VCD Theory Design thinking

Design thinking.

What is design thinking and how can it help me design?

What is design thinking?



Creative, critical and reflective thinking


Creative thinking.

Opening up new possibilities

Creative thinking is an investigative, exploratory approach to design. If you think about an explorer they didn't know what exciting lands they were going to find. Scary really. We never know where our path will lead. It requires a curious, open-minded approach where we focus on the problem to be solved - and not on previous solutions.

Never be critical evaluate ideas when you are drawing. If you don't like a sketch you have made, make a new one. Remember keep all of your work, you need it as part of your Generation of Ideas stage of the design process.

Click on the image at right to visit my full page on Creative Thinking.



  • Mind mapping
  • See, Think, Wonder
  • Visual research
  • Consumer audience profiles
  • Scrapbooking
  • Brainstorming
  • Exquisite corps
  • Forced Associations
  • What if someone else was designing this?
  • Action verbs
  • Time limits
  • Least amount of shapes or forms
  • Work in a completely different way
  • Sprinting
  • Alternative grids
  • Kit of parts
  • Method stations
  • Deconstruction and reconstruction

In practical work

Students use one or more of the routines at left to stimulate innovation. An open mind is required to think divergently. Students may be asked to work on routines as a class or to select one or more for independent designing.

Students may find routines threatening to their process at first. This is because of impatience and the perceived need for convergent thinking. Judgement should be suspended to allow ideas to flow freely.

in annotations

Set out creative thinking pages clearly and describe how each phase of the routine being used to enable new designs. Use hierarchy on pages to create interest and engage the viewer. Remember, this isn't an add-on but a crucial stage so allow appropriate space in the folio. Make annotations in real time as the work is being done.

For analysis

Students may be asked how a designer responded to a brief and began their design process. Students describe the role of creative thinking routines used individually and collectively to enable innovation.


Critical thinking.

Am I on the right track or could I go deeper with my ideas?

Critical thinking is done during intermediary stages of the design process. It is a joining stage that fits between your initial blue sky phase and the development of ideas and refinement of concepts.

Critical Thinking helps students go deeper into ideas by questioning, clarifying, analysing, testing and evaluating.

Click on the image at right to visit my full page on Critical Thinking.



  • SWOT analysis
  • De Bono's six thinking hats
  • PMI
  • RED
  • Critical thinking lens

In practical work

Students use one or more of the routines shown at left explicitly. Make separate labeled pages to document the various phases of the routine. Photocopy or scan in pictures of design proposals to these pages so reference can be made to specific parts of designs.

Refer to p283, 'Viscomm A guide to Visual Communication Design VCE Units 1-4' by Jacinta Patterson and Joanne Saville, Second Edition for specific examples of approaches to critical thinking.

In annotations

Set out critical thinking pages clearly and describe the stages of routines in full. Describe features of one's own designs using design language from the study. Consider the designs from different points of view and describe strategies for improvement using meeting the needs of the brief as your guide. Do not describe likes and dislikes but instead, relate designs to the brief. Consider student time lines and engagement and focus in the task at this time. Effort may need to be made to bring designs back on track - this is all great stuff for annotations of student work during the design process.

For analysis

Students may be asked to describe how a designer was able to evaluate their work at various stages of the design process. How critical thinking was used as a tool for improvement of designs may be considered.

Reflective thinking.

How can others help me confirm my ideas?

Reflective thinking requires one to look at one's designs as an observer. This metacognitive approach allows designs to be considered as part of a design continuum. Data and evidence is sought from a variety of perspectives to support or challenge design ideas. Links are made between our designs and those of the world. We consider how our work meets environmental, personal, social and other factors.

The design process is shown as circular. Despite the student's  need to 'finish' a design, in reality the stage of reflective thinking informs constant change and improvement.


  • 6 Thinking Hats
  • Perspective taking
  • I used to think...Now I think (Project Zero Harvard)
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys with reflections
  • Asking questions
  • SWOT analysis
  • Interviews for feedback

In practical work

Students should involve others or seek different perspectives in Reflective Thinking. They consider how their understandings have changed through using the design process. Further on students make mock-ups and employ a range of surveys and testing procedures to gather data to inform reflection and evaluation. They may use one or more of the routines listed at left. A pitch may be used to consider designs from social and environmental points of view as well as they are measured in respect to how well they answer the needs of the brief.

Suggestions for improvement are noted and a strategy for change is drafted.

In annotations

A metacognitive approach is used to reflect on one's learning during the design process.

Evidence and data is gained from a variety of perspectives, through surveys and tests. These are documented fully describing how others have been involved in one's reflective process.

Students use reflection to sign-post their next steps and future directions.

For analyis

Theory questions may ask how designers tested and evaluated their work prior to production. Students will be required to refer to one or more of the routines and explain how they were used to create data to enable the designer to reflect on a design's suitability.


Creative, critical and reflective thinking

Research at least one of the routines for use at each stage of design thinking.

Use each technique to enable metacognitive thinking to be innovative, re-focus and reflect on you work and its relationship with the design world at large.

Create pages for design thinking routines that demonstrate them explicitly.