When you plan a design thinking session, choosing the right location can have a significant impact on the outcome. A new trend among large companies is to set up special rooms solely for the purpose of design thinking, but smaller companies might not have the resources or the need for a dedicated design thinking room. That’s not a problem—almost any room can be transformed for design thinking!

The first criterion to take into consideration is the floor space. Make sure you know beforehand how many people will participate so that you can choose an appropriate room. You will also need plenty of space for the people, the whiteboards and the prototyping materials. With people trying to squeeze past one another and blocking each other’s views by crowding around whiteboards, the design thinking team loses time as well as creative momentum. When creativity hits you, you don’t want to be waiting for people to get out of the way!

One additional aspect is the character of the room itself. Warm natural colors and materials are more supportive than sterile cold surfaces.

The illumination of the room also plays an important role. Because of the positive aspects associated with sunlight, try to maximize the outdoor light entering the room. Even on a cloudy day, natural light creates a more serene and comfortable atmosphere than artificial light. Big windows are especially great as you can post sticky notes on them—or even draw or write directly on them (with the right markers, of course)! Weather permitting, you could even leave the windows open. Fresh air isn’t just about getting more oxygen in the air—the fresh smell also stimulates the senses. If it’s too cold or hot outside though, then ventilated rooms are what you should be aiming for.

The right temperature can also support creativity. Studies have identified the correct temperature for sitting and working at a desk as being between 22°C – 25°C, but because much of a design thinking session includes standing and moving around you should consider setting the thermostat a little lower.

The acoustics of the room you choose are also critical as it can get quite loud with people explaining their ideas to each other. This is not a bad thing and the increased volume can even encourage creativity, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the productivity of your session. Make sure your room doesn’t echo as this simply creates useless and distracting noise.

Now that we’ve found the right room let’s have a look at the interior!

In most design thinking spaces you’ll find elevated tables and chairs, and there’s good reason for this. This type of furniture allows people to come as close together as possible and the upright position keeps participants engaged in the team process.
A couch or some more comfortable chairs are sometimes present as well. These are used during the breaks or to sit back and relax in while the other teams present their findings and results.

Whiteboards and flipcharts of every size and shape are the center of attention at every design thinking session and they’re quickly covered with ideas on sticky notes. The most important aspect of them is that they are mobile—ideally they have wheels or are very light and portable. They can also be used to separate the teams from each other during the team phases and create a more protected area. And once the flipchart is completely covered with notes, you can take that layer off and pin it to the next wall and continue with a fresh page.

After you are done with your whiteboards you will start prototyping. Obviously the more material you offer the more possibilities people have to express their ideas, so it’s a good idea to provide a wide range of resources. The material should be accessible to everyone at all times and participants need to get a good overview of all the materials. Nothing is more frustrating than finding out a better material was available AFTER you’ve already built your prototype.

In design thinking, the goal is to achieve an open state of mind similar to that of a child. Therefore, the ideal design thinking room should be like a kindergarten for adults with plenty of space, tons of stuff to play with and a comforting environment.

To see if your room fulfills all the relevant criteria for a successful design thinking workshop, consult our “Checklist for The Ideal Design Thinking Room” below.

Checklist for The Ideal Design Thinking Room

This post was originally posted on openPDA, the ressource platform for Design Thinkers.

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