How To Progress Through The Design Thinking Process

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Design thinking is an iterative and non-linear process that provides many benefits in different business environments and circumstances. It produces innovative solutions based on how consumers feel, think and behave. Learning more about this process can help you solve business problems and may be especially useful if you want to work in product or user experience (UX) design. In this article, we describe the design thinking process, discuss the four principles of design thinking, look at the stages of the process, show how to progress through each stage and explain why this process is essential for businesses.

What Is The Design Thinking Process?

The design thinking process is a problem-solving technique that places a strong emphasis on the user. It concentrates on the relationships between products and their users, which helps designers tackle unrecognised or ill-defined problems. This thinking approach aims to understand the user, disprove preconceived ideas and provide new solutions to problems.

Using practical and creative problem-solving, the method can handle issues in almost any industry or business. The main inspiration behind design thinking is a desire to understand customers and create goods, services and solutions that best satisfy their needs. Because it helps reframe the issue in a human-centric manner, this method of solving issues can be helpful when facing problems for the first time or when the issue is vague or unidentified.

Related: How To Become A UX Designer (With Duties And Skills)

Principles Of Design Thinking

Listed below are the four principles of design thinking:

The human rule

Regardless of the context, all design work is social. Any social innovation ultimately relies on a human-centric point of view, implying that the consumers of any product or service are at the forefront of the design process. Understanding the users' demands, thoughts and behaviours and implementing that knowledge into the process is the essence of user-centric design. Instead of developing imaginative but irrelevant fixes, you can create effective solutions based on users' demands, thoughts and motivations.

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The ambiguity rule

One of design thinking's principles is to embrace ambiguity. Ambiguity is an unchangeable part of life that one cannot avoid or oversimplify. Being able to see things differently or understand other perspectives depends on experimenting with your abilities and knowledge. Consider reworking your problem or approaching it from different angles to generate multiple potential answers rather than a single solution. This means considering several approaches to a problem, as many ideas can eventually help you find an optimal result.

Related: How To Think Out Of The Box In 7 Steps (With Tips)

The redesign rule

The everyday requirements of consumers tend to remain the same, even though technology may change and progress. This implies that every design or solution to a problem involves redesigning an earlier product, where designers employ past methods to adjust their products. It is important to balance customers' expectations against any changes you may want to make to a product. You can do this by learning about past operations and building on these ideas.

Related: Analytical Thinking Vs Critical Thinking (With Their Uses)

The tangibility rule

Designers often communicate their ideas more effectively by giving them a physical embodiment. This can involve creating prototypes, which designers often experiment with and develop. This can help them determine if a new design is viable. By hypothesising and testing, they can identify the adjustments that would make the product easier to use or more intuitive.

Related: What Is Prototyping? (Types, Benefits, Tips And Examples)

How To Progress Through The 5 Stages Of The Design Thinking Process

Here are the five stages of design thinking and how you can advance through each of them:

1. Empathise with the customers

The first step of this process, empathy, helps you to better understand the desires, requirements and goals of product users. A company or individual may familiarise themselves with the target demographic by observing, interacting and empathising with the people in that environment. The empathy stage aims to get real-life insights into what users may want or require by rejecting assumptions and biased thinking.

Related: Empathic Skills: Definition And Examples (With Tips)

2. Define the problem

Defining the current problem is the key focus of the second stage of this process. Designers and others may identify these issues using the data from the previous step. The easiest way to accomplish this is to create a human-centric problem statement that, for example, might read, teenage girls desire high-quality yet moderately priced fashion options that are consistent with the latest trends, as opposed to the company's stated goal of increasing the amount of junior-sized clothes purchased by teenage girls by 15%.

Related: How To Write A Problem Statement (With Template And Example)

3. Ideate potential solutions

In this stage, professionals work on creating solutions to the challenges identified during the previous two stages. During this stage of the process, designers and other participants develop solutions that are distinct from previously implemented or proposed solutions. They may do this to upgrade a product or to create a better solution. Teams may utilise ideation strategies like brainstorming to generate as many ideas as possible before gradually refining the list and selecting the best and most workable options.

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4. Create prototypes

During the prototype phase, teams typically create low-cost, scaled-down models that follow the previous stage's ideas. This creates a mock-up of the product that incorporates these various modifications. For instance, you might develop a prototype smartphone with user-friendly settings to find out how intuitive and easy to use these new smartphones might be. By creating a prototype, designers can examine the viability of a potential solution before they approve it.

Related: What Is A Proof Of Concept? (With Benefits And Tips)

5. Test the final products

After designers or other experts test the completed product, the process is usually complete. After researching and choosing solutions, the team creates the finished product. Though this is typically the last step, some projects may be incomplete at this phase if there are still outstanding issues.

For instance, after completing smartphone testing, designers may find confused consumers because of one of the new settings. The updated smartphone might then return to the prototype stage before undergoing testing for a second time.

Non-Linearity Of The Process

The process of design thinking may seem linear and direct, with one stage following the previous one in a straightforward manner. User testing provides a logical conclusion that appears to follow a distinct set of steps, but in reality, the procedure is less rigid. For instance, diverse groups within the design team might work on multiple stages simultaneously. Designers might gather data and create prototypes at every stage of the project to concretise their ideas and solve problems as they work.

The outcomes of the test stage might offer new user insights that inspire another ideation session or the creation of new prototypes. The problem identification stage may serve as a guide for the tasks you complete, rather than being a strict and definite method. To learn more about the company's customers, you could also diversify the design methodology and focus on creating solutions, switching the stages, conducting each of them simultaneously or repeating them.

Related: The 8D Problem-Solving Method: What It Is And How To Use It

Why Is Design Thinking Important?

Many organisations and individuals that want to expand or improve their problem-solving techniques might benefit from design thinking. Here are a few reasons design thinking may be valuable for a business:

  • Businesses can use design thinking to improve customer satisfaction, as it allows them to learn about and monitor user behaviour so they can adjust and improve their products accordingly.

  • Businesses can meet the demands of their customers, as it helps them better understand their customers' expectations and requirements.

  • It enables businesses to find creative solutions to their customers' problems.

  • Individual professionals can concentrate on the best solution and find it quickly, as the process is non-linear and user-focused.


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