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What is Design Thinking?

by Lapmonk Editorial
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The importance of design thinking in the modern world has progressively increased throughout time. Modern consumers have simple access to global markets. Design Thinking has avoided the differences between physical and digital interactions. Let’s say that your company values a client-first, design-driven culture. It gives you a competitive advantage and provides accurate, insightful results. This pushes everyone to focus more on the client in all functions. Design Thinking has become well-known in this developing industry thanks to the consulting firm IDEO. The company’s CEO, Tim Brown, has contributed to the expansion of design thinking in the business world.

Understanding Design Thinking

Tim Brown gives a very good definition of Design Thinking as a human-centered approach to innovation that employs the designer’s toolset to combine the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the standards for commercial success.

The client’s needs come first when using the design thinking approach to problem solving. Prototyping and experimentation, gathering customer feedback, and product reinvention using innovative solutions are just a few of the activities that can be beneficial to a person. The commercial, engineering, and architectural fields are just a few that can benefit from design thinking.

Design Thinking concentrates on solutions to the problems, as opposed to problems, as in a problem-based approach. Identifying the obstacles and limitations that contribute to the existence of an issue is the main goal of the problem-based thinking approach.

History of Design Thinking

Design thinking emerged mostly between the 1950s and 1960s. While there is no single event that can be used to pinpoint the origins of this notion, both the industrial revolution and World War II contributed to its development. Engineers, architects, industrial designers, and cognitive scientists joined together during the period to study creative and communal problem solving, which was prompted by huge societal shifts.

John E. Arnold and L. Bruce Archer introduced the concept of design thinking in their 1959 books Creative Engineering and Systematic Method for Designers, respectively (1965). Herbert A. Simon, a cognitive scientist and Nobel Prize winner, was the first to describe design thinking as a “way of thinking” and a methodology. In 1969, his book The Sciences of the Artificial revealed this. Throughout the 1970s, he continued to contribute numerous concepts that are today regarded as design thinking principles.

In the 1970s, design thinking was able to connect human resources with the technology and strategic needs of the moment, and it continued to evolve over the decades. It is currently one of the most revolutionary approaches in existence.

Why is Design Thinking Important?

It will be a game-changer if your company approaches the development of its goods, services, procedures, and strategies with a designer’s perspective. It blends the customer’s wants with what is technologically and financially feasible. It also gives non-designers a wide range of opportunities to use imaginative approaches to solve a wide range of issues and challenges.

The following essential qualities are also enhanced through design thinking:

  • Meeting customer needs is the main objective
  • Encourages people to come up with novel ideas
  • Aids in the settlement of hazy and challenging issues
  • Makes it possible for companies to function more swiftly and efficiently

The Four Principles of Design Thinking

Christoph Meinel from the Hasso-Plattner Institute and Larry Leifer from Stanford University presented four universal principles of design thinking:

  1. The Human Rule: “All design is inherently social.” The issues must be resolved by addressing human needs and acknowledging the human aspect in all technology.
  2. The Ambiguity Rule: states that ambiguity is unavoidable. We conduct experiments to the boundaries of our knowledge, regulate occurrences depending on our limitations, and have the freedom to view things from many angles.
  3. The Redesign Rule:  states that “Every design is a redesign.” Technology and social events are constantly evolving in the modern world. We must investigate and assess how ancient humans satisfied their needs.
  4. The Tangibility Rule: states that “Making ideas concrete facilitates communication.” By making our ideas concrete through prototypes, designers can communicate more effectively.

The Five Phases of Design Thinking

The five universal phases of design thinking were proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute at Stanford as follows:

  1. Empathize: The first step in design thinking is to demonstrate empathy in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the problem it seeks to address. In order to give a solution that is better tailored to the user’s needs, this phase is more important than comprehending the problem itself. This process entails monitoring and interacting with the user in order to determine their behavior patterns, inclinations, preferences, and likely responses to events. Businesses won’t be able to personalize solutions to user needs until they have a thorough understanding of the user environment and behavioral patterns.
  2. Define: The next stage in the procedure is to organize all of the data gathered in the previous phase. This will ultimately help you define the problem statement from a more human-centered approach. Not only does the Define step aid in dissecting obscure ideas and problems, but it also facilitates the formation of an organized approach to tackling the problem. This is when you lay out the plan and formulate the questions that must be answered to tackle the problem at hand.
  3. Ideate: This is arguably the most important step, and curiously, it leaves a lot of opportunity for creativity. To advocate the user experience, you must now think unconventionally and be willing to experiment. At this juncture, it is essential to bring new viewpoints to the table and consider novel approaches to addressing the situation. When proposing these solutions, it is also essential to address potential user and environmental barriers.
  4. Prototype: When creating a prototype, you must select your greatest ideas and give them form. Before offering the solution for implementation, this phase permits designers to verify the solution’s efficacy internally in a limited context. This may also involve implementing all possible solutions and evaluating their efficacy. Eliminating unsuccessful or ineffective choices and moving forward with the most viable alternatives is a crucial aspect of this phase. Prototyping enables designers to comprehend how users would generally behave or respond to a given solution, allowing them to create a more realistic solution that may be adopted on a broader scale.
  5. Testing: The final stage of design thinking entails testing the best solutions generated in the previous stage. Due to the iterative nature of this process, the outcomes of this phase are used to further enhance the final solution. More often than not, the solutions developed during the prototyping phase undergo significant modifications or are even rejected in order to meet the requirements of users in the actual context. The outcome of this phase is a tried-and-true solution that can resist environmental obstacles and user expectations.

Benefits Design Thinking Methodology

Listed below are some important benefits of using the design thinking process or approach:

  • It aids in overcoming creative obstacles: by allowing you to view difficulties from multiple angles. To generate the best ideas requires significant mental effort, which aids in the expansion of the learner’s horizons.
  • Design thinking entails creating prototypes that are tested and the customer’s feedback: Your product will finally meet client requirements if you follow the design thinking methodology effectively with the customer as the focus.
  • It enhances your understanding of Design Thinking: Throughout the design thinking process, you will do multiple evaluations. To achieve client satisfaction, you will always attempt to improve your model by incorporating user feedback.

Applications of Design Thinking

Design thinking has a variety of professional uses. Numerous organizations apply design thinking in a variety of fields, including sports, education, study, and research, as well as business and administration.

  1. Business: Design thinking is most prevalent in corporations. It aids them in optimizing processes, particularly product development, marketing, and contract renewal. Given that these procedures require a significant level of customer focus, design thinking shows to be an invaluable asset in their support. In business, design thinking enables design thinkers to not only cultivate profound empathy for their consumers, but also to produce solutions that cater to their specific requirements.
  2. Information Systems: Numerous items in the IT business require trials and proofs of concept. The industry must sympathize with its users, as opposed to merely deploying technologies. IT encompasses not only technologies and products, but also processes. The developers, analysts, consultants, and managers must generate potential solutions for the client’s challenges. Here, design thinking is really useful.
  3. Education: The education industry is the most demanding of inventive ideas in our economy. It can utilize design thinking most effectively through student feedback. Feedback from students regarding their classroom needs, objectives, and obstacles might facilitate straightforward problem-solving. In other words, by incorporating customer comments, the design team may generate relevant and innovative solutions to their problems.
  4. Healthcare: Design thinking is also essential in the healthcare profession. The expenditures in this sector of the healthcare industry continue to rise daily. Cost-effective, high-quality healthcare for individuals is a top priority for professionals around the world.

Industrial Applications of Design Thinking

Design thinking has become a buzzword among many successful organizations, yet its effects are highly contingent and vary by industry. It enables brands to remain competitive by driving innovation in the business environment. Human-centered problem-solving makes it an effective conduit between brands and consumers.

It is utilized by professionals to enhance the physical and digital experiences of products and services. Companies employing design thinking view design as much more than a phase or department; in fact, it influences the overall business strategy. Creating a business culture that is design-optimized would undoubtedly increase innovation and customer pleasure. The five most significant industries that design thinking has revolutionized are:

  • Entertainment
  • Consumables
  • Financial services
  • Travel and lodging
  • Technology and communications


One of the initial phases in design thinking would be to obtain customer insights through Empathy, Observation, and/or Interviews. Understanding your clients’ desires is the first step in developing products and services for them. We must never presume what they believe or feel; rather, we must get insight into their needs. Consequently, keen observation and gaining insights are essential components of the design thinking methodology. In recent decades, it has been more important than ever to acquire and hone the abilities necessary to not only comprehend but also respond to the rapid changes in this dynamic market. As a result of rapid technological advancements, the world has become increasingly linked and complex, and design thinking offers a human-centric approach of coping. It enables us to think creatively and comprehend problem-solving on a deeper level. Design thinking has demonstrated its ability to enhance the world. It is an innovation, not only a procedure, due to its capacity to develop innovative solutions in a less disruptive yet inventive manner.

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