What is Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is a method that designers use in ideation and development, that also has applications elsewhere. The method describes a human-centered, iterative design process consisting of 5 steps:
Design thinking is useful in tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown.
We use design thinking at Mäd to solve unknown business problems or unknown future innovative products. At Mäd we only applied 2 phases of the design thinking process: Empathy and Define. This is because the remaining 3 steps are then part of the design sprint and can sometimes be used without design thinking.
It’s good to note that we are a client oriented company, and in turn, our clients are focused on their users, so design thinking is based on the end user of our client. Therefore, it is why this process is done with the client present. They bring their vision and we make it happen.
Imagine managing a train station, your main goal is to make sure every passenger makes it to the train on time as well as making that train depart and arrive in time. You realize that there are many complaints coming in, which states that many passengers keep missing their train even if they came earlier. You need to investigate as to why this is happening to then solve these issues in your product or service. Design thinking is then used to substantiate the problem, get in the consumer's shoes and see why these issues are happening, as well as try to find any other potential issues coming directly from the consumers perspective. In order to do this, design thinking uses a two-step process: empathy and define, which will be explained step by step below.
Having this “knowledge” is key for any design team and the client to really know where the direction and the vision of the project is headed as well as what the consumer or user is expecting or might expect from them. Because the end result is only as strong as its perception to the users or clients.
Design thinking is a two-step process.
Empathy - Allows for the understanding and sharing of feelings about the product which are identified as problems.
Define - Identifies and defines groups for the problems stated in the previous step into categories to turn them into an opportunity. Using positive and meaningful language in order to think about a solution.
Design Thinking - At Its Core.
Empathy: At this stage, we define what we want to learn and what we want the desired outcome to be. Then a interview brief is set up, which contains relevant questions needed to reach this goal. These questions are then used to go in the street and meet with individuals with the same profile of people that might fit in the business/product solution. Start doing the interview and listen to them to get the insights needed.
All this information is then gathered to build an affinity map. Which is a step where all the information is gathered in groups. All the key notes and ideas from the interviews with all other similar responses are grouped together so there are no repeating responses. This information is then gathered and a customer journey is made. A journey that will show step by step what the customer does with your product or service and detail each problem with this journey. The last step to the process is to build a persona of the average person that uses your product or service. What do they look like? Why are they using it? How are they using it? What are they like? What do they dislike? What do they like? How do they dress? Etc…
This information will allow your team to make better decisions when defining the problems in the next step.
Define: In this final stage the categories within the affinity mapping made previously are looked into, and the focus points are chosen and made into problem statements. This process is not easy and takes the input of all participants to fully identify the key focus points.
These problem statements are then pushed on through to the design sprint as a major focal point in the next design of the service or project.
Knowing When Design Thinking is Needed.
When a client has core ideas of what they want to do as a product or solution but they don’t know yet who is their target, what are the behavior of their targets, what are the journey that they going through, what pain points they have?, Do they need that core idea of a solution or not?, is when they need design thinking to dig them out of that hole and make the most impactful product you can make
Design thinking is not always the first step. This is because in many cases, the client may already have all of this defined and therefore does not need help to fund these pain points. A good way to identify on which stage each company is at is to see what they currently offer and do a preliminary assessment if they have any focal pain points that could be solved by design thinking.