Design Thinking – Take A Stand

Territory embraces design thinking. Very early on, we were inspired by Stanford’s, and quickly adopted their open source tools, including their “Wallet Project,” a design thinking exercise, and “Bootcamp Bootleg,” a how-to guide. For our first design team, Territory adapted the Wallet Project by replacing wallets with hats.

In the studio, our “Hat Project” sets the stage for conversations with young people about three dimensional space, visual impact, social customs, and comfort zones. It’s a fast, fun team building activity, a hands-on demonstration of the design thinking process, and a stealth introduction to urban design.

A lot of ink has been devoted to design thinking. For a quick introduction, check out this four-minute TED talk with with Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO. In this video Tim describes IDEO’s four step iterative problem solving process.

Although the and IDEO have common roots, their tools and vocabulary slightly different. IDEO’s four step design thinking process is five steps at the

empathy – define – ideate – prototype – test

Empathy is the addition. It’s an essential social tool for teens working in teams and in communities.

After five years of experimentation using the design thinking process, Territory Urban Design Team now defines our process in seven steps, which we use when we are invited to do any project:

empathy – discovery – take a stand – ideate – prototype – test – reflect


Reflect and (repeat) affirm that there is no “right” answer. By embedding iteration into the process, the team is empowered to experiment and take risks without threat of failure.

Ultimately, the success of our team depends on the act of defining our project, what we now call “take a stand.”

Urban design is an act of civic engagement. When our team “takes a stand” we are doing more than defining. We are taking ownership in our communities, staking territory where young people can lead.


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