Design thinking is a term often thrown around by design teams quite loosely. While it may seem like a simple term on the face of it, it is not that at all.
Design thinking is not a singular term but actually a collection of processes used to flesh out design concepts and conduct creative problem-solving.
Let us have a look at the definition of the term before we move forward:
“Design thinking is a term used to represent a set of cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts are developed.”
According to the Interaction Design Foundation, design thinking is a non-linear, iterative design process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.
As mentioned above, the design thinking process has different processes and stages. It is a highly user-centric process which, at every stage, puts the user at the focal point and derives solutions according to what is best for them.
Before moving onto the different stages of the design thinking process, let us look at the different principles of design thinking.
Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer in Design Thinking: Understand – Improve – Apply (Understanding Innovation) propose four universal principles of design. These principles apply to software architecture as well as to detailed program design, user interaction design, or any other design-focused discipline. So it is necessary to consider these four principles as well as the different design stages of design thinking.
The four principles as stated in the book are:
All design is social in nature: No matter what the context is, all and any design activity is social in nature because their end users are always humans. By the same logic, all design and any innovation in the same should bring us back to the “human-centric point of view”.
Preserve ambiguity: There will always be some ambiguity, and it cannot be removed or oversimplified. Experimenting at the limits of your knowledge and ability is crucial in being able to see things differently.
All design is redesign: All design is redesign. While technology and social circumstances may change and evolve, basic human needs remain unchanged. We essentially only redesign the means of fulfilling these needs or reaching desired outcomes.
Making ideas tangible in the form of prototypes enables designers to communicate them more effectively.
Based on these principles, the design thinking process can be broken down into five stages or processes. Let us have a look at the stages of the design thinking process:
The main point to remember is that these five stages are different modes which contribute to the entire design project, rather than steps that you have to undertake in a sequence. As you keep going through the design thinking process, you will also keep going back and forth between the different stages as each contributes to the other in providing new information. Your goal throughout is to gain the deepest understanding of the users and what their ideal solution/product would be.