I'm currently starting on a project with a colleague who has a very different approach (compared to what I'm used to). I tend to work with the "Element of User Experience" by Jesse James Garett. Meaning I work with:

Strategy -> Scope -> Structure -> Skeleton -> Surface

Now, my colleague tends to work with Design Thinking, so he works with:

Empathize -> Define -> Ideate -> Prototype -> Test -> Implement

(I know that Design Thinking loops a bit more, but that's the gist of the process).

So we took a moment to sit together and see how we can best work together and see where our methods overlap or are very similar. So we came with a bit of the following writeup:

UX Elements vs Design Thinking

I was mostly wondering if this would be a viable approach. Or is this something that shouldn't be done together in the first place?

2 Answers 2


I would look at these as complimentary frameworks.

Design Thinking is mostly defined by time: what phase of a project you are in from empathising to testing.

JJG's Elements of UX is mostly defined by the hierarchy of decision you are making: fundamental to superficial.

There's a relationship of course: fundamental decisions come earlier in the project.

Here's roughly how I'd map the two together over time. This indicates that as you move through the design thinking phases you would also ascend through JJG's planes, engaging with a different type of decision at each level.

Elements of UX vs Design Thinking

Of course life isn't usually this linear, there are likely to be loops in there as you mentioned.

Another thing to note: Design Thinking can be applied to problems outside the typical UX space. You could go through the design thinking phases on something as visual as a Logo or as non-visual as a book or business model, for instance.


I'm not too familiar with the "Element of User Experience" by Jesse James Garett or what roles you and your colleague take on. When I first looked at your diagram I assumed you were UX Architect and your colleague was design, but why would Architect stop before implementation and testing?

The more I look at this the more questions I have but don't let anyone tell you how you two should work together without knowing more info. Try it out! Keep documenting your process and open to tweaking your process, you never know what could grow to an entirely new method.

  • JJG doesn't really mention testing a lot. I mean, it mentions that it's important, but it doesn't really fall back on it as much. Design-Thinking seems to be more about reiteration, testing results and refining based on feedback. Therefor when we mapped the image above, we kinda figured that the test/implement steps are more about the development (actual coding) and testing by QA (test-plan).
    – DennisW
    Mar 6, 2020 at 8:50
  • Do you work with users at any point in your Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, Surface? I guess testing is where I usually assume that takes place. But I've only recently gotten to a point where I get to involve users holistically throughout the process.
    – It's Dylan
    Mar 7, 2020 at 16:17
  • Yes the "test" stage in design thinking is where you test with users how well your solution solves their problem. In the software world that should ideally happen long before QA is testing actual production-quality code. In many (but not all) teams, by that point it's very expensive to change the direction and go for a radically different solution instead.
    – Jamie
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:40

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