Design Thinking is a user-centered method used by some of the world’s most innovative designers. The Interaction Design Foundation defines it as “an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding” (Dam and Siang, 2020). The problem with traditional problem solving is that we often use known facts to try and narrow down solutions. With this process, it is encouraged that designers look outside the box to try and find creative solutions. Begin with many options, then test your solutions to find the best ones, rather than trying to restrict solutions based on the information already known.

This process contains five phases, defined by the Institute of Design at Stanford.

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

Empathize

An important aspect of Design Thinking is considering different perspectives. By involving the users or their point of view in this process, your final product is going to be tailored more towards them. What would they want and WHY? Throughout the Design Thinking process, designer should try to get inside the mind of their users.

Define

After empathizing with your user to figure out what types of solutions might benefit them the most, you must begin to define what their problems and needs. For example, in his Ted Talk, Tim Brown discusses the development of hearing aids in the developing world. In order to think about how they could successfully create a solution, they needed to consider that there were no medical professionals to help fit these devices and couldn’t provide instruction to all the patients. By consulting local patients and healthcare workers, they worked to create a solution that could replace the medical professionals that we have access to in our Western countries.

IDeate

Beginning the process with users rather than technology, allows for the development of a vast number of solutions. Design Thinking is a method that focuses on creating many solutions early in the process and then through learning, narrowing them down, instead of the traditional method of starting out by trying to narrow solutions down at the start of the process. For example, looking at Puma’s “Clever Little Bag” campaign, they started by creating thousands of possible solutions that were tested and compared before finding the perfect fit for their users and the environment.

Puma's “clever little bag” and other lessons in sustainable packaging |  LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

PRototype and TEst

After creating a vast number of solutions, some of those will go further into the process. Since Design Thinking is not a linear process, many possible solutions can go through the Ideate, Prototype and Test steps multiple times. Different ideas will be able to transform and improved after going through rounds of feedback and critique before ending up on one, best outcome.

Design Thinking is not just for product designers, it is a method that can be applied to any real-life problem. Out-of-the-box solutions breaks away from the traditional mindset and allows for solutions that were created with the user in mind. Design Thinking attempts not only to redefine solutions but redefine the problem.

Dam, Rikke Friis, and Teo Yu Siang. “What Is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?” The Interaction Design Foundation, http://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/what-is-design-thinking-and-why-is-it-so-popular.

“Design Thinking… What Is That?” Fast Company, Fast Company, 5 Apr. 2015, http://www.fastcompany.com/919258/design-thinking-what.

“Introduction to Design Thinking.” SAP User Experience Community, 24 June 2015, experience.sap.com/skillup/introduction-to-design-thinking/.

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