What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a topic which is set to change the way we work together—and in a fundamental way—so we can investigate, understand and solve real-world problems across a wide spectrum of influence.


Design Thinking is an Essential and Innovative Process

We as humans are eager to help ask new relevant questions which can improve our daily lives and meet our needs. I want to show you methods which will help you understand and research your users’ human needs and how you can come up with the most powerful, creative and innovative solutions to meet their needs, create and start using them.


Design Thinking is 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. At the same time, Design Thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is a way of thinking and working as well as a collection of hands-on methods.


Design Thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services. It helps us observe and develop empathy with the target user. Design Thinking helps us in the process of questioning: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications.







The Five Phases of Design Thinking

according to d.school (Stanford), are as follows.


Empathize with your users.

Define your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights.

Ideate by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions.

Prototype to start creating solutions.

Test solutions.


It is important to note that the five phases, stages, or modes are not always sequential. They do not have to follow any specific order and can often occur in parallel and repeat iteratively. This simply means that your team has to continuously use results to review, question and improve the initial assumptions, understandings and results. Results from the final stage of the initial work process inform our understanding of the problem, help us determine the parameters of the problem, enable us to redefine the problem, and, perhaps most importantly, provide us with new insights so we can see any alternative solutions that might not have been available with our previous level of understanding.



Problem-solving: The Cramped vs The Fresh Mind


Thinking outside of the box can provide an innovative solution to a sticky problem. However, thinking outside of the box can be a real challenge as we naturally develop patterns of thinking that are modelled on the repetitive activities and commonly accessed knowledge we surround ourselves with.


Some years ago, an incident occurred where a truck driver tried to pass under a low bridge. But he failed, and the truck was lodged firmly under the bridge. The driver was unable to continue driving through or reverse out.


The story goes that as the truck became stuck, it caused massive traffic problems, which resulted in emergency personnel, engineers, firefighters and truck drivers gathering to devise and negotiate various solutions for dislodging the trapped vehicle.


Emergency workers were debating whether to dismantle parts of the truck or chip away at parts of the bridge. Each spoke of a solution fitted within his or her respective level of expertise.


A boy walking by and witnessing the intense debate looked at the truck, at the bridge, then looked at the road and said nonchalantly, "Why not just let the air out of the tires?" to the absolute amazement of all the specialists and experts trying to unpick the problem.


When the solution was tested, the truck was able to drive free with ease, having suffered only the damage caused by its initial attempt to pass underneath the bridge. The story symbolizes the struggles we face where oftentimes the most obvious solutions are the ones hardest to come by because of the self-imposed constraints we work within.


It’s often difficult for us humans to challenge our assumptions and everyday knowledge because we rely on building patterns of thinking in order to not have to learn everything from scratch every time. We rely on doing everyday processes more or less unconsciously — for example, when we get up in the morning, eat, walk, and read — but also when we assess challenges at work and in our private lives. In particular, experts and specialists rely on their solid thought patterns, and it can be very challenging and difficult for experts to start questioning their knowledge.



The Power of Storytelling


Why did we tell you this story? Telling stories can help us inspire opportunities, ideas and solutions. Stories are framed around real people and their lives. Stories are important because they are accounts of specific events, not general statements. They provide us with concrete details that help us imagine solutions to particular problems.


Design Thinking is an iterative and non-linear process. This simply means that the design team continuously use their results to review, question and improve their initial assumptions, understandings and results. Results from the final stage of the initial work process inform our understanding of the problem, help us determine the parameters of the problem, enable us to redefine the problem, and, perhaps most importantly, provide us with new insights so we can see any alternative solutions that might not have been available with our previous level of understanding.



Focus on Humans, Not Users


People are increasingly seeking out those products, services, and organizations that they personally connect with on a meaningful level. Many people are selecting the few options that speak directly to their human needs and experiences. The creative element of Design Thinking is found in the methods used to generate problem solutions and insights into the practices, actions, and thoughts of real users.



The Take Away


Design Thinking is essentially a problem-solving approach specific to design. This contrasts with a more scientific approach where the concrete and known aspects are tested in order to arrive at a solution. Design Thinking is often referred to as ‘outside the box thinking’, as designers are attempting to develop new ways of thinking that do not abide by the dominant or more common problem-solving methods. At the heart of Design Thinking is the intention to improve products by analyzing how users interact with them and investigating the conditions in which they operate. Design Thinking offers us a means of digging that bit deeper to uncover ways of improving user experiences.


Want To Learn More?


If you’d like to become an expert in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic, then consider taking an online UX course from the Interaction Design Foundation. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research – Methods and Best Practices. Good luck on your learning journey!