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Keywords: Thinking and designing

A colourful infographic
A colourful infographic
Still from Keywords- Thinking and designing. Video: Yosana Leal.
Written by
Yosana Leal
Published date
27 July 2021

Yosana introduces you to 3 different design thinking approaches that you can use to respond to a design brief.

Design thinking is a widely recoginised tool for designers across all subject areas working in collaborative teams. The approach was shaped in the ‘product design’ world by IDEO as early as 1978. The aim is to put the user of the product first, to empathize with their needs in order to solve the problem identified in the brief, the document that guides any project.

Today there is a warning that comes with the concept of empathy- the ability to understand and share the feelings of another- that our teams need to be diverse and from different intersections in order for us to truly empathise with the brief at hand.

In 2011, Professor Nigel Cross explored these systems to comprehend the activities designer engage when designing. The design thinking processes are adopted in various ways depending on designer’s character and or the area of design they work in.

Read Nigel Cross: Design Thinking

Access this book once you’re a student at UAL on The Bloomsbury Design Library site

In Yosana’s video she sets out 3 different ways or recipes to use design thinking to respond to a design brief: a systematic, intuitive or functionality approach. These can be used in individual or group/collaborative projects.

You may find that you need to take different approaches depending on the brief you’re responding to. As you develop as a designer, a particular approach may work best for the type of projects you take on, because of your personality, interests, lived and work experience.

Thinking and designing

Looking for projects that have used these approaches?

Systematic projects

Systematic projects are predominantly focused on social economic development.

Take a look at the Design Council’s double diamond framework for design innovation.

Many community-based initiatives like Good Gym and Sisterhood have most likely used this approach to create innovative projects.

Intuitive projects

Favour Jonathan:  Favour is London based multidisciplinary artist born in Benin City Nigeria. Her works are culturally stimulated creations, which operate as representations of her understanding of the world and consider how they can motivate young people in recognising their strength through art processes. During her time as a student at Central Saint Martins she used her Instagram account intuitively to document, research and share her work in progress.

Discover  Favour's work on on and @br0wnn_sugar

Janet Skates: Janet is an abstract, mixed media and figurative artists, whose inspiration comes from flowers, music and plants. She used coloured paintings to express emotions on canvas for example her work 'Where things begin'.

Discover Janet’s work on

Phillippe Halaburda:  Philip's paintings are unique as they are based on the randomness of emotion to express abstract visuals. Phillippe creates map compositions that reveal emotional tensions, feelings, and relationships. His paintings, digital works, and photos are nothing but algorithms and codes that address a holistic mental architecture.

Discover Phillip’s work on

Functional projects

Taga: Taga's biggest influence came from the Dutch "bakfiets" (meaning "box-bike" or "cargo bike"). Cycling is a big part of Dutch culture and cargo or cargo bikes, three-wheeled vehicles with wooden boxes in the front, are very popular as a way to travel with kids. The idea behind Taga was to take the cargo bike concept one step further and turn it into a global trend.

Discover the TAGA family cargo bike on

Take a look at another similar bike brand and model, the Christiania Classic Light on

Want to see more?  

Visit UAL Graduate Showcase. See if you can work out which processes students used to create their degree show projects.

Tip: Start with Rafin Jannat’s Wayfarer’s Tale and explore the tags included on her page.

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