Experience Engineering

The Science of Design Thinking


March 23rd, 2023

So what is design thinking?

What is design thinking? Philosophers describe it as an inspiration to find solutions that inspire innovation. While others vouch for a practical explanation and refer to it as a creative problem-solving technique that employs design principles. But in simple words, it’s about identifying a problem, brainstorming, and reaching for ideas that solve it, followed by testing your ideas until you reach an innovative solution and finally implementing that solution to reality.

Design thinking does not need to be restricted to just design, rather it’s about rethinking every aspect of the product existence. Yes, you read it right, design related cognitive thinking can be applied to redefine anything. In the past, innovators have applied design thinking to build a needle-free vaccine, rethink airport security checkpoint experience, and even create a better Pringle.

While it has been around for ages, the current form is courtesy of the fathers of design thinking IDEO, David Kelley and Tim Brown. David Kelley highlights design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

In simple terms, it means stepping out of your comfort zone and applying visual thinking, creativity, and innovation to find out of box solutions. It questions our assumptions and challenges our thinking. Design thinking innovations can be successfully applied within any industry, whether a small or large scale company, and in varied domains such as government, healthcare, financial services, nonprofits, and more.

The 6 distinct phases

Empathize is the starting point and demands research to learn about the audience that’s going to use the product, what they do, say, think and feel, what motivates or discourages them and where they experience frustration.

Define is when you dig deeper into the issue by combining knowledge gained during empathy. This is when you organize your observations to establish common pain points, find out the actual user needs, and highlight opportunities for innovation.

Ideate is the step when you gather your team and brainstorm as many crazy and creative ideas as possible, addressing the human needs identified in the define phase.

Prototype is created to weigh the impact and feasibility of ideas and make continuous improvements based on the received feedback.

Test involves putting your prototype in front of real customers for feedback to verify if the designed solution meets users’ needs and if it has improved how users feel, think, or can help them with their tasks.

Implement involves putting your vision into effect, ensuring your solution is materialized and touching the lives of your end users.

Why is design thinking getting so popular?

The main advantage here is that the user is not the center of the process, but the human is.

You may be wondering how a user is different from a human. A user is a subset of human, and in design thinking, the goal is to not only learn about your users just for your product and observe only what’s required for it. But analyzing the big picture of their lives by shadowing them to find actual problems they face in their daily lives. In turn, the design elements are not there for decoration but to tackle actual user needs and challenges.

An empathetic design approach that doesn’t involve individual opinion but multidisciplinary teams brainstorming human needs and coming up with a solution together, building a product, and working on the feedback, so it carries their collective expertise. The combination of rapid prototyping and quick feedback creates a product that solves real problems and, in turn, is valued by users.

Tools you need

No tools are necessary to get started in design thinking, just a little bit of empathy, an ear that listens, and a brain to think freely without being judgemental. However, you can help yourself with a few real-world tools to make the design thinking process a breeze in your agency.

Mind mapping software can help your team brainstorm and sift through potential ideas. While a project management tool will keep the entire team involved and informed about project progress, communication tools build an active interaction among all people involved. You might also need a strong technical platform like Github when you are working on different versions of your project in collaboration with a team of developers.

But most importantly, for design thinking, you need diversity in ideas, backgrounds, and cultures. So your best tool is your team.

With an increase in expectations for experiences, we also see an increase in complexity. Design thinking is a simple approach to problem-solving, increasing the chances of getting an innovative breakthrough in how UX is getting adopted in the interfaces.

Interested in learning more about how design thinking could help your brand? Reach out to us at xe@cx100.com



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