What is Design Thinking?

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. It is extremely user-centric. It is basically used to understand users — as it focuses on human first and foremost, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. It is what we call a solution-based approach to problem-solving.

Design thinking processes you know

Phase 1: Empathise (Research Your Users’ Needs)

Empathy provides the critical starting point for Design Thinking. The first stage of the process is spent getting to know the user and understanding their wants, needs and objectives. This means observing and engaging with people in order to understand them on a psychological and emotional level. During this phase, the designer seeks to set aside their assumptions and gather real insights about the user. Here, you should gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve, typically through user research

Phase 2: Define (State Your Users’ Needs and Problems)

It’s time to accumulate the information gathered during the Empathize stage. You then analyze your observations and synthesize them to define the core problems you and your team have identified. You try to answer questions like what difficulties and barriers are your users coming up against? What patterns do you observe? What is the big user problem that your team needs to solve?. These definitions are called problem statements. The key here is to frame the problem in a user-centred way. Once you’ve formulated the problem into words, you can start to come up with solutions and ideas — which brings us onto stage three.

Phase 3: Ideate (Challenge Assumptions and Create Ideas)

Now, you’re ready to generate ideas. The solid background of knowledge from the first two phases means you can start to “think outside the box”, look for alternative ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problem statement you’ve created. It’s crucial to point out that the ideation stage is a judgment-free zone! Designers will hold ideation sessions in order to come up with as many new angles and ideas as possible. There are many different types of ideation technique that designers might use, from brainstorming and mind-mapping to body-storming (roleplay scenarios) and provocation — an extreme lateral-thinking technique that gets the designer to challenge established beliefs and explore new options and alternatives. Towards the end of the ideation phase, you’ll narrow it down to a few ideas with which to move forward

Phase 4: Prototype (Start to Create Solutions)

This is an experimental phase. The aim is 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 step is key in putting each solution to the test and highlighting any constraints and flaws. Throughout the prototype stage, the proposed solutions may be accepted, improved, redesigned or rejected depending on how they fare in prototype form.

Stage 5: Test (Try Your Solutions Out)

After prototyping comes user testing, but it’s important to note that this is rarely the end of the Design Thinking process. In reality, the results of the testing phase will often lead you back to a previous step. Evaluators rigorously test the prototypes. Teams often use the results to redefine one or more further problems. So, you can return to previous stages to make further iterations, alterations and refinements to come up with new ideas you hadn’t thought of before.

What does it mean for a designer to be able to fit himself into the shoes of a user?

To fit or try to fit into a user’s shoe simply means being able to gain deeper personal understanding of the issues, needs and challenges of users are feeling. There is a big focus on empathy and with feedback mechanisms in place, designers can ensure that implementation remains aligned with customer needs.