A business, irrespective of the industry it belongs to, is always set to taste success if it runs with a user-centric approach. And, that’s precisely what the core of “Design Thinking” is all about.
In its basic form, Design Thinking is a process that is human-centered. It is mainly a user-centric approach that is used for practical and creative problem-solving.
Design thinking pushes businesses to understand their target audience and develop products and services accordingly.
With respect to graphic design, Design Thinking is crucial to develop and refine skills to understand and address rapid changes in users’ environments and behaviors.
It helps in understanding the trigger points that would help attract and engage users to eventually convert them into loyal customers.
The term "Design Thinking" was coined in the 1990's by David Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO, with Roger Martin, and encapsulated methods and ideas that have been brewing for years into a single unified concept.
In this article, we’ll understand in detail;
-What is Design Thinking?
-Why is it important?
-How to implement design thinking (its phases)?
So, to begin with, let’s take a look at the basic definition of Design Thinking.
Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a user-based approach to solving problems.
It is a helpful technique to handle complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by;
-Understanding the human needs involved,
-Re-framing a problem in a human-centric way,
-Conducting brainstorming sessions to come up with different possible ideas,
-Adopting a hands-on approach to prototyping and testing.
The design thinking ideology asserts that a hands-on, user-centric approach to problem-solving can lead to innovation, and innovation can lead to differentiation and competitive advantage.
As mentioned earlier in this article, following a user-centric approach is important to every business setup; irrespective of the industry it operated in. This makes design thinking an integral part of every business operation as well.
Whether it is a government organization, an education industry, or a nonprofit, design thinking can help develop innovative solutions based on the needs of the target customers.
Broadly, design thinking can help an organization in the following ways:
- Better understanding the gaps in demand and supply of the needs of your target audience (customers, clients, students, users, etc...).
- Counterbalancing the risk associated with launching new ideas, products, and services. For example, redesigning a website.
- Develop solutions that are revolutionary, not just incremental.
- Learn and iterate faster.
Using the concept of design thinking, designers have the freedom to generate ground-breaking solutions. Through this, teams can get behind hard-to-access insights and apply a collection of hands-on methods to help find innovative answers.
The process of implementing Design Thinking is broadly done in 5 phases as defined by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford; the leading institute that teaches the concept of design thinking.
These five phases of design thinking are;
It is important to understand that while the phases of design thinking are linear steps, in practice the process is not necessarily always linear.
Some of these steps may happen several times, and you may even jump back and forth between them.
Moving through the phases of design thinking can take you from a blank slate to a new, innovative solution.
Let’s understand each of these steps in detail.
Step 1: Empathize
The first step (or phase) of the Design Thinking process is to understand your user base by empathizing with their needs and wants.
This involves thorough research on your potential consumer base through observing and engaging directly with them in order to understand them on a psychological and emotional level.
It is important for designers to set aside any kind of pre-conceived notion about the users and work solely on real insights.
The goal is to gather enough observations that you can truly begin to empathize with your users and their perspectives.
Empathy works as a critical beginning of the entire Design Thinking process as it involves deep research on the users’ needs.
Step 2: Define
As the name suggests, the second phase of the Design Thinking process is to define the main challenges, or problems, that the target customers are facing.
Through the findings from the first step in the process of empathizing, you would have enough data to analyze and contemplate on;
-What difficulties and barriers are the users coming up against?
-What patterns do you observe?
-What is the big user problem that your team needs to solve?
This will give you the core problem that you can then start working on a solution for.
Remember that it is important at this stage to frame the problem in a user-centered way. What this means is, rather than saying “We need to…”, frame it in terms of the users, viz., “Teenagers require ….”
Step 3: Ideate
So, now that you have formulated the core problem, you can start to come up with different possible solutions and ideas. And, that brings us to the 3rd phase of the design thinking process; Ideation!
This is the stage where you and your designers need to brainstorm “out-of-the-box” solutions to the problems faced by your target customers.
Remember, especially as a designer working on the solution, that there are no boundaries in thinking creatively, and it could be as crazy an idea as possible; till the time it’s solving the purpose of giving a solid solution.
It will be this creative thinking stage where you will have the freedom to look at things from an entirely different angle and come up with creative solutions.
Of course, all of this will be based on the first two steps that were executed in this process.
Step 4: Prototype
Step 4 of the design thinking process is when things start to take shape.
A prototype is broadly a scaled-down version of the main product and, so, in this phase, you start working on your ideas and see which ones are more feasible in becoming a reality by functioning properly.
The prototypes that you work on can be shared with other team members (of different departments too) and get their feedback.
This is an experimental phase, and the aim is to identify the best possible solution for each of the problems identified during the first three stages.
The prototypes, on the basis of their execution and feedbacks, are then accepted, or improved if necessary, followed by re-examination, or completely rejected.
At the end of phase 4, the design team will have a better idea of the constraints inherent to the product and the problems that are present, and have a clearer view of how real users would behave, think, and feel when interacting with the end product.
Step 5: Test
After all the research, brainstorming and, getting internal feedback on prototypes, it’s time to finally put your solution out in the public domain for real-time testing.
This phase includes testing of the top solutions picked during the prototyping stage.
As always, it is important to understand that, while this marks the end of the 5-step design thinking process, the result of this step can very well lead back to the earlier two steps.
The iterative nature of the entire design thinking process can lead to further iterations, alterations, and refinements – to find or rule out alternative solutions.
From the above discussion, it is clearly established that the process of Design Thinking is iterative, flexible, and most importantly, user-centric.
It is a collaboration between the designers and the users with the objective of providing unique solutions based on user behavior.
Successful application of design thinking can help in systematically extracting, teaching, learning, and applying the human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way