Nigel Cross looks into the nitty gritty of design thinking. The book gives us an insight into the difficult task of understanding the process of design thinking. The clear examples help outline the difficult process, showing not only how designers navigate through the task but also imagines why they take certain actions.


Design thinking has a good range of variety but focuses mainly on either real world case studies or write ups of experiments completed as part of the research that produced the book, it uses these to illustrate the mental process of design thinking. The content has a good range of different areas that it looks into, allowing the exploration of the various constraints and factors that help shape design thinking. Unlike ‘Change by design’ the focus is not on showing that this thought process has value but exactly what is going on.

The book breaks down the process of thought by using two case studies and two experiments that challenge designers to a short design brief, these are then examined and the major trends of thought and the processes that form are explained. The interesting thing I found was the focus on why designers think the way they do, with a lot of the literature focusing heavily on showing what designers do and how it is of benefit, Nigel Cross does a good job of giving plausible suggestions as to why and this makes his work more engaging and of greater use. All this blends into the book giving the potential for designers to examine their own design thinking.

Writing Style

Like most books which use real world case studies, I enjoyed it. The writing style is quite smooth and the observations flow and mix smoothly with the case studies proper because of this despite quite a lot of technical terminology the book reads well. The observations on design process fit naturally together and the shortness of the book means that when Cross references back to earlier parts of the book it is easy to remember. The whole book builds upon itself well, at no point did I feel their were any great leaps of understanding that I had to get my head round instead I found myself rising on a steady level of knowledge.


I would heartily recommend this book to any one interested in design thinking, expert or not. The writing is good and the brevity means it can be digested quickly. Brevity connected with it’s big benefit in identifying key parts of design thought that it might be possible for a designer to spot in their own work and maybe troubleshoot if they are having problems means this book will likely sit on my shelf for many years, popping out if I ever feel a hiccup in my own design thought.

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