Methods of Design Synthesis: Research to Product Innovation

Theory and methods for synthesizing research data in order to identify innovations and new product features.
  • Lectures 12
  • Video 2 Hours
  • Skill level intermediate level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion

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Course Description

User-centered design research activities produce an enormous quantity of raw data, which must be systematically and rigorously analyzed in order to extract meaning and insight.

Unfortunately, these methods of analysis are poorly documented and rarely taught, and because of the pragmatic time constraints associated with working with clients, there is often no time dedicated in a statement of work to a practice of formal synthesis. As a result, raw design research data is inappropriately positioned as insight, and the value of user-centered research activities is marginalized – in fact, stakeholders may lose faith in the entire research practice, as they don’t see direct return on the investment of research activities.

Design synthesis methods can be taught, and when selectively applied, visual, diagrammatic synthesis techniques can be completed relatively quickly. During Synthesis, Designers visually explore large quantities of data in an effort to find and understand hidden relationships. These visualizations can then be used to communicate to other members of a design team, or can be used as platforms for the creation of generative sketching or model making. The action of diagramming is a way to actively produce knowledge and meaning.

What are the requirements?

  • A working understanding of design process

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Over 12 lectures and 1.5 hours of content!
  • Learn about how to manage the complexity of gathered data
  • Build both confidence and ability with the various synthesis methods
  • Learn to make sense of data and translate research into insights
  • Learn to create a concept map
  • Learn to create a process flow diagram
  • Learn to perform insight combination
  • Learn to reframe

What is the target audience?

  • Design researchers
  • Designers
  • Marketers
  • Product managers
  • Developers


Section 1: Theory of Design Synthesis
Design as Problem Solving: Well-Structured, Ill-Structured, and Wicked Problems
The Process of Design
Deductive, Inductive, and Abductive Reasoning
Making Meaning Out of Data
Experience Frameworking
Gaining Empathy
Section 2: Methods of Design Synthesis
Process Flow Diagramming
Concept Mapping
Insight Combination
Section 3: In Summary
Applying Synthesis in Real Life

Instructor Biography

Jon Kolko , Founder, Austin Center for Design; VP of Design, MyEdu

Jon Kolko is Vice President of Design at MyEdu, and the Founder and Director of Austin Center for Design. His work focuses on bringing the power of design to social enterprises, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and large-scale industry disruption. He has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 clients, with a focus on humanizing educational technology.

Jon has previously held positions of Executive Director of Design Strategy at Thinktiv, a venture accelerator in Austin, Texas, and both Principal Designer and Associate Creative Director roles at frog design, a global innovation firm. He was also a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he was instrumental in building both the Interaction and Industrial Design undergraduate and graduate programs. Jon has also held the role of Director for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine, published by the ACM.

Jon is the author three books: Thoughts on Interaction Design, published by Morgan Kaufmann, Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis, published by Oxford University Press, and Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving, published by Austin Center for Design.


Average Rating
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    • Steve Baty

    Great introduction to design-led problem-solving

    The business and government worlds are increasingly interested in the ways in which design can be applied to large-scale, difficult-to-tackle problems. In this course Jon Kolko introduces the student to the theory and process of Design, and provides a foundation upon which anyone can begin to practice design-led problem-solving. Jon packs a great deal of design theory and the fundamentals of practice into this short course - it is a great way for you to get started in Design.

    • Eric Boggs

    Key Activities for Great Design

    A wonderful use of an hour. Thanks Jon for this direct and rich introduction to the process of synthesis. Before studying design, I focused mainly on innovative end products - but I realize you can't have those without a repeatable synthesis process. This lecture also gives you the "keys to the car" - the actual methods - that top designers use to fuel product ideas.

    • Joannie Wu

    Jon's online course about the methods of design synthesis is a great dive into learning how to use the design process to solve problems. He starts with an high level overview that explains why design is no longer limited to the aesthetic qualities of an artifact but can be used to give form to ideas. Then he goes in depth into explaining the various tools and methods that provide different ways to extract insights, data, and really lay out the information necessary to help a designer devise solutions for a problem. In this course, Jon emphasizes the need to externalize one's thinking to solve problems which can feel like a very daunting task but the methods that he provides to do so are very concrete.

    • Lauren Serota

    Practical insight from an industry expert

    Kolko has been a thought leader in the design and design thinking domains for quite some time now, and this course concisely and beautifully documents the often-elusive practice of synthesis - the connective tissue that ties together insight and innovation. Both rooted in theory and expressed through practicality, this course will provide a new perspective and an immediately actionable set of tools to any practitioner. Considering Kolko's lectures and workshops cost thousands of dollars to attend in person, this is also a tremendous value for the content.

    • Matt Franks

    Great lecture on using synthesis to approach complex problems!

    A brief, yet deep, reflection on the processes that make great thinkers and practitioners, this lecture is filled with examples and anecdotes that are applicable to both seasoned designers and people looking to better understand how to make sense of complex problems. I highly recommend this lecture as the starting point to discovering the design process or for those looking to hone a lifetime of skills and capabilities.

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