DESIGN THINKING – WHAT IS, HOW IT WORKS AND STAGES
“The process used by companies to generate innovative ideas when facing a problem”
It is a methodology, divided in 5 phases, thatfacilitates problem-solving, design and development of products or services ofall kinds and industries, using innovation and creativity as the engine of theprocess, having always in mind the user of said product/service.
Design teams use design thinking to tackle ill-defined or unknown problems (aka wicked problems) because they can reframe these inhuman-centric ways and focus on what’s most important for users.
Why is it so important?
In a user-centered world, it’s crucial to keep in mind how the customers are going to perceive a product or service. As mentioned before, it can be used across all different industries (public or private, digital or analogic, you name it), and it’s generally used to:
- Solve problems in a creative and innovative way
- Design and develop products or services
- Redesign businesses’ process
- Creation of startups
- Design a business presentation
- Design online courses
What to prepare for the Design Thinking process?
There are some steps we need to take before diving into the Design Thinking process. As stated by the guys at designthinking.es, we need to consider:
- Materials: Materials used in Design Thinking techniques are available for everyone. You might need pen, paper, sticky notes, crayons, glue and pictures. These will be our tools to promote visual communication, a fundamental part in this methodology.
- Team: Team-work is crucial in Design Thinking. The more diverse, the better. You can add points of view, knowledge and experience. There must be at least one person knowledgeable of this methodology to guide the process. The team may vary depending on the stage we’re in.
- Space: You’ll need a work space, although techniques will be used outside of it. It must be a wide space with atable and empty walls or whiteboards to stick the information and ideas. It should be illuminated and inspiring, making us feel comfortable.
- Attitude: Teams must be in a “designer attitude”. Be curious and observant. Any detail can give us important information. We must be empathetic, with people and circumstances.Avoid any kind of prejudice or assumption. Be optimistic and positive. Lose fear to failure and approach mistakes as opportunities.
The Five Stages of Design Thinking
The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Standford (aka the d.school) described design thinking as a five-stage process.
Often, these stages aren’t sequential but parallel, out of order and are repeated in an iterative fashion.
In the beginning, you’ll collect a lot of information, generating a great quantity of content, which will vary its size depending on the stage you’re on. Along the process, you’ll refine that content until you reach a solution that meets the team goals.
1. Empathise– Research your users’ needs
This stage usually starts with the research of the user, a deep understanding of their needs on what we’re developing and its environment. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, try to understand in ahuman way that problem.
2. Define– State your users’ needs and problems
During the Define stage, we will filter and funnel down all the data collected during the Empathise phase and will keep what’s truly useful for us and will take us to new interesting perspectives. We’ll identify problems which solutions will be key to obtain an innovative result.These definitions are called “problem statements”. You can create personas to help keep your efforts human-centered before proceeding to ideate.
3. Ideate– Challenge assumptions and create ideas
Time to brainstorm. You’ve reached a solid background from the two previous stages, so you can start to “think outside of the box”,look for alternative ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problem statement. You’ll need here what we’ve prepared beforehand(materials, space…)
4. Prototype– Start to create solutions
Experimental phase. Trial and error. You’re aiming to identify the best possible solution for each problem found. Your team should produce some inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the product (or specific features found within the product) to investigate the ideas you’ve generated.This could involve simply paper prototyping.
5. Test– Try your solutions out
Try out your prototypes with the users. This stage is crucial, because it’ll help us identify significant improvements, weaknesses of our product, potential failures… We will evolve the idea until we find the solution we’ve been looking for.
Design Thinking Techniques
We’ve summoned some of the main techniques you can use in each of the stages.
How and where to apply Design Thinking
As we’ve talked before, you can apply this methodology to almost any industry. Some examples are:
- Education: Design and develop online courses, design school furniture, such as chairs, tables or chalkboards.
- Bank: New types of accounts, cards, Mobile Pay, etc. (Bank of America)
- Insurance companies
- Supermarket chains
The list goes on and on.
Overall, you should understand that the goal of this process is to gain the deepest understanding of the users and what their ideal solution/product would be.