In an interview one or multiple persons are asked about a specific context. Depending on the requirements, the interview can last between 30 and 120 minutes and offers the possibility to discover both explicit and implicit needs of your interview partner(s).


Design Thinking interviews are always explorative. Usually, we do not know what exactly we are looking for in an interview. Typically, we want to discover the deeply rooted, human needs, motivations, interests, and pain points of the interviewee. Throughout the interview the aim is to look at the core problem from various angles in order to broaden one’s own views. Ultimately, this sharpens your understanding of the problem and the user.


The interviewer conducts the interview and tries to get as much information as possible by asking open questions.

The transcriptionist takes notes and makes sure that all valuable information and insights are properly documented.


  • Pen and Post-its

  • Interview Guide

  • Notepad

  • Smartphone (to audio-tape and take pictures)

  • Charger for smartphone

  • Incentive for interviewee

  • Consent form for interviewee and interviewer


1. Interview Preparation

1.1 Interviewee selection: As a team, decide on who you would like to interview. Take your stakeholder map as a guiding framework to prioritize interview partners.

1.2 Contacting the interviewees: Write a precise cover letter for each of your target groups outlining the purpose of the interview and their importance to your project (also called “screener”). Also plan for a small expenditure allowance in your budget.​

1.3 Interview Planning: Plan to conduct the interview with two people: one interviewer and one transcriptionist who is also focusing on observing the interviewee and the surroundings.

2. Interview Guide

2.1 Collect questions: As a team, collect all questions that come into your mind on Post-its. What do you want to know from your interviewee - in general and in detail?

2.2 Formulate open questions: Ask open questions and avoid asking "yes or no"-questions in order to encourage your interviewee to share as much information as possible.​

2.3 Clustering: Cluster all the collected questions with respect to subject areas and put them in an order, e.g along the customer journey. Finally, prepare an interview guideline document which contains all the questions ordered by subject.

3. Conduct the interview

3.1 Introduction: In the beginning of the interview, shortly introduce yourself and the project. Also remember to take care of some formal and administrative necessities: Walk the interviewee through declaration of consent and remind him or her that all information gathered from this interview is treated confidentially.

3.2 Dig deeper: Always try to dig deeper in order to discover potentially hidden motivations. You can do this by starting your questions with: “Can you tell me more about...”, “Can you give me an example…”, “Why...”.

3.3 Documentation: Make sure to properly document the interview in order to ensure that no information shared during the interview gets lost. You should also take photos - if permitted - to capture the atmosphere and feel during the interview.


Additional Tips: 

  • Choose one who is leading the interview while the other is documenting

  • Encourage storytelling: use open-ended questions like “Tell me about…"

  • Always ask why! (“5 Whys”)

  • Do not skip to a new topic before you’ve exhausted the current one

  • Capture memorable quotes to illustrate your findings

  • Look for inconsistencies and non-verbal clues (body-language, tone)

  • Expand your notes as soon as possible after each interview

  • Keep in mind: there might be a gap between what people say and what they do!



© 2018 University of St. Gallen / ITMP