Design Thinking Simplified: How to Use it! Step-by-Step Guide

Design Thinking is a mindset that . Innovation experts reflected on the process by which a product designer develops a new product and realized fascinating breakthroughs.

Design Thinking Simplified
Photo Source: The Interaction Design Foundation


Let’s discover them through an example. Let’s say our product designer, her name is Sally, is hired by a medical device company to design a new crutch. As of now, Sally doesn’t have prior experience designing medical devices and she has to prepare herself.

1. Empathizing before defining

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Sally first needs to understand how crutches are being used. Ultimately, she must understand the type of people and the context in which the product is used.

She goes to a few hospitals and shadow the patients and observe their relationship with the crutches. Sometimes she sits with the patients and asks about how they feel. After a few days of observation, Sally learns a few valuable insights.

It turns out the top of the crutches is designed suboptimally which causes the patients pain in their armpits. With more observation, she realizes that the ergonomics of the legs could be optimized so the patients can move faster with less effort.

Thanks to her background she knows a lot about the materials and the human body. However, she doesn’t stop there. She sets up a few interviews with health experts to get professional inputs so she can formulate her ideas with more confidence. Top if all off, she founds a few case studies on design crutches for patients on .

2. Defining: narrow down the problem

define problems question
Photo Source: Pexels

After shadowing the users, understanding the problem, and even further feeling their problems by using the current crutches, she now has a clear understanding about the problems of the current designs of the crutches.

She defines the problem. To define a problem, she must be able to answer these questions

1. Who is getting affected by the problem?

2. In which context the problem does occur?

3. What’s exactly the nature of the problem?

4. How do users currently deal with the problem?
Do they use a device? Do they seek consultation?

5. Why is it important to solve this problem?

3. Ideating: sketching many possibilities

Photo Source: Google

Having a clear understanding of the problem, now Sally can sketch ideas about how she can solve the problem. At this point, Sally knows no ideas are bad ideas. She just sketches, sketches and sketches and lets her creative flow splash out easily.

By the end of the session, Sally makes a huge mess i.e. tacks of (eco)papers on top of each other and stickies are all around the walls.

Photo Source: Tuvie

Sally now shifts her mode of thinking: from divergent thinking (i.e. creating lots of ideas) to convergent thinking (i.e. narrowing down and prioritizing ideas). She starts to single out the great ideas from her sketch and see if she can put their ideas together differently and remix them.

Finally, at the end of a long session, she manages to put together a concept worth exploring and prototyping

4. Prototyping ←→ Testing: an integral part of the design process

Given a crutch is a physical product, it must be finished first to see how it feels like before shipping it to customers. And Sally knows how important this phase of her process is. The concept on paper might be unique but if the prototype does not feel good, and the problem still remains, then Sally cannot proceed further sadly.

Sally keeps prototyping and trying the prototype with patients until she receives vehemently positive feedback which confirms that the new product resolves the problems with the current products.

After Sally got green lights from all the tests, she can now proudly announce her results to the client and move on with the production of the new crutch.

That’s it an exciting end to Sally’s journey into unknown and uncertainty. A new product is now born to address the problems with the current products. Sally without knowing introduces a new incremental innovation by which it improves the experience of the users.

And throughout her journey, Sally speaks with people from different backgrounds:

1. Client’s business team

2. Client’s engineering team

3. Hospital staff

4. Health Experts

5. Hospital patients

Sally’s ability to adapt to new situations, work under uncertainty with different kinds of people, learn about new fields relatively, and the boundaries of the field is inspiring and might be the reason why she can work on any project.

Design thinking is an attempt to learn from designers’ approach to design challenges

✅ The recurrent shift from divergent to convergent modes of thinking

☑️Emphasize on multi-disciplinary teams

✅ Fetish for prototyping, pen, and paper

☑️ Embracing uncertainty and welcoming ambiguity

✅ Empathy: Putting yourself in customers’ shoes

☑️ Trial and error (iterative mindset)

Here’s a simple step by step guide on how you can conduct a Design Thinking Process. I hope you find this article insightful.

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