What is design thinking?

Design Thinking is an approach to product design, creativity, and problem-solving oriented toward human beings and users’ needs.

You may adequately understand a user’s wants, needs (including pain areas), and possible gains starting with empathy. As a result, the design process progresses in stages, with prototype testing and user research being used to continuously learn about, refine and improve product solutions as they are developed.

Because the Design Thinking process is iterative and non-linear, it is also referred to as the Design Thinking cycle, which is depicted in the diagram below.

The History Of Design Thinking

IDEO, a global design organization, is one of the world’s most well-known proponents of Design Thinking.

Even though IDEO is a tremendous source of Design Thinking knowledge, IDEO cannot claim credit for the invention of the Design Thinking framework. In truth, the exact origins of Design Thinking are a little difficult to trace back to their source.

A systematic technique for analyzing the design and solving problems was developed by MIT’s Buckminister Fuller, according to some, in the 1960s in the United States of America. At the same time, designers in Scandinavia began to practice ‘design-by-doing,’ which involves creating mock-ups and acting out scenarios to collaborate with prospective end users.

Three decades later, the advent of service design necessitated designers’ ability to tackle complex modern problems and develop solutions centered on people’s needs. ‘Wicked Problems in Design Thinking, written by Richard Buchanan in 1992, was a seminal paper that described Design Thinking as a method of handling complicated (‘wicked’) challenges through a holistic, joined-up approach to problem resolution.

We can probably credit years of evolution to the Design Thinking framework that we know today — in this way, and it can be considered a product of the Design Thinking process itself!

Importance of Design Thinking

Design Thinking is critical to developing and refining user experience (UX) design skills. Furthermore – Design Thinking is used Ito understand and respond to rapid changes in users’ environments and behaviors. Herbert A. Simon, a cognitive scientist and Nobel Laureate, first addressed Design Thinking in his 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial.

After contributing numerous ideas to its principles, the world has become increasingly linked and complicated.

Following that, professionals from various sectors, including architecture and engineering, expanded this highly creative approach to satisfy modern-day human demands. According to businesses from multiple sectors, Design Thinking is a helpful tool for problem-solving for users of goods and services in the twenty-first century.


The benefits of using Design Thinking

A product or service must be adopted and used by customers to be commercially successful. This is made far more likely by putting the end-user at the center of the brainstorming process, as is the case with Design Thinking.

Design Thinking solutions have a higher commercial potential than solutions that have not been developed using the framework because they are based on a deeper understanding of the user problem. Furthermore, Design Thinking offers an empathetic solution and has been tested, fine-tuned, and eventually brought to market with valuable user feedback.

5 Stages of Design Thinking

Organizations and sectors all across the world are implementing Design Thinking techniques. Stanford University’s Institute of design offers a degree in Design Thinking, which you can pursue online.

The specific framework or methodology used in each application will therefore differ. On the other hand, the Design Thinking framework is divided into five stages described below.

Remember that the steps below are written chronologically and do not imply that the process proceeds linearly. Because Design Thinking is an iterative method of working, you may reach stage 4 and discover through prototyping that you need to go back to the Ideation phase.

In the same way, only via user testing can you determine whether the problem you are treating is an actual pain point for the people who will be using your product. If this is not the case, you may need to go back to stage 1 and have a deeper understanding of your ideal user.

1. Demonstrate empathy

For your design to be user-centric, it must be developed with the end-user in mind from the very beginning.

This mindset requires a thorough grasp of who they are, what they want and need (and why they need it), how it will help them in their daily lives, how they will feel while using it, etc.

As a designer or product owner, you may believe that you understand your users from top to bottom.

But do you believe it?

The only way to be sure is to list all of your assumptions and then conduct a relevant study to determine whether or not your assumptions are correct.

This study may entail monitoring users and learning about their present coping techniques to satisfy the need you are attempting to meet with your product. Use creative Thinking tools such as empathy maps to gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of your users and how they behave in their interactions with you.

Once you have learned enough about your user to be able to empathize with them, you should proceed to outline the problem you wish to solve.

2. Specify what you mean by

The stage of empathizing can be a little overpowering at first. Depending on your situation, you may have interview or observation notes, empathy maps, customer journey maps, and Post-It notes sprinkled throughout the place. The time has come to condense all of this knowledge down to its essence and define the human problem you wish to tackle.

Most importantly, you should state this problem as the user rather than your brand.

A template for expressing one’s point of view can be helpful in this situation. This section will bring together three elements: the user, the need, and the insight you gained from your study.

Consider the following example: ‘Newbie knitters (user) require a method of keeping track of their rows/stitches (need) to relax and unwind while knitting.’

3. Conceive an idea

Once you’ve identified the problem you’re trying to tackle, you may start thinking about ‘How Might We…’ statements. First, you want to investigate all of your possibilities to encourage creative thinking and imaginative, blue-sky thinking among your team.

How might we rethink knitting needles so that they can keep track of which row a user is currently on? How might we digitally automate the stitch counting process so that knitters don’t have to count their stitches? What possibilities exist?

You want to get the obvious — or simply impossible! — answers out of the way first at this point. You’d come out of this phase with some potential ideas and chances to prototype and complete extensive testing in an ideal world.

4. Create a prototype

Occasionally, in theory, a concept that appears to be a winner does not perform as expected in practice.

The prototype stage is the ideal time to find out – it’s better to learn now, using low-tech mock-ups rather than when you’re putting your product on the market.

The prototypes are distributed among the design and development team (and to other stakeholders if you wish). The goal is to eliminate any concepts that aren’t going to work because of their ergonomics, functionality, practicality, or cost to produce them and forward ideas that have real potential to the fifth and final stage.

5. Put it to the test

The method you use to test your ideas will determine what you are building and for whom you are making it.

What is vital, though, is to do user research under controlled conditions free of bias or assumption and keep in mind that testing aims to make your product the best it possibly can be.

You may reach this stage and discover that you need to go back to the drawing board. This is a common situation. And that’s fine with me.

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