Are you picturing a set of blueprints for a new, hyper-modern skyscraper? A colourful magazine cover? An artist scribbling away at a drafting table?
These are all ways we could use the word design, but “design thinking” is a concept that’s much bigger. A design doesn’t have to be a job title or a finished product. It doesn’t even have to be art. At least, not in the traditional sense.
So, What Is Design Thinking?
How do you create something completely new? Something that’s better, more efficient, or more beautiful than ever before? This requires a way of thinking that:
- Focuses on the needs of the end user
- Encourages new perspectives and examines every angle
- Says that mistakes aren’t just okay, they’re part of the design process
- Believes that the end product can always be improved
Design thinking is a process that has several distinct, but repeatable steps.
Step 1: Empathy
How do you create something entirely new that focuses on the end user? First, you observe them. Who are they? What makes them tick? What are their goals, desires or fears? To truly understand a target market, you have to focus on the emotions. Fully understanding the emotional context of a user is a vital prerequisite for smart design.
Step 2: Define
After observing and interacting with people, design thinkers can’t help but begin to understand their problems. What’s missing from their lives? What would make things easier? Why doesn’t the solution already exist?
Design thinkers focus on the simplest form of a problem. At Vordik, for example, we know that building a website isn’t simply about putting together a folder of website files. We dig deeper by getting to know the client and the end user (which are rarely the same person). What is the purpose of the website?
Step 3: Ideate
Once design thinkers know why, the next step is how. Unfortunately, many non-design thinking companies will often skate through this part. They’ll find one idea, concept or visual identity that seems to work and will simply go with it. But is it the best idea from a long-term or an end-user perspective?
When one only considers the first idea (or the second), one misses out on the chance to create something truly unique and revolutionary. The first ideas of even the most creative people are often simply regurgitations of existing ideas. Instead, design thinkers like to throw lots of ideas around and see what sticks. We collaborate and develop our ideas together.
Step 4: Prototype
Once we’re pretty sure we have the best idea, we create a prototype. If we were in the business of designing running shoes, we’d produce a physical version of the finished shoe. Since we’re a strategy, design, and development firm – and not footwear designers – we might create a prototype version of a website or a sample blog post.
Step 5: Invest and Test
Once design thinkers are confident about the prototype, it’s time to invest the real deal. Running shoes roll out to the market and websites go live.
But design thinking isn’t done yet.
Remember Step 1? We go right back to the end users to find out how they’re using the product and how they feel about it. Did we solve the problem? Did we solve it in the best way possible? Chances are, there will always be room for improvement and design thinking allows us to continuously grow and learn how to do that.
The Purpose of Design Thinking
So why design thinking? What makes this process better than others?
When you’ve been in business for a while, it’s easy to hit the auto-pilot button and roll out “new” products that are more like their predecessors than we might care to admit. It’s easy to experience a success and think, “That’s good enough. What’s next?” It’s easy to believe our apparent limitations and simply live within them. But this is not where creativity and innovation live. They live in design thinking.
If you want to consistently create completely unique, well-thought out products that have been distilled to their very best design, then design thinking is the way to go.
At least, that’s our take.
Want to learn more? Contact us today to find out how design thinking can help create and implement the perfect digital strategy for your business.