The Art of Design Thinking

“Design thinking isn’t one thing, but a bundle of mindsets and philosophies all wrapped up in one term.” – Neil Stevenson

IBM.

Google.

Tesla.

AirBnB.

Four seemingly unrelated companies in quite different industries, yet they all have a rooted common connection within their products/services: design thinking.

What exactly is design thinking and why has it become such a hot button word?

Design thinking, at its roots, is a “methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions for clients.”

This form of thinking is a mixture of art, science, and technology to produce the most creative and desirable outcome possible, but one key component is the emotion that builds into design thinking.

Neil Stevenson, “one of the best-known purveyors of design thinking”, has defined design thinking as a process composed of 5 essential elements.

design-thinking-doodle

  1. Empathy – “The design thinking philosophy requires the designer to put his or her ego to the side and seek to meet the unmet needs, both rational and emotional, of the [end] user.” They key is for the designer to understand what the client wants and needs, not what the designer wants and needs.
  2. Define – Like any good project, there is an element of research to support it. Once the designer has gathered all their research, “they must organize and make sense of it all” because unless you can make sense and formulate a clear definition of priorities and goals, then the project just becomes muddled.
  3. Ideate – The heavy lifting of research and understand client needs/wants is done, now what? This is the fun part, the designer generates idea after idea after idea.
  4. Prototype – Once the designer has generated an absurd amount of ideas, they begin to weed out the ones that might actually work and then the fun continues. Once they select an idea, or two, that can aim to solve the problem on hand, they begin the prototyping process. But the key here is, you have to be comfortable with everybody’s most feared f-word; failure. (This is arguably the most frustrating phase for those who are not comfortable with failure)
  5. Testing – Once the prototype has been executed, the design is well tested to see if it fits as a solution to the problem, but also as the best solution to meet the client’s needs/wants. After testing, often comes the reflection to see what can be improved on for the design itself, but also reflection of the process as a whole.

One iconic example of design thinking is from the scene that brought us “Houston, we have a problem.” Known as Apollo 13, engineers had to come up with a solution to help the astronauts stranded in a lunar module, the catch? The astronauts and engineers could only use what was available to them, thus they had to find a way to make a square filter fit into a round hole.

Here is a piece from the scene:

The main take-aways from design thinking are learning empathy for your client’s needs, moving your ego aside to fit those needs, but most importantly being comfortable with failure and failing often till the most desirable outcome is reached for the client.

“The beauty of the design process is that the value of the experience does not lie solely in the end product. Learning happens throughout the process, from the early research phase to the final presentation.” 

Make sure to check back for a follow up piece on how Design Thinking is integrated into the processes used by GHSP to deliver innovative worry free solutions.


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