The LAUNCH Cycle

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The term “design thinking” is often attached to maker spaces and STEM labs. However, design thinking is bigger than STEM. It begins with the premise of tapping into student curiosity and allowing them to create, test and re-create until they eventually ship what they made to a real audience (sometimes global but often local). Design thinking isn’t a subject or a topic or a class. It’s more of way of solving problems that encourages risk-taking and creativity.

Design thinking is a flexible framework for getting the most out of the creative process. It is used in the arts, in engineering, in the corporate world, and in social and civic spaces. You can use it in every subject with every age group. It works when creating digital content or when building things with duct tape and cardboard.

For the last 12 years, I’ve used design thinking. As a teacher, I used it for everything from coding projects to service projects to documentaries to engineering challenges. As startup co-founder, we used the design thinking cycle for product development. As an author, it’s a framework I use for publishing.

So, here’s a description of the design thinking cycle that AJ Juliani and I developed and included in our book Launch: Using the Design Thinking Process to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. Note that we added a final phase that’s often missing from design thinking models. It’s the idea of launching. It’s the belief that after students have designed their work, they should send it to an authentic audience.

Check out the video below:

The LAUNCH Cycle

Although there are many models for design thinking, we have developed the student-friendly LAUNCH Cycle. We created an acronym to help make it easier to remember:

L: Look, Listen, and Learn
In the first phase, students look, listen, and learn.The goal here is awareness. It might be a sense of wonder at a process or an awareness of a problem or a sense of empathy toward an audience.

A: Ask Tons of Questions
Sparked by curiosity, students move to the second phase, where they ask tons of questions.

U: Understanding the Process or Problem
This leads to understanding the process or problem through an authentic research experience. They might conduct interviews or needs assessments, research articles, watch videos, or analyze data.

N: Navigate Ideas
Students apply that newly acquired knowledge to potential solutions. In this phase, they navigate ideas. Here they not only brainstorm, but they also analyze ideas, combine ideas, and generate a concept for what they will create.

C: Create a Prototype
In this next phase, they create a prototype. It might be a digital work or a tangible product, a work of art or something they engineer. It might even be an action or an event or a system.

H: Highlight and Fix
Next, they begin to highlight what’s working and fix what’s failing. The goal here is to view this revision process as an experiment full of iterations, where every mistake takes them closer to success.

Launch to an Audience 
Then, when it’s done, it’s ready to launch. In the launch phase, they send it to an authentic audience. They share their work with the world!

CURIOUS ABOUT DESIGN THINKING

Here are some free design thinking resources I’ve developed that you might find helpful: