What is Design Thinking?

Design System chart
Design System chart

Why is Design Thinking essential?

Tips & tricks about

UX & UI Design

We are encountering more and more challenges that traditional, linear approaches cannot solve. Problems cannot be solved with the same reasoning that caused them. To arrive at a more suitable solution, the problem must be redefined.

Design Thinking is not only something you learn, but also something you experience. It is based on the needs of users and stakeholders. Assumptions and biases are directly tested in practice, resulting in innovative solutions that are sustainable, adaptable to continuous changes, and embraced by all stakeholders.

Design thinking helps you find the sweet spot for users and business owners.

Definition: Design thinking is a process for problem-solving with a user-centered approach. It prioritizes the needs of the consumer above everything else and relies on empathetic observation of how people interact with their environment, using an iterative, hands-on approach to create innovative solutions.

Design Thinking Process

The design thinking framework follows a general flow of 1. Understand 2. Explore 3. Materialize. Within these groups, the 6 different phases fall: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, Implement.

Empathize: Conduct research to gain insight into what users do, say, think, and feel.

Imagine your goal is to improve the user experience of your booking system. In the Empathize phase, you talk to a number of real users. Directly observe and ask: what do users do, think, and want? Find out 'what motivates or discourages users?' or 'where do they experience frustration?' The goal is to gather enough information from observation that you can truly empathize with your users and their perspectives.

Define: Combine all the information from the research and identify where users' problems occur. By establishing the needs of your users, you can highlight opportunities for innovation.

Take another look at the booking example. In the Define phase, use the data collected in the empathy phase to create insights. Analyze your observation data to define the core problems you have identified so far. Defining the problem and problem statement should be done in a human-centered way. Is there a common pain point among many different users? Identify unmet user needs.


You have gained a better understanding of your users and their needs in the empathy phase, and you have analyzed your observations to create a user-centered problem statement. With this solid background, you can brainstorm a range of wild, creative ideas that address the unmet user identified in the define phase.

In this phase, bring your team members together and generate many different ideas. There are hundreds of ideation techniques you can use, such as brainstorming, brainwriting, worst possible idea, and SCAMPER. Give yourself and your team complete freedom; no idea is too far-fetched, and quantity trumps quality. Then have them share, mix, and remix ideas, building on the ideas of others.


Build tangible, tactile representations for a subset of your ideas. These prototypes can be shared and tested within the team itself, in other departments, or with a small group of people outside the design team. In this phase, you begin to weigh the impact versus feasibility of your ideas through feedback on your prototypes.

Make your ideas tangible. If it's a new booking system page, sketch a wireframe and get internal feedback. Revise it based on feedback, and then quickly create a prototype. Then share it with another group of people.

At the end of the prototype phase, the design team has a better understanding of the limitations of the product and the challenges it faces. They also have a clearer picture of how real users would behave, think, and feel when interacting with the end product.


Go back to your users for feedback. The ultimate goal is to gain a deep understanding of the product and its users.

Present your prototype to real customers and check if it achieves your goals. Does the user's perspective improve during the booking process? Does the new web page increase the time or money spent on your site?

You can now proceed with further iterations and make changes and refinements to rule out alternative solutions.


Bring the vision into practice. Ensure that your solution becomes a reality and impacts the lives of your end users.

This is the most important part of design thinking, but it is often overlooked.

Design thinking does not free you from actual design. It's about getting an idea in your head and turning that idea into something real. And that will always be a long and challenging process. No matter how impactful design thinking can be for an organization, it only leads to real innovation when the vision is executed. The success of design thinking lies in its ability to transform an aspect of the end user's life.

The Importance of Design Thinking

Design thinking achieves these three benefits:

- It is a user-centered process that starts with user data, creates design solutions that address real, not imaginary, user needs, and then tests those solutions with real users.

- It develops collective expertise and provides a shared common language within your team.

- It fosters innovation by exploring multiple paths for the same problem. Design thinking unleashes creative energies and directs them toward the right problem.

Adapting to Needs

It is crucial to remember that the six stages of Design Thinking are not always sequential. They do not have to happen in a specific order and often occur simultaneously or repeatedly. Instead of seeing it as sequential stages, the stages should be seen as different modes contributing to an overall design project.

As seen in the diagram below, each phase is intended to be repetitive and cyclical rather than strictly linear. After an initial prototype is created and tested, it is essential to go back to the two steps of understanding empathize and define. This is because you cannot get an accurate representation of your design until wireframes have been prototyped and your concepts have been realized.

In the define phase, for example, different team members will have different backgrounds and expertise, and consequently, different approaches to problem identification. It is common to spend a significant amount of time in the define phase to get the team on the same page. If getting buy-in is difficult, iteration is required. The results of each phase should be reliable enough to serve as a guide for the remaining steps and to ensure that you don't deviate from the course.

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