The five stages of Design Thinking, according to, are as follows: Empathise, Define (the problem), Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

During my workshops, I often use clips from movies or TV series to explain the different concepts related to the steps of the Design Thinking process. I want to share them with you all.

If you are acquainted with Design Thinking, I hope you can relate to the clips I propose. If you are a Design Thinking neophyte, I hope these clips can help you get a better grasp of the process.

The fourth stage of a typical Design Thinking process is “Prototype”: in this phase, we proceed to the production of a cheap and less sophisticated version of the solution identified in the previous “Ideate” stage.

“Prototyping” offer designers the opportunity to bring their ideas to life and “touch” them as of the first stages of the process and test their feasibility. Prototypes are built so that designers can think more concretely of solutions than a purely abstract idea.

Furthermore, a prototype allows us to understand if particular problems could be encountered in a subsequent and more elaborate implementation phase.

Thanks to a prototype, therefore, it is possible to quickly verify an idea with relatively less time and money invested in an idea that might prove not to be a winner.

The prototypes are mostly of two types:

  • Low-fidelity prototypes that consist of using basic models or simple examples of the product you want to test. The model could be incomplete and have only some of the features of the final product/service, or it could be a simple visualization of the solution. Examples of this type of prototype are represented by storyboards and drawings of the chosen solution
  • High-fidelity prototypes that instead look and work in a manner very close to the final product/service. However, this type of prototype requires more time and is more expensive than the previous ones and therefore, can also lead to longer building times. An example of this type of prototype is represented by 3D plastic models with moving parts that users can manipulate and interact with.

Since no typology of a prototype is perfect, designers can also combine the different types to better balance the needs of speed and cost with the usability of the product/service.

The prototypes created in this phase will then be subjected to tests with a small group of users in the next step of “Test”.

An excellent source for further inspiration for this phase is at the following link.

And to represent this phase, we return to the world of TV series: I have chosen a scene from “Grey’s Anatomy”, taken from season 11, episode 10.

In this episode, a patient shows up at the Gray & Sloan Memorial Hospital for being operated on a tumour. The patient is passionate about Homer and always carries a copy of the Odyssey! During the surgery, the heroine of the series Dr Meredith Grey realizes that the tumour has grown considerably compared to the last available images and that it is increasingly enveloped in the internal organs. Its position makes it very difficult to be able to visualize it clearly with considerable risk of damaging the other organs during surgery. Meredith then decides to stop the operation and think of a different plan.

And just as she does not know what to do, she has an intuition: “If I could touch the tumour…” and suddenly she has the solution! The hospital has a 3D printer: images of the tumour can be printed, and Meredith immediately starts printing.

Once the printing is completed, the tumour nicknamed “Cyclops” (remember the patient is a fan of The Odyssey!) is there for all to study and find a way to eliminate it without jeopardizing the patient. A race against time begins: all the doctors gather around the tumour looking for a way to operate it (which is a beautiful example of “collective intelligence”).

This the spirit of the “Prototype” phase: to render the ideas visible so that everyone can see them in the same way and work in an informed way.

And what do you think?

And here are some pictures from season 11, episode 10


The “Grey’s Anatomy” trademark and related images are the exclusive property of ABC

Do you want to know more?

This post belongs to the series: “What if it’s a movie? Design Thinking explained with TV series and movies”

Design Thinking – Stage 1 – Empathise

Design Thinking – Stage 2 – Define

Design Thinking – Stage 3 – Ideate

Design Thinking – Stage 5 – Test