The Best Design Thinking Certification Courses (2023 Guide) (2023)

Perhaps you’re a UX designer interested in getting a design thinking certification. Maybe you’re a CEO or manager considering one for your team. Either way, you’ll want to know whether or not it’s worthwhile—and, if it is, how to go about making it happen.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about getting a design thinking certification—including how it can benefit your design career and your business. We’ll also list some of the best programs and courses offering one.

We’ve divided our guide as follows—feel free to skip ahead to the relevant section:

  1. What is design thinking and why is it useful?
  2. I’m a UX designer—should I get a design thinking certification?
  3. I’m a CEO or manager—should I get a design thinking certification for my team?
  4. What are the best design thinking certification programs?
  5. Key takeaways and next steps

And if you’d like a solid introduction to the field before you start any more formal training, you can take a free UX design micro course. Free courses won’t be enough to take you as far as a design thinking certification, but they’re definitely a start.

Let’s jump in!

1. What is design thinking and why is it useful?

First things first: What exactly is design thinking and why is it useful? What’s all the fuss about?

By definition, design thinking is both an ideology and a process used to solve highly complex problems in a user-centric way. So, not only is it a mindset that encourages you to put your users first; it is also a practical, actionable methodology that can be applied in almost any setting.

One of the reasons design thinking is so popular in the business world is that, although it is based on the methods and processes used by designers, it can be used to solve all kinds of tricky business problems—you don’t need to be a designer to use and benefit from design thinking. Another great advantage is that it prioritizes tangible outcomes, allowing you to focus on finding solutions rather than fixating on obstacles and challenges.

So how does it work?

The design thinking process is divided into five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. You might go through each of the phases within the context of a design thinking workshop, or you might refer to the design thinking framework when making strategic business decisions.

(Video) Design Thinking Full Course | Design Thinking Process | Design Thinking For Beginners | Simplilearn

Whether you use design thinking as an ideology, a process, or both, the entire approach has been designed to encourage creativity and push for innovation, all while putting the user first. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to design thinking here—check it out if you’d like to learn more.

The Best Design Thinking Certification Courses (2023 Guide) (1)

2. I am a UX designer, should I get a design thinking certification?

Whether you’re an experienced UX professional or a fresh-faced designer, there are many ways you can benefit from being design thinking certified. Just like any other specialist skills you might choose to learn, a design thinking certification can help to set you apart and enrich your practice as a UX designer.

You’ll learn how to solve problems both quickly and creatively, and, thanks to the inherently collaborative nature of design thinking, you’ll also optimize the way you work with your team and other stakeholders. In addition to improving how you work, you’ll also give yourself a competitive edge; as design thinking becomes more and more popular in the business world, employers will increasingly be looking for designers who can both implement and teach the methodology and techniques involved.

Extremely useful for freelance UX designers

A design thinking certification is also extremely beneficial if you’re working as a freelance designer or consultant, or if you plan on doing so in the future. Many CEOs and business leaders want to tap into the power of design thinking without necessarily getting a certification themselves, so they’ll hire a designer or consultant to take them through the process instead.

If you want to make a business out of running design thinking workshops, a certification will ensure you’re well-versed in the theory behind the methodology—and give you the credibility that clients will be looking for. You can learn more about how to run an effective design thinking workshop in this guide.

But what if you’re already a design thinking expert—do you still need a certification? Even if you’re already incorporating design thinking into your work, an official certification will help to verify your knowledge and present it as a concrete skill.

Employers and clients scanning your resumé, portfolio, or LinkedIn profile won’t always pick up on implicit references to design thinking; they’ll be much more convinced by a visible and credible design thinking certification.

So, should you get a design thinking certification? Here’s a recap of the main benefits:

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  • Enrich your everyday UX practice
  • Learn new problem-solving techniques
  • Enhance your collaboration skills
  • Set yourself apart with an in-demand skill
  • Learn how to run Design Thinking workshops
  • Forge a freelance or consultant career as a Design Thinking expert
  • Formalize your existing knowledge with a recognized certification

3. I am a CEO or manager, should I get a design thinking certification for my employees?

We know that design thinking isn’t just for designers; all areas of business can make use of this creative, user-first approach. If you’re familiar with some of the more well-known design thinking success stories—like how accounting software firm Intuit used design thinking to boost sales by $10 million in a year, or how design thinking transformed Airbnb from a failing startup to a billion-dollar business—you may be wondering how you can use design thinking within your own organization.

One option is to hire someone to run a design thinking workshop in-house. Alternatively, you might consider getting some of your team members certified through a specific design thinking course.

With a design thinking certification, you’re essentially looking to train your employees to think like designers—regardless of what department they work in. This is especially useful for those who don’t typically focus on the end user in their day-to-day work, and for those who may not be used to taking a creative approach.

At the micro level, you’ll be equipping your employees and colleagues with highly valuable skills that they can apply to their own projects and tasks. At the macro level, you’ll foster a creative, user-centric mindset throughout the business—and that can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Historically, design-driven businesses have consistently outperformed their competitors, and studies show that design thinking maturity delivers higher revenue and better returns for organizations.

So, if you’re not already incorporating design thinking into your business practice, you might consider introducing it through formal training. If you’re considering a design thinking certification for some of your team members, here are some potential benefits of doing so:

  • Encourage and optimize cross-team collaboration
  • Establish a user-first mindset throughout the organization
  • Foster creativity and come up with innovative solutions
  • Outperform your competitors
  • Benefit from higher revenue and better returns

4. The best design thinking certification programs

Having explored the benefits of a design thinking certification, let’s take a look at some of the best programs and courses on the market.

1. IDEO U: Foundations in Design Thinking Certificate

  • Mode of study: Online
  • Duration: 2-3 months (based on 4 hours per week)
  • Price: $1,398 USD

The Foundations in Design Thinking program offered by IDEO U teaches the core skills and mindsets of design thinking. It’s divided into two online cohort courses which you’ll need to complete in order to get your final certificate. The first course, Insights for Innovation, shows you how to turn customer needs into human-centered solutions, while the second course, From Ideas to Action, shows you how to prototype, experiment, and iterate on your ideas.

The program is entirely online-based, with each lesson broken down into short videos. Upon completion of the program, you’ll receive your downloadable certificate via email.

(Video) What Is Design Thinking? An Overview

2. Cornell University: Design Thinking Certificate

  • Mode of study: Online
  • Duration: 6 months (based on 3-5 hours per week)
  • Price: $3,750 USD

This six-month online program is ideal for anyone who is involved in the design, development, or improvement of products, services, and infrastructure.

The curriculum has been divided into six courses, each taking three weeks to complete: Identifying and framing a challenge, Gathering user emotions, Crafting user narratives, Generating user-centered solutions, Design prototyping, and Testing and iteration. Students can expect to spend 3-5 hours per week on the course and are required to complete a final project.

3. Stanford University: Design Thinking Bootcamp

  • Mode of study: In-person
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Price: $14,000 USD

If you’re looking for an intensive, hands-on initiation into the world of design thinking, look no further than Stanford University’s four-day workshop. Held at the prestigious school, this immersive bootcamp will show you how you can use design thinking to solve real business challenges.

You’ll also learn how to enhance collaboration across diverse, multi-disciplinary teams. The workshop takes place three times a year in spring, summer, and fall, and the tuition fee covers course materials, breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day (but not accommodation).

4. The Design Gym: Design Thinking Bootcamp

  • Mode of study: In-person
  • Duration: 1 day (9am – 6pm)
  • Price: $595 – $675 USD

If you like the idea of a bootcamp but need something less intensive (and expensive) than that offered by Stanford University, The Design Gym offers a reasonable alternative. This one-day design thinking bootcamp is ideal for individuals and small teams looking for a little help to unleash their creativity and come up with original, innovative ideas.

Led by two expert trainers, the workshop will equip you with a range of different tools for empathizing with customers, defining their needs, and creating solutions. Most importantly, you’ll come away with an in-depth understanding of the design thinking process and how it’s being used at big companies across a range of industries. This workshop is currently available in New York City and Los Angeles.

5. MIT School of Management: Mastering Design Thinking

  • Mode of study: Online
  • Duration: 3 months (6-8 hours per week)
  • Price: $3,300 USD

Delivered in collaboration with Emeritus, this online program is for anyone—both teams and individuals alike—who is responsible for driving innovation and growth within their organization. Participants benefit from over 120 video lectures as well as three live teaching sessions.

To successfully complete the course, you’ll need to work on three group projects, ten assignments, and one capstone project. Although the course is online, it takes place on certain dates throughout the year—you can find upcoming course dates on their website.

6. The University of Virginia Darden School: Design Thinking and Innovation Specialization

  • Mode of study: Online
  • Duration: 20 weeks (four 5-week courses)
  • Price: Free via Coursera

The Design Thinking and Innovation Specialization course offered by the Darden School comprises four project-based online courses, with each course designed to run for five weeks. Design Thinking Part I focuses on identifying a human-centered challenge to solve, while Part II shows you how to turn your ideas into action.

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The third and fourth components explore discovery tools from the field of human-centered design and techniques for easing collaboration in the workplace. In addition to the online classroom experience which comprises videos, reading, and assignments, students can also take part in discussions and exchange feedback with mentors and fellow classmates.

7. Global Knowledge: Design Thinking Bootcamp

  • Mode of study: Online or in-person
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Price: $2,295 USD

Available in both a virtual classroom and a live format, this bootcamp promises to take you on a hands-on journey through the design thinking process. Over the course of two days, be it online or in-person, you’ll learn how to define and solve problems, how to prototype rapidly, and how to apply design thinking to non-traditional roles.

This is a collaborative course that will see you working with your peers to come up with viable solutions. The live classrooms are available across the United States, with sessions running at least once a month.

8. Innovation Learning: Innovation & Design Thinking Facilitation Program

  • Mode of study: Online and in-person
  • Duration: Variable
  • Price: $1,783.81 USD

This somewhat unique program focuses on “training the trainer”—in other words, it will equip you to run your own design thinking workshops. Through one-on-one or small group coaching, the experts at Innovation Training will help you to create your own custom-made workshop that you can offer to clients or use within your current organization.

The program consists of online workshops, an online course that is the equivalent of a 3-credit university course, and two live meetings. You’ll complete a project to design and facilitate your own innovation workshop, resulting in a final certificate.

9. Rochester Institute of Technology: MicroMasters® Program in Design Thinking

  • Mode of study: Online
  • Duration: 8 months (8-12 hours per week)
  • Price: $1,378 USD

The MicroMasters® program offered by RIT comprises five individual courses, each taking six weeks to complete. You’ll start with Design Thinking Fundamentals before moving through each of the key stages in the design thinking process.

The final course, the Design Thinking Capstone, will see you applying what you’ve learned throughout the program: you’ll be asked to solve a given problem using the design thinking process, which you’ll submit as a project.

Participants are expected to devote 8-12 hours per week to the program, and in order to get the final certification, will need to earn a verified certificate in all five courses successfully.

5. Key takeaways and next steps

So there you have it: ten of the best design thinking certification programs the market has to offer. Before you commit to a particular course, it’s important to spend some time thinking about your own unique goals and requirements.

(Video) The Design Thinking Process

For instance, what are your reasons for obtaining a design thinking certification—are you looking to enhance your own design career, or to bring the spirit of creativity and innovation to your organization? What kind of UX qualification do you really need? At the same time, think about your needs. Can you commit to an intensive bootcamp, or would a flexible, online format be more feasible?

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few options, be sure to do your research: check for independent reviews and, if possible, speak to an advisor from the organization offering the course before you sign up.

If you’d like to learn more about improving your UX design practice or thinking like a designer, check out the following:

  • The Best Masters in UX Design Programs: 2023 Guide
  • A complete guide to the most effective ideation techniques
  • 10 UX principles that will change the way you see the world
  • 5 Design thinking activities every UX designer needs


Is a design thinking certificate worth it? ›

Conclusion. A Design Thinking Certificate is an excellent way to improve your career prospects and set yourself apart from the competition. If you're looking for a way to improve your problem solving, creativity and collaboration skills, then a design thinking certificate is the way to go.

Does design thinking have a future? ›

The future of design thinking lies in its ability to help people solve complex problems in creative ways. As our world becomes more complex, there will be an increasing need for people who can think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions.

Is design thinking in demand? ›

So yes, design thinking can be a great way to achieve customer centered innovation and enable companies to really start adding value. Discover your customers tacit and latent needs and turn them into demand!

How much does design thinking certification cost? ›

Courses and Certificate fees

1,00,000 to pursue the Eruditus Design Thinking certification course.

How much is Stanford design thinking course? ›

If you have already started or completed the application, reach out to your Program Advisor. What is the Design Thinking course fee? The Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Education's Design Thinking course is a 12-week online course. The program fee is US $3,500.

How hard is it to get into IDEO? ›

The short answer: very hard. Because of its reputation, the job market at IDEO is highly competitive. Regardless of the role, IDEO places great care on hiring people that display both intellectual and emotional intelligence.

Is design thinking a hard skill? ›

Design Thinking is identified as one of Matter's top soft skills that is linked to performance, development, and career success. Applying user-centered methodologies to solve problems and create solutions.

Did Steve Jobs use design thinking? ›

Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, and he changed the vision of Apple by applying design thinking principles. The same strategy is being practiced by the brand even today.

What's next after design thinking? ›

Innovation Design is both a subsuming of Design Thinking within a larger framework (Innovation) and retooling of its techniques to be more effective with complex problems and emergent situations.

Is design thinking risky? ›

But design thinking is not a guarantee of success. Before you sign on to the open-ended, meandering journey that is true design thinking, consider some of its inherent risks. One such risk arises when the practitioner or team doesn't understand the use or limitations of design thinking.

Which design course is in high demand? ›

Here are the most in demand and popular specializations that you can choose from in 2022.
  • Interior Design. Interior design comes under the top specialization courses when careers in design are concerned. ...
  • Industrial Design. Design Engineer is what industry is looking for. ...
  • Interaction Design. ...
  • UI /UX Design. ...
  • Animation.
Aug 4, 2022

Is design thinking outdated? ›

While Design Thinking is an old method for designers, it became popular within businesses in the last twenty years. Despite the criticism, Design Thinking seems effective at bringing design to the table, allowing designers to influence product strategy.

Is design thinking a good career? ›

Design thinking is one such problem-solving skill that every professional needs to have. It is focused on solving problems in a creative and user-centric way. So no matter what industry you are in, being skilled in Design Thinking will help you solve any problem that occurs in the most effective way possible.

Does design thinking involve coding? ›

Design thinking and coding: How they are related

Just like coding, it offers a path where you'll get a number of new tools and 21st-century skills while creating. When you offer your kids the chance for them to create their very own app, they will gain a lot more beyond the actual app they'll create.

How do you master design thinking? ›

Understand the design thinking process. Identify and assess opportunities through customer needs analysis. Create clear product specifications based on customer needs that are desirable, feasible, and viable. Generate and evaluate new product and service concepts through applied creativity.

Is design thinking easy? ›

At a high level, the steps involved in the design thinking process are simple: first, fully understand the problem; second, explore a wide range of possible solutions; third, iterate extensively through prototyping and testing; and finally, implement through the customary deployment mechanisms.

What are 5 stages of design thinking? ›

The short form of the design thinking process can be articulated in five steps or phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

Is creative thinking the same as design thinking? ›

Creative thinking goes through often linear processes that we often find under the name of design thinking. Our ability to create and innovate follows a design, a modeling imagined for us, inviting each member of a team to consider several ideas at the same time.

What is the most popular course at Stanford? ›

Aeronautics, Philosophy, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science are some of the top courses at Stanford University.

How much do people at IDEO get paid? ›

At IDEO, the highest paid job is a General Counsel at $250,142 annually and the lowest is an Admin Assistant at $44,400 annually. Average IDEO salaries by department include: Engineering at $153,915, Product at $182,944, HR at $140,782, and Operations at $114,745. Half of IDEO salaries are above $134,238.

Does IDEO hire out of college? ›

We hire people with a wide range of professional experience and educational background, as we know that bringing diverse perspectives is crucial to making positive, disproportionate impact in the world.

What makes IDEO so successful? ›

For IDEO, empathy is the key that enables the company to unlock its creative solutions. IDEO does this by observing user behavior for greater understanding and by putting itself in a user's shoes to fully understand the user's experience.

What is the opposite of design thinking? ›

Design thinking is the opposite of inclusive design.

Can design thinking work with any age? ›

Design thinking 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.

What is the biggest challenge in design thinking? ›

The three most common innovation challenges in design thinking are people desirability, business viability and technical feasibility. People desirability concerns where there is a market, or desire, for the product or service.

What are the weaknesses of design thinking? ›

So, let's look at eight Design Thinking flaws and how to fix them:
  • Design Thinking Has an Image Problem. ...
  • Some See Design Thinking as a Linear Process. ...
  • Some View Design Thinking as a Glorified 2-3 Day Workshop. ...
  • People Want Human-Centric Outputs Without Human Inputs. ...
  • Misalignment is a Risk to Every Design Thinking Project.
Feb 1, 2019

What is one of the biggest obstacles to design thinking? ›

Barrier one: Lack of a user-centered approach

Without clear, documented principles that define how what you do and who you are benefits your users, it's far too easy to be driven by blind assumptions. The main principle of design thinking is to empathise for our users and the problem we are trying to solve.

Does Amazon use design thinking? ›

Amazon's 'customer obsession' is beautifully captured within its strategic framework. It embodies mature design thinking.

Does Apple still use design thinking? ›

Everything at Apple is about the customer experience and making customer experience “unforgettable”. From its product designs to Apple stores, everything is founded on design thinking principles.

Does Starbucks use design thinking? ›

Starbucks is a good example of a company that uses design the reflect the brand image. In order to maintain the brand strategy over the organization, the company has developed a detailed guidance for the designers to make sure that the company image is consistent.

What are the 4 P's of design thinking? ›

These 4P's are: Person: understanding the traits, characteristics or attributes of the creative person; Process: describing the operations or stages of thinking used in the creative process; Press: examining the nature of situations and its context within the creative press (or environment) and the Product: identifying ...

What are the 3 P's of design thinking? ›

The Three Phases of Design Thinking: Immersion, Ideation and Prototyping. The Design Thinking approach have changed the way thousands of companies think (and do) innovation. Start your transformation from 3 basic standards: Immersion, Ideation and Prototyping.

What are your top 3 takeaways from the design thinking course? ›

Here are five takeaways from Design Thinking:
  • See the world through your user's eyes. You must put yourself in the shoes of your user, or in the case of the Met challenge, the visitor. ...
  • Everyone has a story. ...
  • Design for one can be design for all. ...
  • Build then think. ...
  • Build on ideas.
Mar 12, 2015

What is the common mistake made by design thinker? ›

Skipping the empathy phase

The only way to do this is to directly interact with them, through interviews, observations, and immersions in their experiences. If this sounds simple and common-sensical, that's because it is. Yet I'm frequently asked by clients to skip this phase and jump straight into problem-solving.

Is design thinking like agile? ›

Design thinking versus Agile

Both frameworks depend on response to feedback, but there is a core difference. While Agile is an approach to problem solving, design thinking is an approach to problem finding.

What makes design thinking fail? ›

Co-design and group brainstorms often fail because our minds are limited to the knowledge we know at that point. A conceptual workshop lasts usually between a few hours to a day, but the deep work has only started and needs maturity and testing.

Which design course has highest salary? ›

  • Creative Director Salary: $134,582 per year.
  • Furniture Designer Salary: $61,352 per year.
  • User Experience Designer Salary: $92,666 per year.
  • Architect Salary: $86,514 per year.
  • Advertising Designer Salary: $67,100 per year.
  • Fashion Designer Salary: $60,918 per year.

Which designing course is best for future? ›


Des in Fashion Designing (FD) is one of India's foremost popular courses, especially amongst students who are searching for career opportunities within the creative domain.

What is the highest paid salary in design? ›

Highest salary that a Designer can earn is ₹16.9 Lakhs per year (₹1.4L per month).

Who is the father of design thinking? ›

Cognitive scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon was the first to mention design as a way of thinking in his 1969 book, The Sciences of the Artificial. He then went on to contribute many ideas throughout the 1970s which are now regarded as principles of design thinking.

Will AI replace designers? ›

YES! 🤯 AI will replace not only designers but professionals in every field and this is possible only if one keeps questioning “Will AI replace humans?” and not utilise the potential of AI for learning and development🙂.

Do architects use design thinking? ›

For several centuries, architects have been trained to think and develop solutions using the design process steps. Scientists, engineers and product designers also use similar steps of inquiry when solving problems.

Is design thinking the future? ›

Design Thinking focuses on creating for today's world and the immediate future. As a result, the inspiration stage focuses on investigating the present and the immediate past only (a few years back). It helps organizations to solve problems or creates practical solutions based on current technology and reality.

Is design thinking legit? ›

Design thinking is a proven, repeatable and reliable problem-solving process. Design thinking is a problem-solving tool that can be applied to problems of any size, in any industry and for practically any product, service or process.

What is drawback of design thinking? ›

1. It requires heavy involvement from user participation. Similar to the Agile Scrum, Design Thinking requires real user participation in the entire project phase. It includes initial researching, interviewing, co-developing the ideas, and testing on the prototype along the way.

What is negative about design thinking? ›

A common argument against design thinking is that it dilutes design into a structured, linear, and clean process. Critics argue that real design is messy, complex, and nonlinear, it isn't derived from a stack of Post-It notes and a few brainstorming sessions.

What are the three rules of design thinking? ›

So how do you get started with design thinking? The next time you need to solve a problem, you can grow your team's creative capacity by focusing on three core design thinking principles, or the 3 E's: empathy, expansive thinking, and experimentation.

What is next after design thinking? ›

Move onto “Lean Startup

Design thinking is about ideation, low fidelity prototypes and starting the journey of product/market fit. The lean startup allows you to take your idea/solution to the next level by focusing on: Minimum viable products.


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