Mar 27 · 4 min read
The Ethos of Design thinking
Everything around us has been designed. Whether it be a water bottle, a programme an item of clothing or a piece of advertising, design surrounds us despite it going largely unnoticed most of the time. The fact is, not everything is good design. Some design is thoughtless, ill-functioning, impractical or frankly just unappealing. But when we talk about design thinking, we’re talking about the ability to cultivate design and creativity in a practical and thoughtful way, which shouldn’t allow space for bad design.
Design thinking is a concept that has been emerging more and more over the last 10 years. Some of the worlds most successful businesses have incorporated design as the core to the way they work, using it to problem solve, think outside the box and develop and cultivate their business creatively and collectively as a team.
A quick way to explain the difference between simply design and design thinking is frankly put by ol’ mate Steve Jobs below.
“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
— Steve Jobs, from the New York Times article “The Guts of a New Machine.”
Although design thinking can seem like a wofty choice of words, the reality is thinking design and thinking creatively are two things that help propel your business forward. In essence, design thinking offers a structured framework for understanding and pursuing innovation. It contributes to growth and adds a tangible and unique value to your customers.
Using design thinking adds a structure to creatively discover needs, shortcomings and constraints in any given situation or project. It frames the situation giving teams the opportunity to innovate, problem solve, generate creative ideas and refine and test solutions.
So, how exactly do you go about incorporating design thinking into your business? Well there are a few ways that businesses activate this concept into their teams but below is a proven method to kick things off.
Empathise basically means to get an understanding of the problem or project on a deeper than surface level. This involves researching, observing and engaging in the area of interest or concern, alongside discussing and understanding people's experiences and motivation of those who actively participate in the market or area in question. Immersing yourself in the physical environment helps you to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved. Empathy is essential to a human-centred design or innovation process. Design thinkers should then be able to set aside their own assumptions about the world or project in order to gain insight into the problem at hand and actively start to think smarter.
In the Define stage, one collects the information created in the first stage and analyses the observations, amalgamating them to define the core problems you and your team have identified so far. In order to define the problem clearly, you should think about it in a human-centric way. Meaning rather than thinking in sales targets and hard data, you put the focus on a human benefit or need.
This phase will help designers establish features, functionality, and creative elements to help solve potential problems in advance with the particular audience at the forefront of their minds.
This is the part where your team is ready to start generating ideas. You now have an understanding of the users, their needs and the problem your tackling.
This is where “thinking outside the box” can begin to happen. With techniques such as brainstorming, workshopping, brainwriting or SCAMPER. This stage is designed to cultivate free thinking and open mindedness. The goal of this is to gather as many ideas as possible at the beginning of this phase, then work to refine and test your ideas towards the end.
Exactly what the name dictates, this is when the design team will now produce a number of cheap, cheerful and scaled down versions of the product or features. This is so they can investigate and streamline some of the best ideas from the last stage. It’s best if the prototypes are shared and collaborated on with the wider team or those outside the team. This helps to identify any additional problems and solutions, and one by one they are refined, improved or rejected on the basis of the users experience. After this stage is complete the designers will have a clearer idea on how real users will use and interact with their product and they will know how to move forward accordingly.
This one is pretty obvious, this is where you begin to test your designs and find possible problems or iterations that you wish to make. Although this is the “final step” it often will lead you back through the process as you discover new things you possibly hadn’t considered before. Testing will highlight even more of the probable user experiences and help the designer and wider team to get into the mind of the target user and create a product that will appeal to them.
An important thing to consider when looking to input design thinking into your business, that although there are set stages it is not a linear process. Throughout the steps you find you can move fluidly forward and backwards, repeating steps when necessary and skipping others when needed. Creativity is not something that can be constructed into a format, it can however be cultivated and guided, which is exactly what this process intends to do.
So there you go, a quick overview of design thinking
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