Why Design Thinking affects every product or service.

Why Design Thinking affects every product or service.

Design thinking puts the customer at the heart of a process. It can be applied to the design of a book cover, navigating the inside text pages, or branding, websites and the development of a new project or service. The term was developed in start-ups and companies looking at lean developments but it can be used in any size of business.

What does it mean in real life?

Design thinkers aren't necessarily graphic designers. They can be anyone in any field of work or study. The idea is that people who think in this way are following a process that distils down a new idea in these steps: 

  • Empathise with the people they are trying to help or serve
  • Experiment with lots of ideas before narrowing it down to a prototype
  • Innovate to break free from pre-conceptions and do better than other models that fell short
  • Iterate to develop and learn from feedback.

I have applied this process to many products in my portfolio. One example is the website Walk In Our Shoes. This site redesigns the concept of childlessness and addresses mental health too. This is a brief outline of how I applied design thinking.

  • Empathise – through experience, conversation and research on common problems that needed addressing (coping skills, details of support groups, networking and sharing stories to dispel myths).
  • Experiment – through workshops and peer review within the community and intended audiences.
  • Innovate – make the project into a website not a book as it was intended to be, to enable link  sharing.
  • Iterate – through feedback on the navigation by adding in a landing page, advice on writing and growing the networking.
The landing page for Walk In Our Shoes, introduced during a design thinking review

The landing page for Walk In Our Shoes, introduced during a design thinking review

Design Thinking also a useful process if you've inherited a system or product that's based on historic values but has problems with the process or usability and needs a discrete overhaul.

Design thinkers can follow these steps to check that they are creating a solution that delivers real value. The steps are usually described as follows:

  • Hypothesise to understand the customer assumptions that support your idea for a new solution. Do your customers need a new idea?
  • Test your hypotheses by getting out there and talking to your customers
  • Analyse your findings to create the design touchstones that support your idea.
  • Ideate solutions to meet the customer need you have identified
  • Prototype the solutions and test them with your customer
  • Develop as necessary based on the feedback
  • Iterate post-launch to improve.

Thinking like a designer can transform the way anyone can develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach is called design thinking. It draws together what is desirable with what is feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren't trained as designers to use creative tools to address business challenges and develop a brief in partnership with a designer.

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