Six Thinking Hats

by Jin, 11-19-08 // 18 comments

Design process is an important factor of a successful project delivery. Over the years I’ve developed my own type of process and thinking when tackling a web project. I put myself in different “modes” when looking at different aspects of the project. By doing this, I can be be more objective, and more efficient when it comes to time management.

While working my way through Serious Creativity by Edward De Bono, he talks about a method he created called “the Six Thinking Hats.” The idea is that, when solving a problem, have the team members or the individual (if you’re working alone) put on different colored imaginary hats. Each hat represents a different type of thinking. Doing so allows the team or individual to fully explore the possibilities and avoid ego clash. It’s engaging, focusing and productive.

It’s a method that’s very similar to what my colleagues and I use. Although we never thought of it in terms of hats, or as many colors. I think Mr. de Bono’s method is a lot more clear, and easier to comprehend.

Let’s explore these hats, and how they can help us with web design. (I’ll give a few examples of my own, but feel free to add yours in comment section.)

White Hat

“Think of white paper, which is neutral and carries information. The white hat has to do with data and information.

What information do we have here?
What information is missing?
What information would we like to have?
How are we going to get the information?”

This would be the business requirement process. We need to identify:

Red Hat

“Think of red and fire and warm.

The red hat has to do with feelings, intuition, hunches and emotions.
In a serious meeting you are not supposed to put forward your emotions, but people do this buy disguising their emotions as logic.
The red hat gives people permission to put forward their feelings and intuitions without apology, without explanation, and without any need to justify them.”

This is the part where we go with our gut-feeling. We simply approve or disapprove of ideas based on our feelings.

Black Hat

“Think of a stern judge wearing black robes who comes down heavily on wrong-doers.

The black hat is the “caution” hat.
The black hat prevents us from making mistakes, doing silly things, and doing things which might be illegal.
The black hat is for critical judgment.
The black hat points out why something cannot be done.
The black hat points out why something will not be profitable.”

With black hat, we question the decisions we have made.

Yellow Hat

“Think of sunshine.

The yellow hat is for optimism and a logical positive view of things.
The yellow hat looks for feasibility and how something can be done.
The yellow hat looks for benefits – but they must be logically based.”

We look for the benefits of our design decisions with the yellow hat.

Green Hat

“Think of vegetation and rich growth.

The green hat is for creative thinking.
The green hat is for new ideas.
The green hat is for additional alternatives.
The green hat is for putting forward possibilities and hypotheses.
The green covers “provocation” and movement.
The green hat requests creative effort.”

Under the green hat, we let our creativity flow and seek other efficient ways to solve the challenges.

Blue Hat

“Think of the sky and an overview.

The blue hat is for process-control. The blue hat thinks about the thinking being used.
The blue hat sets the agenda for thinking.
The blue hat suggests the next step in the thinking.
The blue hat can ask for other hats.
The blue hat asks for summaries, conclusions, and decisions.
The blue hat can comment on the thinking being used.”

Blue hat lets us recap on our process, gather lessons learned and plan ahead.


I’m sure we all have asked these sort of questions at some point, to ourselves or our team mates. But often they are mixed together, without clear distinction. I feel Mr. de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats helps us to clarify the process. The Hats method not only applies to design, but also other problem solving situations as well. “Six Thinking Hats” is covered in length in a separate book, it will be on my reading list.


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Jim Cook 11-19-08

Rick growth?

Jin 11-19-08

Bah that’s what happens when I write at 2am. Thanks for the notice, corrected. :)

Janko 11-19-08

Great article, Jin. You re right, we all think about it all the time, but it would be much more efficient this way.

I didn’t know about this book, I have to get it.

Jin 11-19-08

It’s a great book Janko. I highly recommend it. Early on in the Book, the author clearly states this book is not about the artistic type of creativity, but rather problem solving. Mr. de Bono talks about “lateral thinking,” “creative pause,” “water logic,” and other methods. I think everyone, designers or not, can benefit from it.

E.J. 11-19-08

I agree with Janko, we do these types of thinking and analysis in a haphazard and random manner. We should use a step by step guide to all major decisions whether it be used in work or personal life.

good article jin.

Janko 11-19-08

My father told me about him and some of his books a few years ago, but I didn’t listen to him so I can’t remember in which context it was. Pretty stupid of me :)
But will check this one!

Jin 11-19-08

E.J, thanks!

Soh 11-19-08

Very interesting! Great read :-)

Jin 11-19-08

Thanks Soh!

Justin Yost 11-19-08

Going to repeat what everyone else said and really good read. Very important to look at problems and solutions from different mindsets.

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Jin 11-20-08

Justin, thank you for the comment.

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Andrija 08-18-10

Awesome post! All i have to say is: thanks for putting it all together. :)