The Design Thinking Playbook by Lerwick, Link and Leifer book review

productfernSeptember 8, 2020

Design thinking has gained in popularity in recent years. It links very closely to user research in terms of putting users at the heart of any design. It follows a similar philosophy as that within Lean and Agile in terms of focusing on testing continually to ensure value. I wanted to learn more about Design Thinking so picked up The Design Thinking Playbook by Lerwick, Link and Leifer.

Image of the front of the Design Thinking Playbook book

What is the Design Thinking Playbook about

The Design Thinking Playbook is split into three main sections –

Understand Design Thinking

Firstly, the book focuses in on the design thinking micro cycle which is made up of: understand, observe, define point of view, ideate, prototype and test. The book takes each of these areas in turn and looks into different techniques. This section is very practical. Each step is explained in detail and then accompanied by Expert Tips. The Expert Tips are all activities which can be directly put into practice. For example, they cover how to create personas, how to conduct interviews, and how to create ideas.

By the end of this section, you have a good idea of what design thinking includes and how to take it forward.

Transform Organizations

Secondly, the book covers what your organisation should do to enable design thinking. The idea is that many companies may not be set up for creativity. This section covers ways to enable design thinking. It covers things such as creating a creative space and how to have the right team. It is similar to the first section in terms of having Expert Tips throughout and is very relatable.

Design The Future

Finally, the book looks at how other concepts interact with design thinking. For example, it considers how concepts like systems thinking and business models could interact. Whilst this section has less Expert Tips to complete, it helps to put Design Thinking in the context of other activities going on in an organisation.

Image of the back of the design thinking playbook

Positives of the Design Thinking Playbook

The Design Thinking Playbook is highly visual. As it is covering creativity and design, I’d expect nothing less! It is colourful, fun and full of diagrams throughout. This makes it engaging to read and a joy to flick through. Similarly it is published in A4 which gives you lots of space to tag or make notes. Each section is also complimented with a ‘Key Learnings’ page. This helps to consolidate all the info you’ve read and helps you take it forward.

Alongside the beautiful design, the book is really useful! It can be a bit of an odd layout as it can be read from front to back. But it can also be dipped into. If you flick through and pick a page at random, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get something useful. I’ve tagged a lot of pages with techniques I want to use. It’s then easy for me to flick to that page and understand it straight away.

The concepts it covers may seem simple but it puts it in a framework for you to use. It also adds value with new things to consider for each area. For example, you may have done a lot of prototyping in a certain way, but the book makes you consider different ways to test.

Negatives of the book

Whilst I laid out the book above, it can be a little confusing when you first open it. It can be a little unclear as to why they have picked the structure and how it flows on from each other. Only by reading some of the introduction does it piece it together.

Once you have got the structure down, it does make sense but maybe doesn’t flow in a way which works as well for me. I like the Transform Organizations section in that it has useful material, but does seem a bit out of place. This may just be how I put all the pieces together though!

Have I been able to apply the book in real life?

Yes! Like I mentioned, the book is broken down into so many tips and techniques which you can use in real life. On my first run through, I tagged a load of activities to try. I always dip back into it when I’m looking for a different way of doing something. Especially if you are trying to incorporate some user centred design into your work, then it gives you lots of ideas to try.

Should you buy the Design Thinking Playbook?

If you’re interested in design thinking or user centred design then yes! Especially if this is a new area of your practice then this will really help your understanding. It’s not a book which you read once and then it lingers on your shelf – it’s one to pick up and keep using! If you need more convincing then the website for the book has some direct examples.

What next?

If you fancy another book review then check out the review of Gamestorming. Design thinking links closely to user research, read more about user research techniques and how to incorporate it into product management.

Have you read this book? What do you think?

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