“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”
– Tim Brown CEO, IDEO
The importance of design thinking and the methodology underpinning it, can be, and is quite often, overlooked. As designers, we frequently find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, pressed to deliver on the business strategy and what is technologically feasible, whilst ultimately trying to create a product or services that best meets the needs and values of the end user. When confronted with this juggling act, unfortunately, it is design thinking and methodology that often pays the price.
The paradox of sacrificing design thinking for business strategy and technological feasibility, is that it is this very methodology that can help drive business success and innovation in technology. It is therefore important to have a clear understanding of the design thinking process, as well as how it can, and should, be used to drive the success of a project for business, developers and the user.
“We need to gain a good understanding of the problem we are trying to solve before we can begin exploring possible solutions through idea generation, sketching and prototyping.”
The five steps in design thinking
The Nielsen Norman Group, an organisation conducting research and guiding critical design decisions, offers a great visual representation in its article ‘Design Thinking 101’*
It focuses on:
For each project, we need to gain a good understanding of the problem we are trying to solve before we can begin exploring possible solutions through idea generation, sketching and prototyping. Once we feel confident in the solution we’ve landed on, we are then able to materialize this through final design.
The process is further broken down into:
Empathize – conduct research to develop an understanding of your users
Define – combine all your research and observe where your users’ problems exist
Ideate – generate a range of crazy, creative ideas
Prototype – build real, tactile representations for a range of your ideas
Test – return to your users for feedback
Implement – put the version into effect
Often what people say they do is very different to what they literally do. If we take the time to dive deep into understanding our users, then the ideas we generate will allow us to build and implement offerings that most accurately meet the needs of the user.
It is in the best interest of business, developers and designers to focus on the needs and values of the user, using design thinking as the central process, to ensure that a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.