What is Design Thinking

Design thinking is a proven, repeatable process for problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. Also referred to as human-centered design, design thinking is a framework comprised of a series of steps and associated methods, accompanied by core mindsets.

It helps teams approach problems through developing empathy for customers, discovering opportunities, generating user-centered solutions, and building and testing prototypes.

We really like this definition of design thinking by Lee-Sean Huang of The New School:

Design thinking: a method and a mindset that starts with an understanding of human needs and motivations to define, frame and solve problems.

The Steps

Design Thinking ProcessThe steps we teach in our workshops, which are based on the Stanford d.school approach, are:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

The Mindsets

The mindsets we teach in our workshops are:

  • Collaborative: it’s a team process
  • Human-centered: it starts with people and their needs
  • Iterative: it’s not a linear, one-shot process; it’s iterative and cyclical
  • Embrace time constraints: we embrace time limits as a way to push forward and combat “analysis-paralysis”
  • Bias toward action: we focus on doing, not talking
  • Yes, and: this is about accepting colleagues’ ideas and building on them

Why does it matter?

Consumers increasingly expect products, services, and experiences that are usable, intuitive, responsive, and well designed. In our fast-paced, media-saturated world, organizations are competing for people’s time and attention and struggling for ways to develop breakthrough solutions that delight their customers and audience members. Design thinking offers a framework and process for achieving this.

Design thinking is a close cousin to many other user-centered methodologies, and shares many traits—such as an emphasis on iteration and testing—with the Agile and Lean methodologies. It’s a complement to evaluation and quantitative research, and provides the human stories and insights behind user data.

Read our case studies to learn about organizations that have successfully applied design thinking.

Have questions about design thinking?