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What Is Design Thinking?

24 November, 2022

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To think like a pro is a skill that can be mastered while diving into your work and being devoted to it. Design Thinking is not an exclusive phrase created for designers only, many - artists, doctors, musicians, and developers practice it in their profession. But what is so special about Design Thinking as an ideology, and why is it important to master it?

Design Thinking is a strategy that designers use to practice their creative thinking and problem-solving skills during their work. The process is mainly client-oriented. Each designer learns how to understand each person and find solutions to their needs with an individual approach. This methodology is effective, as it is a perfect mix of creativity, intuition, emotions, science, and analytics. Needless to say, this progress comes with experience and practice, so as a Junior Designer it may be confusing at first.

Principles of Design Thinking 

Here are some design thinking steps that you can use as a (starter) guide. 

  • Your Target is your Consumer

You may think that as a designer the whole responsibility lies on you and you have to know how the project needs to look from A to Z. The client should just check the result and approve. Well, that’s not it. Assumptions without the user’s approval will only slow the work. Before you determine the problem and come up with solutions, you should discuss everything thoroughly with the user first.

During the discussion, you will certainly have questions to ask. Prepare them beforehand, and concentrate on the open-ended questions. Also, note that empathy is the key starting point of design thinking. The better you understand the problem, the easier it’ll be to unlock several solutions.

  • Define

After you collect all the needed insights, it’s practical to outline and specify the key parts of the communication, to bring the focus on the main needs and problems mentioned by the user. That way, you create your own guide to consistently re-check the highlights when needed. Empathy map is one of the tools to use. 

  • Brainstorming

After having a good understanding of the challenge, now it’s time to do some brainstorming. You should try to come up with some businesslike solutions. Think them through, and look at each task from different angles. That will broaden your imagination and help you solve even unsolvable problems of your project.

  • Prototype

This step requires experimentation. Transforming your ideas into a testable prototype may be quite worrying at first. However, note that the first examples shouldn’t be perfect. You create the prototype as an exemplar for additional discussions with the team and the user. Get ready to redesign, hear rejections, make many changes, re-check and improve them before getting the final result. 

  • Testing

All the points above lead to the final part. It’s more effective to do the testing with the user, to make sure it works for the purpose.

Design thinking is natural and intuitive which improves with practice. It is a good fundament to enhance your creative development,  foster a more resilient design culture, find innovative solutions and build strong communication with users.

Books About Design Thinking

Another way to improve innovation and design thinking efforts is through books.

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

In my humble opinion, any designer should read Donald Norman’s books, especially this one. He, as the father of UI/UX, opens our eyes to the perversity of bad design and the desirability of good design and raises our expectations about how things should be designed.

This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider 

A good designer knows the importance to understand the user. The authors of this book share with us how to improve the customer experience and interactions between services and customers. By the end, you’ll gain a good sense of understanding customer needs and how to market your business as unique. 

Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelleys

Everyone has design thinking potential. The Kelley brothers - leading experts in innovation, have written a great book based on their experience, to help you unleash your potential, and break the barriers. It is a unique journey for each designer, and this book can be your guide.
The Design of Business by Roger Martin

This book shows us how big companies use design thinking to push knowledge through the stages in ways that produce breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage. 

Designing for Growth by Jeanne Liedtka

Here Jeanne uncovers the mindset, techniques, and vocabulary of design thinking and teaches managers how to exploit design’s potential to grow their business.

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rule-breakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray

Games and gamestorming are great methodologies to engage creativity, freedom of thinking, and a friendly environment in the team. This book includes more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies. 

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett

Adapting design thinking means embracing it not only in your job but also in your life. Look around - everything was designed by someone. In this book authors, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans tell us how design thinking that we use in our career can help us build, create, color, and develop our lives.

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