Lets talk about Design Thinking…

Design thinking is very intimidating at first glance, but i’m here to break the process down for you. With such an intimidating label people tend to look over the amazing process that is design thinking. It’s really not that intimidating at all when you break it down.

Design thinking is the process in which you develop ideas and turn them into solutions. Lets break it down now, here are the 5 main points:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Each of these points are key to the process of developing an idea and seeing it through to completion. Now that we are familiar with the names of each section we will break them down and explain exactly why these steps are important and how they help.


Empathy is the foundation of a human-centered design process and you can achieve that by:

  • Observing
  • Engaging
  • Immersing

There are a couple rules to successfully empathize. First you must understand the people you're designing for. Second, you must observe what people do and how they act. Observing peoples actions give clues to how they think and feel. Following these two rules allows you to uncover insights which are otherwise hidden. To uncover these insights you have to train your mind to recognize therm because our mind automatically filters out information that we are not aware of every second. Therefore, we need to see things with “fresh eyes” that have yet to be filtered.

Putting these rules into action will:

  1. Uncover hidden needs
  2. Guide innovation
  3. Identify potential users
  4. Discover what emotions guide behavior


To begin this stage you must unpack and synthesize your findings from the empathize stage and categorize them to help determine a challenge. Doing this will help you develop a deep understanding of the users and creative space and also create an actionable problem statement which is known as your Point Of View.

According to The Institute of Design at Stanford a good POV:

  • Provides focus on the problem
  • Inspires
  • Provides something to compare competing ideas to
  • Empowers decisions made by team members
  • Fuels brainstorms
  • Captures the audience


The main goal of the ideate stage is to generate radical design alternatives. This stage gets a little tricky but have no fear, don’t back out now. instead of narrowing as in the other stages, you are “flaring” rather than “focusing” which simply means you are “going wide” with your outcomes and concepts gathering every bit of information you could possibly think of. Ideate encourages you to explore quantity and diversity; the more the merrier.

This stage is the bridge between identifying problems and exploring solutions. here are a few tips to conquer the ideate stage:

  • Step beyond the obvious
  • Use the diversity of your team to your advantage
  • Uncover new areas
  • Create volume and variety in ideas


Simply put this stage is putting your ideas and explorations into the physical world. Anything that takes a physical form is a prototype. The key to prototypes is to keep them rough and rapid to give you max exploration. This stage is important because you gain empathy, explore, start to test, and get inspiration.

The Stanford Design Institute believes we prototype to:

  • Learn
  • Solve disagreements
  • Start conversations
  • Fail quickly and cheaply
  • Manage the solution-building process


Test is the last stage of the design thinking process and is your chance for feedback on solutions and your chance to refine them and learn from what you observed.

The purpose of this stage is to:

  • Refine prototypes
  • Learn more about the user
  • Test and refine your POV

Are you still with me? We have finally arrived at the end of the design thinking process. After breaking each step down for you I hope you understand a little more about exactly how the design thinking process works and why!

Hopefully I haven't overwhelmed you but I would like to leave you with one more little tip or you could say key to a successful design thinking process from The Design Institute at Stanford that helped me:

  • Have a beginners mindset
  • Ask… “What are they doing?” “How are they doing it?” and “Why are they doing it this way?”

If you would like to know more or you're more of a visual learner I have included a short video explaining the design thinking process for you below.

Thanks for chatting with me,

Danielle Stocks

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