Jennifer Coffey

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Design Thinking: Crash Course

Shopping for holiday and birthday gifts can be challenging, especially for picky relatives and friends. But what if there was a way to improve the gift-giving experience?

This week I was challenged to redesign the gift-giving experience using the five-step design process. 

  1. Empathy
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

During this process, I got to interview my partner, Kelsey, on the last gift she gave. I then got to dig deeper, capture my findings, and define a problem statement. Next, I generated a couple of ideas to help her solve some of the issues she ran into during her gift-giving experience. Then, I shared some of my ideas and gathered feedback on what I could do to improve my thoughts. Next, I reflected on the feedback and came up with a new solution. Lastly, I put together a prototype and gathered my last bits of feedback. 

The Process

The Interview

The last gift that Kelsey gave was to her sister for her 16th birthday. She is very trendy, and Kelsey wanted to get her something that she knew her sister would love. So, she asked her exactly what she wanted for her birthday. Her sister replied with a Carhart beanie and American Eagle leggings. Unfortunately, since these items were so popular, Kelsey had to wait for these items to come back in stock. Fortunately, the gifts came in time for her birthday, and her sister was happy with what she received. 

Digging Deeper

I picked up on the fact that Kelsey had to ask her sister exactly what she wants. So I asked her more about how she felt giving her sister exactly what she wanted. Since we are still in the middle of a pandemic, Kelsey wanted to give her sister a big gift like concert tickets. Unfortunately, there are no concerts, so she had to scrap that idea. Her next thought was getting her exactly what she wanted and could use all the time. 

Capture Findings

  • trying to show love
  • surprise
  • honor her wishes
  • Kelsey wanted to pick something she knows her sister will love and enjoy, so they will both be happy during their gift-giving experience. 

Define the Problem

After talking to Kelsey, I learned that she wanted to give her sister something exactly what she wanted but was missing the surprise factor. 

Problem Statement: Kelsey needs a way to surprise her sister but still get her something she will use or wear. 


Next, within four minutes, I needed to sketch out five ways to meet Kelsey’s needs. 

Idea #1

The first thought that popped into my head was some type of app. What kind of app? I hadn’t gotten that far yet.

Idea #2

I was pulling from personal experience but have her sister send her links throughout the year. Whenever she sees something cute, have her send it to Kelsey, and she could make a note of it later. 

Idea #3

My next idea came out of nowhere. I got a flashback to a toy I used to have as a little girl. It looked like a two-piece wooden puzzle where I could switch out different shirts and pants to create the best outfit. What if I could modernize this idea?

Idea #4

What if that is too specific? What if Kelsey’s sister could give her a color and a type of clothing. For example, she needs a white sweater or blue hat. That way, Kelsey can still surprise her but get a general idea of what she is looking to receive. 

Idea #5

My last idea was pretty rushed, but what if the two sisters worked together? Maybe Kelsey could get her an accessory like a necklace or bracelet, and the two of them could go shopping together to create an outfit. Kelsey accomplishes her goal of getting her a gift, and then they can turn it into an activity they can do together.

Share Solutions and Capture Feedback

Kelsey loved the idea of the old toy and putting an outfit together. She also added to the concept of being able to choose different colors and brands. She also liked how she and her sister could come together to create an outfit. 

Iterate Based on Feedback

So now that I had a direction, I decided to pull elements from each of my ideas. First, I thought of creating an app-based platform where the two sisters could work together to piece together an outfit. From there, the girls can browse articles of clothing to put together many different outfits. This way, Kelsey gets to surprise her sister with new, trendy, and “approved” clothes, but there are so many different options that her sister won’t know which one to expect. 

Build and Test

With just 10 minutes to build a prototype, I got to work cutting out different articles of clothing from cardboard boxes. I cut out shirts, pants, shorts, a dress, and a hat for Kelsey to mix and match. 

Share Solution and Get Feedback

What worked 
  • Clear choice of clothes
  • Different options
  • Easy to create
What could be improved
  • Color options
  • Adding different brands
  • How would sizing work between different brands?
  • Add more accessories
  • Add backpacks
  • Add shoes
  • Add glasses


I thought working directly with another person was a huge help. I liked how we could bounce ideas off one another and come up with a better solution. Although the pace was very quick, I felt like we could get a lot done, but if I could, I would go back and expand on my original idea of just shirts and pants. I got stuck within my toy mindset that I could have added a bunch of different accessories from the beginning. 

Overall, I thought this crash course in design thinking exercise helped me fully understand the five-step process. I was able to empathize with my partner and pinpoint their problem. I was then able to come up with some ideas and test one out. I was surprised about how much fun I had. Due to the time limit, I was very stressed initially, but quickly warmed up, and ideas started flowing. I really enjoyed this way of thinking, and it definitely helped me gain confidence that I can solve problems that I never could before. 

Check out my work here:

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