: Scaling Design Thinking into Higher Education. is a project concept that was designed after realizing that the awareness of design thinking among educators have been well established, however teaching it in classroom needs some work; which could be a step ahead in scaling design driven thinking to students.



Timeline – 6 Months + (ongoing - Scaling Product)

Collaborators – Tori Duong, Rachel Chen, Rohit Kapoor and Michael Yang.

Advisors – Michele Morris (Associate Director, The Design Lab),
                   Rana Chakrabarti (Sr Designer, SAP),
                   and Andrea Anderson (VP of Design Thinking, SAP).

My Role - UX Researcher and Designer

Problem Space

Design Thinking is getting highly popular in the industry and professionals all across the world are now adopting it in their field. However, college graduates entering the industry aren’t aware of that mindset and it takes extra efforts for companies to train them.

So our aim was to introduce and embed this design thinking mindset into students before they plunge into the corporate world. After a lot of prior research done by our SAP team, we realized that a possible solution is to convince educators to introduce design thinking mindset to students by incorporating the learning in students high-school and college experience.

However, the core challenge of teaching design thinking for educators stems from the difficulty in teaching project based classes. It takes a lot more efforts for the Professors and the Teaching Assistants to run a project based class. Our key question that we looked into was that :

How can we make this transition better for educators to effectively run a design led class?

Another key challenge is that many of the resources available to these professors are very design driven which are usually meant for design educators. They need to spend a lot of time to design their course to incorporate these methodologies in their diverse curriculum. With this we asked,

How can we consolidate all the relevant information together that could serve as the perfect toolkit for these educators to introduce design thinking in their classroom ?



After a lot of research, analyzing experience maps and having many brainstorming activities, we came to hypothesis of the Cookbook. Cookbook incorporates a collection of teaching recipes that makes it easier for educators to teach design process in their classroom that is relevant to the industry.

The main focus was on to facilitate developing of design-driven mindset and skillset to students rather than curating materials for the class.

Cookbook comprises of 3 main tiers which turned into categories in the toolkit* - 

1.     The first tier was classroom management tips that includes recipes on handling various issues related to project based classes. For example, handling group conflicts, peer evaluation, subjective project grading, designing rubrics, studio session etc. which are all essential for smooth functioning of a classroom.

2.     The second tier is design-led instructions that introduces how to teach and integrate design-doing mindset and skillset into their project based curriculum for students to learn. This was very much inspired by the IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit but cookbook was focused more on applying this to a wide range of diverse fields.

3.     The third tier encompassed real-world experiences on design-doing experiences through sample courses that well-established professors from Design schools and other relevant universities have successfully integrated into their full quarter/semester courses.



 Summary of our approach.

Summary of our approach.


Interviews and Observational Studies

We approached various professors from diverse departments and gained insights (through semi-structured interviews) about different ways they use to build their curriculum.  

We also conducted interviews with Teaching Assistants (mostly graduate students) who have experience working with Professors in planning courses (especially focused on pain point)

We also performed 3 day participant observation on 10-12 faculty members who were attending a workshop held every quarter by Teaching and Commons department of the university that is aimed to help and guide professors with course design and also incorporate novel and innovative teaching strategies in the classroom.

Among a lot of insights, here are few of the key ones that we found -

  • Faculty usually learn and try new approaches from peers and reputable faculty in universities.
  • Professors have difficulty managing logistics while incorporating a new teaching style (like project based classes) instead of traditional lecture-based classroom.
  •  Their best source of inspiration comes from past courses taught in similar universities by senior faculties. (through course webpages).
  • Professors are overloaded a lot with research commitments that blocks time from teaching and planning.
  • They utilize online content rather than creating their own content from scratch to save time.
  • Professors appreciate feedback and reflections from other faculty members on things that worked/did not work during their class.
  • TAs have issues grading objectively when it comes to group projects.


We were able to classify our users into three distinct roles –

  • Experienced Professors (especially in teaching and managing design-led curriculum).
  • Inexperienced Professors (Usually Non - Tenure / Early Tenure track professors with lesser experience in teaching with novel strategies).
  • Assistant Staff – Teachings Assistants, Instructional Assistants, Tutors.

All three roles had their own distinct needs and requirements.  Through our prior research with sets of users in each group, we created few personas (Samatha, Richard, Celia, Shawn) that closely resembles to our ideal user in each of those categories. 

Having similar users from each group of our persona (especially during later iterations) helped us even validate almost all use- cases.

 Drafting Personas

Drafting Personas

Personas (Digitized

Journey Maps and Storyboarding

We crafted our journey maps based on your initial research for different personas to gain and accumulate their needs. The journey map helped us understand the actions, mindsets, and emotions of our 'actors' and further aided in finding various points of opportunities to solve for.


Drafting the journey map


This is where the idea of a consolidated resource kit was formed that would provide educators assets from reputable sources and eventually build a trustworthy community where they could share resources (in form of recipes) and engage in meaningful discussions.

This concept of having modifiable and shareable recipes to curate a design led classroom helped us to come up with the metaphorical name – "". (educators as chef’s with recipes to share that could be modified by others as per their need)

 Our digital Storyboard laid out in the wall

Our digital Storyboard laid out in the wall

Validating storyboard with professors at UCSD

We also pasted the whole journey on a wall in terms of a storyboard and took feedback from professors to iterate and prioritize the needs of a professor.  The online version of interactive storyboard describing the whole experience of using cookbook can be seen here.


Participatory Design, Card-sorting and Experience Maps


We started off our prototyping phase through paper prototypes of the resource toolkit based on the needs we gathered.

However before validating our initial designs, we had few professors work with us (participatory design approach) and draw sketches on their own and think-aloud on how they would structure such a toolkit and what content would be most appropriate for them to see first.

We iterated this several times with different professors and then also performed card sorting exercises to establish different categories of ‘recipe’ content that educators would love to have in cookbook.

Three main categories were emerged based on our card-sort & feedback –

  1. Classroom Management Techniques. (tips for managing project classes)
  2. Design Thinking Methods (lessons to teach in classroom)
  3. Real-world Design-Driven Curriculums (Examples of courses)

The labels for these categories were iterated constantly during our process based on feedback obtained in usability tests

To go one step further into the experience of the toolkit, our advisor/manager Rana helped us design an experience map (for each persona) that made us identify opportunities and pain-points in each and every stage of our user’s journey.

An experience map helped us to identify opportunities to solve user's "high level" goals

The detailed spreadsheet experience map can be seen here in this file -> Experience Map . (CC - Rana Chakrabarti)

Use Cases and User Stories

While our core designers (Tori and Rachel) iterated on the wireframes towards a much higher fidelity prototypes, I along with Rohit (teammate) and Rana delved into our user journeys crafted user stories for our personas.

 Examples of User stories and Use Cases that we curated

Examples of User stories and Use Cases that we curated

With each user story, we curated a huge list of use cases keeping in mind the user-flow of the wireframes and kept validating our prototypes constantly to form our base of interaction design.





 Team Dynamics that we followed during Ideation.

Team Dynamics that we followed during Ideation.






Team Dynamics - During the development of our prototype, we had mini design sprints with all stakeholders in a structure as shown in the image on the right. We also included our developer (Michael) in the early stages of prototyping, where he started developing a working prototyping during the sprints and gave constant feedback on our designs as well.

Have a streamlined workflow like this helped us churn out our designs much quicker and solid. We also constantly kept user testing our iterations to validate the layout and information architecture.

 Examples of recipes/content that I curated for our Alpha Prototypes

Examples of recipes/content that I curated for our Alpha Prototypes





Since our goal was to deliver valuable content to our audience, we also decided to follow a content-first design approach for our wireframes and prototypes.

Hence for our initial prototype, I manually curated many recipes from really experienced design professors at UC San Diego.

Similarly the SAP team curated recipes from their sources and other collaborating partners (Stanford, SAP Research). These recipes were added to the high-fi prototype.







Design Decisions

Here are few examples of the design decisions we made on our high-fidelity mockups through iterations and feedback process.

  • Information Architecture - Initially our webpage had different pages for each of our categories. We combined them together into one page to reduce the interaction cost and have a more minimalized flow and structure and also included various search filtering techniques for users to quickly navigate through different recipes. 
  • Addition/Removal of Features - We added different features and add-ons (like the discussion element, bookmarks and search) for the recipes that we discovered during iterative feedback sessions with our users.
  • Layout/Structure of the recipe - The structure of the recipe kept changing in every iteration during the whole process. Our final recipe had a more modularized structure with various sections.
    For instance for a classroom management recipe, it had 3 main sections - Prep, Facilitate and Watch For. The key ingredients (core resources for the recipe), additional resources and metadata was included in the side-bar and the header of the recipe.

Proof of Concept Workshop (Testing Hypothesis)

To test our concept, the SAP team and our lab The Design Lab at UCSD conducted a 3 day ClassLab workshop where we gathered 20+ professors from 7-8 colleges across the country to come in with the intention of redesigning their courses to be design-led. Our team presented our initial cookbook recipes in the workshop and it was great to realize that they were really helpful for them and everyone in the workshop were very eager to have the product full fledged asap.

3 - day workshop held for professors across the country


Few reflections from our advisors of the workshop can be seen in the video on the right.