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Designing Products for How People Think

Using cognitive science to build better products

John Whalen

Understanding how your customers think can transform how you manage and design products. By recognizing the six cognitive processes that underlie product experience, you can pinpoint the customer behaviors you need to pay attention to, find your customers’ biggest pain points, and locate new opportunities for future products.

Join cognitive scientist John Whalen to learn how your customers think, identify new insights into their needs, and discover how to apply that information to your product designs. Using a combination of short lectures, fast, fun exercises, and group discussions, John walks you through six cognitive processes and explores how they define a product’s experience. You’ll quickly learn how words, emotions, attention, and expectations affect how your customers make decisions and why past experiences, stereotypes about products, and memory are all important to a product’s success. By the time you’re through, you’ll know how to uncover immediate emotional responses and deep-seated customer goals—and design products that satisfy both.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • The six cognitive processes that underlie product experience
  • How to measure your customers’ thinking and use those insights to optimize your product designs

And you’ll be able to:

  • Measure product experiences using a neuroscientific lens to identify your customers’ cognitive needs and product opportunities
  • Apply your understanding of customer thinking to make your products the most satisfying and effective on the market

This training course is for you because...

  • You’re a product owner or designer who wants to learn more about how your customers think so that you can create industry-leading products and services.
  • You’re an AI product designer or data scientist who wants to recognize and understand which customer behaviors to pay attention to, learn how to spot new patterns in your data, and identify ways that AI systems can present information to mimic how people already think.
  • You want to know what your customers are thinking, identify their biggest pain points, gain insights, and discover new opportunities for future products.


  • Professional experience designing and building digital products, observing or participating in end-user research or market research, or participating in digital design as a product manager


Recommended preparation:

Learning Path: Beginning UX Design

The Six Minds of UX Design

User Experience Doesn't Happen on a Screen: It Happens in the Mind

Cognitive Product Design: The Six Minds and Product Creation Process

About your instructor

  • John Whalen has more than 15 years of human-centered design experience. Using his unique blend of psychology, design thinking, and Lean Startup techniques, John uncovers business opportunities and UX solutions for Fortune 100, nonprofit, and startup clients. John is CXO at 10Pearls, where he leads the Innovation, Strategy, and Design team. His current practice focus is on cognitive design—the art and science of harnessing cognitive psychology to understand users, inform design, and create compelling products and services. Previously, he founded the research firm Brilliant Experience and was a psychology professor. John is a frequent presenter at conferences and a past president of the User Experience Professionals Association in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD in cognitive science.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Day 1 Defining and measuring the six minds of user experience

- Rethinking “the experience”: Introducing the six brain processes that define an experience (15 minutes)
- Vision, attention, and automaticity (15 minutes)
- Wayfinding in a virtual world (10 minutes)
- Moving from concrete to abstract representations (15 minutes)
- Break (10 minutes)
- Language: How the words we use in products matter (15 minutes)
- Decision making, problem solving (20 minutes)
- Emotion (10 minutes)
- Six minds wrap-up and discussion (10 minutes)
- Break (10 minutes)
- Measuring experience (20 minutes)
- Wrap-up and homework assignment (20 minutes)

Day 2 Measuring experience

  • Insight discovery (15 minutes)
  • Analysis lens I: Vision/attention (15 minutes)
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • Analysis lens II: Expectations (15 minutes)
  • Analysis lens III: Decision making (15 minutes)
  • Analysis lens IV: Emotion and deep goals (15 minutes)
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • How cognitive design has influenced digital products (20 minutes)
  • Inserting cognitive design into your product development process (25 minutes)
  • Final wrap-up (20 minutes)