Design Thinking Model

Applying the new DT.Uni Model

The DT.Uni project brief called for a new instructional model stimulating creative and designerly thinking focused on wicked challenges. The result reflects the full name of the project DT.Uni - Design Thinking Approach for an Interdisciplinary University, notably expressed in the title of the model, “The 3i Approach to Design Thinking” which refers to the fact that interdisciplinary teams engage in innovation through (re)iteration.

The core competences hold a central role in the DT.Uni Model, based on the 4 Cs of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity – identified as a link between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the consortium tasks prepared for the final DT.Uni compendium of modules promoting creative and design thinking. Teachers can select the tasks that best fit their course context from the more than 80 teaching and learning modules in the database, offered in a convenient open access resource at

When following the steps and tips provided by the authors of these tasks, teachers can feel confident that the 4Cs are being promoted in a variety of ways to support learner growth in commitment, motivation, and optimism, the three defining characteristics identified throughout the project as key ingredients for the teamwork proposed. The six phases of design thinking in the DT.Uni model have been thus contextualized and celebrated in the various activities and research carried out to discover the salient qualities that characterize successful design thinking in a university setting.

Note however that while the five stages of the DT model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford ( cover empathize, define (the problem), ideate, prototype, and test, in the DT.Uni model, (re)define to understand has substituted define (the problem) while test has been substituted by evaluate and implement. The DT.Uni six-stage model recognizes and expands symmetrically on the three phases of human-centered design such that inspiration is addressed through empathizing and (re)defining to understand, ideation occurs through ideating and prototyping, and that implementation requires both evaluating and implementing. The lines that interconnect the outer circle are a reminder of the (re)iteration that is to be expected when revision and research meet in convergent and divergent processes of thinking, where ideas are focused and then flare over phases of discovery, definition, development, and delivery.

Since iteration is a common thread to the model, the order of the stages is less important than the core qualities and ideal characteristics when working with the subcomponents in the cascading circles on ways of learning and tools for development supported by diverse choices. The learning is accompanied by clear instructions, systematic approaches, and an error culture built around videos & images, study cases, and activities. Tools in the DT.Uni intellectual outputs, including three e-books, the interactive site and the database of modules for university activities, provide strategies for how to develop a point of view, better understanding, analyzing & synthesizing, finding & building ideas, storytelling, and thinking. The learning and tools are provided in a context that favors choice, an aspect that cannot be ignored in higher education, where collaborative autonomy is an objective. Choice is patent in the complex problems, the structured modules, the constructive alignment, the assessment modes, the problem solving, the feedforward, and the reflection that is promoted in the ethos of the DT.Uni model. (text by María del Carmen Arau Ribeiro, 2021; note that parts of this will appear in the upcoming Arau Ribeiro et al. 2021)