Design Thinking

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a human-centred approach for creative and innovative problem solving. It enables organizations to put their focus on those who are going to use the outcome of the development so it will lead to better products, services, and internal processes. During every step of this method, the first question to ask is “What's the human need behind this?”.


Short History of Design Thinking:

Even though Design Thinking has become a buzzword in the last 15 years, its origin and history goes back to the 1950s. John Edward Arnold was one of the pioneers who wrote about it in 1959 as well as Leonard Bruce Archer in 1965. Since then, others have continued developing and shaping the method, such as Don Koberg, Jim Bagnall, Horst Willhelm Jakob Rittel, Donald Schön, and others.

In 1991, the first symposium on research in Design Thinking was held at Delft University in the Netherlands. During the same time period, design consultancy company called IDEO was formed and later became one of the first design companies to showcase their design process based on Design Thinking. IDEO is widely known for bringing the application of Design Thinking into the mainstream.

Design thinking is created because big corporation lack the ability to be creative and on extreme cases, aren’t able to create new products and services that meet unmet needs of their customers. ___ WEIRD Magazine 

Design Thinking approach:

By employing Design Thinking, we are looking for the intersection of three main areas: (1) What is desirable from a human perspective? (2) What is technically feasible to do? and (3) What is financially viable? That is why a functional Design Thinking team is usually not limited to only designers but also requires participation of other disciplines.

Three Pillars of Design Thinking:

  • Empathy — Understanding the needs of those for whom you are designing a product or service.
  • Ideation — Generating a plethora of ideas. Brainstorming is one technique, but there are many others.
  • Experimentation — Testing those ideas with prototyping.

The very first step of the Design Thinking process is to achieve a good level of understanding about the problem. Having a clear and realistic insight will help us ask the right questions, and sometimes, the results turn out differently than was initially thought. In fact, we utilize different types of questions during the whole process: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications.

Design Thinking is extremely useful in addressing “wicked” problems which are mis-defined or sometimes are still unknown. It will reframe the problem (in human-centric ways), create various ideas (for example by brainstorming sessions), and adopt a practical approach towards the best solution (for example by prototyping and testing).


Design Thinking Phases:

There are several different ways of explaining the stages of Design Thinking, which include three up to seven phases. Yet, they all cover the three main pillars of Design Thinking and the most commonly accepted model is introduced by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford and includes 5 phases as follows:


Stage 1: Empathize by researching user needs and problems

Gain an empathetic understanding of the problem by using suitable research techniques. Empathy is a fundamental part of human-centred design processes especially Design Thinking. It is crucial to un-learn our own assumptions about the problem and start learning about the real insights from the users’ perspective and their needs.

Stage 2: Define user needs and problems

By using the gathered information during the Empathize stage, the observations are analysed and used to define and formulate the primary problems. The problem statement(s) should always be stated in a human-centred fashion.

Stage 3: Ideate by challenging creativity, innovation and ideation

The reliable knowledge resulting from the first two phases is extremely useful to start “thinking outside the box” and searching for alternative ways of looking at the problem, which eventually results in identifying innovative solutions.

Stage 4: Prototype the created solutions

The purpose of this experimental phase is to identify and choose the most probable solution corresponding to the problems identified during the previous stages. You need to produce a number of low-cost, small-scale versions of the solutions so you can put them into a testing environment which will aid in investigating the functionality, credibility and viability of the ideas in the next stage.

Stage 5: Test by try out the solutions

Allow real users to test the prototype, then observe and collect information on the results. As the final phase of this model, the generated results are often used to fine-tune the features, make other versions of prototypes, or re-define or discover new problems. You should consider if it is necessary to return to previous stages in the process to make iterations, adjustments, and/or modifications. If not, you have reached an answer.


Design Thinking explained by Harvard Business Review:

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