If you’re looking to advance your career by adding design thinking to your existing skills or are a beginner interested in learning about it, we’ve rounded up some of the best online design thinking courses to help you get there.
But before that, let’s recap what design thinking is and how it’s applied to businesses today.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking teaches a customer-centric methodology to help create better products, services and processes. The world’s best-known brands like Apple, Google, IBM and Airbnb, all use design thinking to empathise with their customers. This allows them to create innovative solutions to their customers’ biggest problems and barriers.
How else can design thinking be applied?
It’s not all about solving consumer-related problems though. Because design thinking teaches us a mindset as well as a method, the training can be applied throughout every layer of a business. Management, HR and operational problems also benefit from a design thinking approach.
How does design thinking work?
There are 5 phases of design thinking:
- Empathise - where we identify the problem customers face
- Define - developing a deeper understanding of the challenges customers face
- Ideate - come up with ideas and solutions to customer problems
- Prototype - create a testable solution
- Test - putting the test into practice and measuring the results
Much like the growth hacking process, design thinking is also an iterative process. If a test fails or doesn’t meet the required output, you simply go back to the beginning and restart the loop, coming up with alternative solutions and testing again to see what works.
Show me the courses!
You're right, enough explaining! You came here for the courses and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Read on for our list of the best online design thinking courses.
Growth Tribe offers an online course that teaches a comprehensive A-Z of design thinking. Taking you from the fundamental principles of design thinking to learning the five phases and how to implement and present a final, finished solution.
The course can be completed in 10-12 hours and costs €995 to become fully certified.
The course comprises 4 modules:
Module 1: Design Thinking Fundamentals and User Research
- What is design thinking and why is empathy important to businesses?
- Make sense of research and gain insights
- Identify and create better solutions using the triple-diamond process
- Understanding the value of customer personas
- Customer feedback
Module 2: Creative Ideation
- What is it? And how to identify key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Identify areas of opportunity and innovation
Module 3: Prototyping and Testing Solutions
- Usability heuristics: a way to measure user experience (UX)
- Fundamentals of visual hierarchy
- Create a user interface (UI)
- Mapping emotions to actions for user flow
- Document insights from feedback
Module 4: Presenting Your Ideas
- Audience segmentation
- Identify actionable insights
- Present findings and insights
Coursera: Design Thinking for Innovation by University of Virginia
Coursera offers this online course to help you understand design thinking as an innovative, problem-solving approach no matter what level of an organisation you’re in. It’s suitable for beginners looking to gain an overview of how design thinking can be applied to businesses.
The course takes approximately 6 hours to complete over 4 weeks with the option to purchase a certificate. Each week is broken down into the following segments:
Week 1: What is Design Thinking?
Using case studies, you’ll learn about the fundamentals of design thinking and how it can be used to drive growth and innovation. You’ll also explore which challenges are best-suited to design thinking and how to visualisation tools to present ideas.
Week 2: Preparing Your Mind for Innovation
Focusing on the mindset of a design thinker rather than just the tools and processes, this training aims to show users how design thinking can be used to identify and act on opportunities when they are presented.
Week 3: Idea Generation
Using real-life examples, you’ll learn how design thinking is used to generate ideas by following the customer journey and uncovering the problems customers are trying to solve in their lives, not just how a product is useful to them.
Week 4: Experimentation
Finally, you’ll learn how experimentation is used to test ideas that are designed to produce desirable outcomes for businesses. The course wraps up by reviewing lessons and discussing strategic opportunities.
Edx: MicroMasters Program in Design Thinking by Rochester Institute
This program, made up of 5 graduate courses, teaches the design thinking processes used to drive innovation and solve problems creatively and empathetically. From fundamentals to breaking down the five phases of design thinking, this course from RIT equips students with the knowledge they’ll need to innovate in the workplace.
Completion takes around 8 months based on 8-12 hours per week and costs €1460. The course comprises 5 courses that teach the following:
Course 1: Design Thinking Fundamentals
How a user-centric approach to problem-solving and creating innovative solutions to customer challenges.
Course 2: Empathising to Understand the Problem
Learn how empathy, user feedback and research can be used to identify both product and business challenges.
Course 3: Ideation, Iteration and Communication
Learn the iterative processes used to create and present solutions to stakeholders.
Course 4: Prototyping and User Testing
Learn how prototyping and testing are paramount before sending solutions to market. Also how to assess and evaluate solutions post-launch.
Course 5: Design Thinking Capstone
Demonstrate everything you’ve learnt with a final assessment
Completion of the MicroMasters Certificate counts towards a master's degree.
IDEO U: Foundations in Design thinking Certificate
This online course from IDEO U teaches the foundational principles and mindsets of design thinking, including how to understand the physical, emotional and social needs of customers and the methods you’ll need to know to turn them into human-centred solutions.
Spread over two separate cohort courses, IDEO U recommend 2-3 months for competition at 4 hours per week. Each course costs $799 but buying both courses together will save you $200 off the total price.
The two separate cohort courses that break down the design thinking process are:
Course 1: Insights for Innovation
Here you’ll learn how empathy is used in design thinking to understand the needs of customers, how to identify different types of customers and gather feedback through interviews and finally how to incorporate feedback using storytelling techniques to inspire and drive innovation.
Course 2: From Ideas to Action
Here you’ll learn how to come up with innovative ideas, the stages of prototyping and how to use feedback to iterate and test experiments.
Coursera: Agile Meets Design Thinking by University of Virginia
This course blends two disciplines for effective product development: agile methodologies and design thinking principles.
Students will learn about the relevance of agile development methods, how to understand what software will bring value to your customers and how to test ideas using agile user stories and prototypes combined with design thinking.
The course takes approximately 10 hours to complete and lessons are divided over 4 weeks. The course is free to audit or you can pay for certification.
Week 1: Problems Agile Solves
You’ll start with learning about what it takes to create excellent products and how agile methods can help. Including a breakdown of the Agile Manifesto and what it means.
Week 2: Focusing Your Agile with Personas, Problem Scenarios and Alternatives
Learn how personas define the target audience for your product and design thinking best practices.
Week 3: Getting to Great Agile User Stories
Learn how to take your hypothetical personas and test them on users using an interview guide.
Week 4: Focusing on Customer Value with User Stories
The agile user story is at the centre of driving value to customers. In this final lesson, you'll learn how to facilitate stories and how to communicate user stories with your team.
Coursera: Managing Innovation and Design Thinking Specialization by HEC Paris
This course is offered as part of a degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship but can be taken as a standalone specialisation. You’ll learn about the techniques used by successful entrepreneurs and CEOs to drive innovation at all stages of business development, from developing ideas to leading a company.
The course is estimated to take 5 months to complete at 6 hours per week. Throughout the 4 courses, you’ll learn about:
Course 1: Boosting Creativity for Innovation
Learn how creative ability can be refined and developed through a variety of experiences and activities and how this links to the importance of creativity from a customer perspective.
Course 2: Strategic Management of Innovation
Learn the reasons behind why firms innovate, how they compete and what role innovation plays in shaping strategic decisions for product launches and market entry.
Course 3: Organizational Design and Management
Four in-depth analyses will teach you how to evaluate the value-creating potential of your business idea and how to model it, best practices for managing talent and creativity, align business strategies with cultural and organisational structures, and how to manage guiding behaviours and bottlenecks stifling growth.
Course 4: Design Thinking
Learn how to uncover creative insights and experiment with innovative solutions. This course covers the foundations, principles and main phases of design thinking.
Udemy offers an extensive (like more than 10,000 results kind of extensive!) library of short courses on design thinking, prices vary so check regularly for discounts and offers.
There you have it! These are our picks for the ‘best online design thinking courses’.
Design thinking is an innovative and creative mindset that is being used at every level of business. As consumers gain more control over how they want to experience products and services, our ability to empathise with those needs and desires helps to build better and more successful products.
Still unsure whether you’re the right fit for design thinking? Speak to one of our learning consultants today who will be happy to answer any questions you have.
Interested in more than one thing? Good for you!