problem!

  • Our videos have subtitles
  • Our instructors and the IDF staff is from all over the world
  • When your write answers to questions our graders will focus on the answer and not the grammar
  • You can even use Google Translate

New lessons are starting before I have had the chance to complete all aspects of the previous lesson(s); am I going to be locked out of these unfinished lessons?

No, you will not be locked out of any lesson or course. You will have access to all course materials throughout your membership, so there is no pressure to keep at the same pace as the specified lesson release dates.

All we recommend is that you try to stick to the same schedule as other participants. The reason is they may have moved on to other lessons, thereby meaning you could miss out on the social aspects of the course(s). However, we anticipate that there will be a constant flow of participants working through different lessons and courses, so overall you are unlikely to miss out. We will also be running all courses again — so there really is no rush.

Are course certificates awarded on a specific date?

No; you can generate your certificate as soon as you attain at least 70% of the total course points.

When will I receive my Course Certificate?

Course certificates will be given to participants when they have scored more than 70% or more of the total course points. For example, if a course contains ten lessons each with ten questions, you will receive a course certificate when the instructor has awarded you at least 70 points (70% of the total course points).

There is no specified time that certificates will be awarded — instead, they are given to participants as and when they have answered all questions, even if this is long after the official end date.

How do I add my Course Certificate to my LinkedIn profile?

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to add your IDF course(s) to your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Log in to your LinkedIn account, then go to your profile.
  2. On the right, in the Add profile section dropdown, choose Background and then select the + next to Licenses & Certifications.

  3. In the following fields add:
    • Name – Course name
    • Issuing organization – The Interaction Design Foundation
    • Check the field “This credential does not expire”
    • Issue date - Input the date written on your certificate (e.g., May 2019)
    • Credential ID – Your membership ID number (it's written on your certificate)
    • Credential URL: Input the certificate URL provided on your course page

  4. Click on the save button.

Congratulate yourself!
You’ve made a great accomplishment by earning your course certificate, and now the world knows about it!

How do I add the IDF Membership Certificate to my LinkedIn Profile?

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to add your IDF membership certificate to your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Log in to your LinkedIn account, then go to your profile.
  2. On the right, in the Add profile section dropdown, choose Background and then select the + next to Licenses & Certifications.

  3. In the following fields add:
    • Name – Membership Certificate
    • Issuing organization – The Interaction Design Foundation
    • Check the field “This credential does not expire”
    • Issue date - Input the date when you joined our community (e.g., May 2019)
    • Credential ID – Your membership ID number (it's written on your certificate)
    • Credential URL: Input the certificate URL provided on your profile page
  4. Click on the save button.

It is as simple as that. Now, anyone who visits your profile can see your certificate!

How much will I have to pay for the courses?

As a member, you can take as many courses as you want with no additional costs. This means you only have to pay our membership fee to take an unlimited number of courses. There will be no further charges on top of the membership fee, no matter how many courses you decide to take.

Do you provide mostly beginners' or more advanced courses?

We provide courses for all levels of mastery and accross the full spectrum. If you’re new to design, you can start from our beginner courses and progress all the way up to our advanced ones. If you’re an established designer, on the other hand, you will find some of our lower-level courses provide a good refresher—and the advanced ones, a bit of a challenge.

How long does it take to complete a course?

Once enrolled in a course, you will gain access to a new lesson each week, which you are free to complete without any deadlines and no end date, either.