Design Thinking 101

Teams: Work in multidisciplinary teams. Multidisciplinary teams enable different perspectives. Different point of view is essential to understanding diverse users needs.

Failing: Fail Fast, fail early, prototype again and keep moving.

Prototype: Don’t become a slave of your prototype.

The three points above are almost the basic rules of design thinking. Below is a diagrammatic representation of the process and I will attempt to explain each step as best as I can.

Image: Stanford D-school


During the “Understanding phase, you try as much as you can to understand the problem you are going/trying to be solve. Note that if you work in multidisciplinary teams, the way each person understands/perceives a challenge is different. It’s important we understand this differences early enough so as to explore every angle when thinking about your design.

At the end of this stage, it is important to develop interview questions which will come in handy when we move into the next phase.

Understanding your design challenge


Observing involves going into the field and observing/interviewing individuals related to your design challenge. Rich interviews will enable you see things from the “interviewee’s” perspective. After completing this first round of interviews, it is important to meet with your design team and discuss what you learnt during the interview process. This learning process involves breaking down what each interview participant told you and also starting to relate this to the design challenge. During this phase, you might already starting getting the “solution Mode” anxiety, it is important not to loose focus and just stick to dissecting the knowledge gotten from the interviews. By the end of this process, you should have developed some more questions you might have loved to ask the interview participants. You can ask this during the second round of interviews.


So all this while you have been conducting interviews and dissecting these interviews to gain some insights into the design challenge. You then move to the next stage which involves developing a POV or Point of view statement. The point of view statement is very interesting, as this is your first step into the “solution mode”. During the interviews, you might have had all sorts of insights. Within your team, you might discuss which is more pertinent, and use this to develop a POV statement i.e;

Jane, mother of 5, needs a way to prepare healthy breakfast for her kids and still get them dressed up early enough to attend classes on time”.

From this POV, you can move to your next stage, ideation.

Breaking down interviews for understanding


So you have your POV. Now comes the interesting part, when it’s actually permitted to be crazy. You let your ideas run wild on how this particular POV can be solved.

Note: There is no limit to your suggestions at this stage.

By the end of this, you could have identified a simple solution to you design challenge. You build a simple prototype.


I am not really comfortable with using the word prototype here, it sounds so formal and the first product prototype you will come up with will be nothing to write home about, and it ok. It could be pieces of handkerchief glued together, who cares, as long as you love it enough to talk about it.

Key in this stage: Don’t try to be perfect, or even close. DON’T.

Beautiful Prototype :-)


So you have a “masquerade” looking prototype and you can’t figure out how you will show this to the next human being, perfect. That’s what we need. Go out there and talk about your idea/prototype again to the interviewees and get their input/feedback. See what they like, what they don’t, what can be fixed.

Go back and refine your understanding, observation, POV, prototype and keep on with the process of ideation. This is cyclical. All what I explained was the first round of infinity.

Design thinking and design is continuous. Note, don’t become a slave of your prototype.

Happy Design.

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