Bodystorming in Design Thinking: Definition, Purpose & Example

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Bodystorming is a hands-on approach that allows design thinkers to better empathize with consumers. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this technique and how it is useful in developing understanding.

Pretend Play

Did you ever play ''pretend'' when you were a kid? Most of us probably did. You envision yourself as a clerk in a grocery store, a princess in a castle, a baseball player going up to bat in the World Series or a worker in a library.

The idea of putting yourself in role-playing scenarios might seem juvenile, but it can also have real-world, adulthood applications. It's particularly useful when it comes to design thinking, the process of developing creative ideas and solutions for problems.

The earliest stage of the design thinking process requires designers to be able to empathize with the consumers they're creating products and services for. What better way to empathize than to put yourself in someone else's shoes? Instead of brainstorming, this concept has a funny and memorable name: bodystorming.

What Is Bodystorming?

Bodystorming is a technique used in the first stage of the design process that takes the customer viewpoint into account. Instead of trying to visualize or imagine how a product might be used, bodystorming requires the design team to, in essence, act it out as though the product or process already exists. In this way, it is very similar to that simple childhood game that required a dose of imagination and ''pretend play'' to create a more user-friendly experience.

Consider a restaurant that wants to design a new swim-up dining experience at a beachfront resort. Instead of envisioning a swim-up bar and what that might entail, the design team would go to the resort and role play what that dining set-up would be like. This allows them to physically experience their design and test its functionality.

In this way, bodystorming becomes an effective way to empathize with users. Because those involved in the design process directly insert themselves into the process or product they're creating, they get to experience it from the consumer's viewpoint.

If you've ever heard the saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes to get their perspective, that's what bodystorming is. Bodystorming creates context for a design, from experiencing the actual events surrounding it to getting a first-hand account of problems. All of this leads a design team to better efficiency and greater improvements.

Bodystorming Process

The bodystorming process is very simple. In essence, you decide to do it and then go for it!

All that's necessary to get underway is a prototype product or process and a group of people to undertake it. A prototype is a quickly-assembled model of the item you want to test.

For example, if you were creating an ATM machine to go inside a shopping mall, you would first create a prototype of that ATM.

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