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Design Thinking: A Manual for Innovation

What if there were a formula to create innovative products, experiences or services? I’m not talking about incremental improvements; I’m talking about disruptive innovation.

The Design Thinking Process

This process or method was developed by IDEO and it’s taught at the d.school: Institute of Design at Stanford. It involves massive collaboration and frequent iterations. It has five very clear phases: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

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Phase one: Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to start “seeing” things through his/her eyes.

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Adobe XD product managers interviewing customers in Europe.
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Adobe XD experience-athon in San Francisco
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Adobe XD team with customers at Adobe MAX 2015
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Phase Two: Define

After building empathy, it’s time to revisit the initial design challenge and re-define the problem.

  • There are different tools tackling different parts of the problem. There are tools for low fidelity design (information architecture and wireframes), tools for high fidelity design, and separate tools for prototyping, etc. Users have to jump from tool to tool in order to design, prototype, and validate.
  • There’s a lot of friction in the process, especially after testing a prototype, when changes are necessary. And friction limits creativity. We saw that designers are fast paced and like to explore different options, iterate and move fast.
  • Most of the tools used by designers suffer from scope creep, build features on top of features, don’t maintain a holistic view, are buggy and sometimes slow.
  • Performance and quality
  • Meaningful workflows
  • Contextual interface

Phase Three: Ideate

After building empathy and re-defining the challenge, problem or need, it’s time to put our brains to work.

  • Go for quantity
  • One conversation at a time
  • Be visual
  • Build on top of other ideas (“Yes, and…”)
  • Stay on topic
  • Encourage crazy ideas
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Brainstorming session (diverging) during Design Thinking training in Brazil

Phase Four: Prototype

Let’s build to think and to feel. A prototype transforms an idea into something tangible and “experiment-able”.

  1. Evolving — “What should it be?”
  2. Validating — “What will it be?”
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An early prototype for the Repeat Grid tool

Phase Five: Test

When prototypes are created, test them with real people. We test to refine prototypes and solutions, to learn more about the user, and to test and refine our PoV.

In Conclusion

Design Thinking is a method or process that starts with a design challenge, moves to the empathy phase (interviews, observation or experience), then to definition (or re-definition) of a problem or challenge, embraces ideation (diverge first and converge later), uses prototypes (build to think and learn fast) and continues with testing.

Written by

Maker & Learner. Product Manager with experiences as Instructor, Designer, Developer and Community Manager. Working on Adobe XD since 2015.

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