Design Thinking and Its Implementation in Real Life

Ankit Passi
Aug 11 · 11 min read

Do you think it is hard to select a gift for a friend? Try Design Thinking

Overview

I always wanted to visit a Design-related workshop, always able to find some excuse not to attend. But this time, I made a promise to myself that I have to attend it, no matter what happens.

So, last Saturday I found a Design Thinking workshop organized by FLIPR.

This workshop was the part of FLIPR’s UX/UI Training camp in which they provide knowledge of UX Design and its implied methodologies to the people of all disciplines.

Location was far, but I made it just in time. I didn’t read much about the agenda for this meet, so I had no expectations from it. I knew it was for Design Thinking Process and that’s about it.

Workshop: The Start

When I met all the participants in the room. I was convinced that 90% of the people would be Designer like me, but that wasn’t the case, some were Veteran Back-end Developers, some are Business Analysts, some are Fashion Design students and other were Design Enthusiasts.

When all the participants sat down, we were divided into a team of 2, on a random basis. They did tell us that we need to be in pair for the rest of the event and all its related activities. And I teamed up with the guy named Sangeeth, a nice fellow.

The Speaker

The main speaker of the event was Gaayathri Murugan, who has 10 years of experience building a digital application — Consumer as well as Enterprise level. She is an Industrial Engineer as well as a Master degree holder in Business Administration.

The Design Thinking Process

Gaayathri talked about the initial concepts of Design Thinking, What it is exactly, why we need it and where we can implement it.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.
Tim Brown — CEO of IDEO

My exposure to actual Design Thinking process was more of the theoretical. I did all my studies, researched about it, but never saw it in implementation in actual real life. And that is why I wanted to attend the at least Design-related workshop.

Gaaythari talked about how Design Thinking is one of the fundamental aspects of the UX Process. And she is not wrong, any process or methodology which tries to keep the user in center and tries to come up with the solution based on that observation and keeping the solution neutral and without bias is worth learning about.

The pre-conceived thought I had before this event, that Design Thinking implementation in real life is much more difficult and cannot be applied to small real-life problems.

We all got the chance to talk about the process and what Design Thinking means for them, Some shared the perspective what it meant for them and what they think about it.
That’s one of the aspects I like about these meetups, we get to share the perspectives of other people and get to know what their thought process is.

Gaayathri explained about the Design Thinking and its underlying steps.

Design Thinking Methodology: Steps

To clearly illustrate all the steps involved in the Design Thinking Process, Gaayathri suggested a small exercise which allows us to use these methods to solve the problem, instead of just listening to her about all these.

And that is exactly why they divided us in pair of 2 before the beginning of the event.

The Design Thinking Exercise

The workshop team provided each team with 2 papers which contains the problem statement, some guidelines and what we need to do to get started.

The Problem

The problem, in its nature, was really simple and straightforward and very much meaningful.

We need to design a perfect gift for our partner and utilize Design Thinking Methodology to achieve that.

The Problem Statement

Gift-giving is always one of the most frustrating practices in modern times. You have to consider some many points, emotions, and iteration to choose a gift that your friend likes.
And this is the case with someone you know very well. To choose a gift for someone, who is stranger for you is no easy feat and a very much real-life problem.

To solve this problem, we used the Design Thinking process.

Empathize

Empathy is the ability to understand your user and get to know about them and see the problem from their perspective. The easiest way to understand your user and their situation is just by talking to them.

Since, My partner, Sangeeth, and I are total strangers. We started talking to each other about general things. Through that process, I came to know so much about him.

I was able to understand so much about him, what does he do, what are his goals and ambitions and what things he loves, likes and hates. And all the general information about him.

This concludes the Empathy section of the process. As I mentioned, This phase is just you and your user conversing and talking about things and from that, You, Designer should be able to extract relevant information about your user and keeping the original problem statement in mind.

Define

Based on the Information collected from the empathy stage, we can define the characteristics that motivate our user, challenges they face, goals and ambition they have and what defines them as human. This can be achieved by creating Personas.

To implement this stage in our Design process, we are handed a sheet of paper by Gaayathri to note down all the information I was able to collect and create a persona.

This is the Persona for my partner

Sangeeth, Male, aged between 24–27 is from Kerala, India, currently staying in Bangalore.

He did his Bachelors in Computer Applications. He is working as a front-end Engineer for the past 4 years in his current organization in Bangalore.

He loves to play Video games from his console. Currently, own a PS3, and loves to play Online games on it like Rainbow Six Siege and Uncharted 4.

Loves to cook (mostly in the morning), Always ready to travel and explore things but want someone to accompany him for his adventure. He loves to eat Non-vegetarian food products.

He doesn’t own a pet but loves to own one someday, but not right now, as a pet will force him with a responsibility he is not ready to undertake just now.

He loves to explore new technologies and frameworks and wants to work for an environment which enables him to learn new things and assist him during the process.

Exploring the Design process and how it can help him to achieve his life goals.

From this stage, I was able to jot down all the facts and information I was able to get from my partner and created a small persona, which showcases his likes/dislikes, his motivations, his goals and such.

This type of documents helps you and your team during the entire design process to understand what drives their user and design the product/features based on that Information. Hence, keeping the User in the center during the process.

Ideate

Ideate is the stage where we use all the information and persona we got from the previous steps and use them to brainstorm the potential ideas for our user.

For this stage in our Workshop, we were provided with a page with 6 blank columns. Now based on the information we collected and talks we had, We had to draw 6 potential gifts for our partner. I was able to draw 6 potential gifts for Sangeeth.

Here is the list of gifts I came up with.

  1. PS5 with Gold membership
  2. All researched and all-paid travel packages to any place in India
  3. Exclusive passes for TEDx Conference where all IT Industry leaders congregate and opportunity to interview them about the future of technology.
  4. A small flowerpot of Money Plant.
  5. Chance to collaborate with Google Developers on their new Front-end framework and work exclusively on that framework and assist team on its development.
  6. A Powerful PC with dedicated PlayStation Controller
The Gifts

So I was able to come up with these potential solutions. That’s the fun part of this stage, no solution is bad, every solution is sometimes a perfect solution in disguise, so it is good practice to write down all the potential solutions and then move forward in the process.

PS: I apologize for my handwriting. It’s…..something else.

Test

The test phase of the Design Thinking process is one of the most important steps. It helps to identify what type of solution works best for our user and get their feedback on it to see what works for them.

Implementing this stage in our process, We were provided with another sheet of paper where sections are given for each of the 6 options.

The sections were for each option:

  1. Rating on 1–10 scale
  2. What Sangeeth liked about that gift
  3. What Sangeeth disliked about that gift

Now to further refine my potential solution and see what works for Sangeeth, I showed him my gift ideas and talked him about each gift and asked him to talk me through the rating process and tell me what he liked and disliked about it.

Option 01 — PS5

Rating: 9

Like: Gold membership and its exclusivity

Dislike: None

Option 02 — Travel Package

Rating: 9

Like: Ease of Mind and no planning, just travelling

Dislike: None

Option 03 — TEDx Package

Rating: 5

Like: Attending the event and seeing the leaders talk

Dislike: Don’t want to interact with them.

Option 04 —Flowerpot

Rating: 3

Like: Responsibility and gives a sense of home

Dislike: Too much responsibilty to take care of one

Option 05 — Google Framework Development

Rating: 8

Like: Part of New stack, always wnat to explore something new

Dislike: None

Option 06 — PC

Rating: 8

Like: Powerful Machine and eliminates the need of PS

Dislike: Not Mobile

Paper with 6 columns — 3 section each for partner to rate my options
Paper with 6 columns — 3 section each for partner to rate my options
The rating

So as you can see, I had a very clear notion of what he will like and was pretty confident that all gifts will be rated 10 and are optimal for Sangeeth. But that wasn’t the case.

That’s why the feedback phase is so important as it asks the user directly what works for them. The solution that you may work in Labs and is perfect for you, may not work at all in the real-world for its intended user.

To eliminate this fine gap between expectation and reality, Feedback and Test phase is required.

Prototyping

At this stage, we focus on converting our ideas and paper designs into actual designs. Wireframes, Information Architecture, Prototypes, Mockups are all part of this stage.

In our workshop, we took a small detour, we got feedback first from potential ideas and then went for the prototyping phase. But that’s the beauty of the non-linear process, you don’t have to strictly follow it, these are the guidelines aimed towards providing the best experience to both users and the developers.

So, the next task assigned to us was, to reflect on all the data and ideas we gathered and feedback we got from our partner and choose 1 final gift from this list and prototype it with paper and present it to your partner.
So based on all the information I collected, Talks I had with him, I decided to choose PS5 as my final gift to Sangeeth. So I started with the prototype with the paper.

Took me 15 mins and this was the final design I came up with. I was pleased with the result.

The PS5

Conclusion

After completing the Prototyping stage, I presented Sangeeth my gift and he was pleased with it. In return, I got an Audi A8. I was very pleased with it.

Audi A8

So in the conclusion of this exercise, starting as strangers and not knowing a thing about each other at all, we followed through a process and talked and helped each other, learned about each other characteristics.

We empathized with each other, based on what we learned, we defined each other’s characteristics, then we ideate the potential solutions for each other. And to make it more optimized and worthwhile for each other, we took each other’s feedback and what they like and disliked about it and came up with a perfect gift for each other.

This process showcases that Design Thinking and its methodology isn’t just applicable for creating products, Apps, websites for the user. It can be very efficiently implemented in real life and can be used as a tool to solve the very same problems.

Final Thoughts

With an abundance of Theoretical knowledge available on the internet and everywhere. We sometimes forget that UX is not about reading books and passages and articles or designing Dribbble-worthy screens and visually-attractive mockup. It’s all about solving an issue, talking to people, understanding them, see their perspective, applying the knowledge we gained to actual use and solve a problem.

I love to get my hands dirty, do pencil sketches, create something, read about anything and challenge myself from time to time and ask others for feedback, It helps me to gain confidence in my work, refine my work and be satisfied in it.

If you are just starting up in this field, Find a meetup near your location, attend it, talk to people, listen to their stories, tell them yours, ask for feedback and get your hands dirty in Design.

That’s the only way to learn Design…or anything in general.

This workshop helped me understand the Design Thinking process and its implied methods and how it can be implemented in our daily life. And also helped me to connect with some of the amazing people who love Design and loves to talk about it.

A huge shoutout to the Gaayathri Murugan and FLIPR team for organizing this event.

FLIPR is a technology company which helps a startup’s in their recruitment processes and on the other side helps students and professionals in filling skills gaps and let them placed in good companies.

Thank you for reaching this point, I hope you were able to understand most of it.

Do point out what I am lacking and I’ll try to improve it.

Also, this article is available on my website.

Ankit Passi

NYC Design

A publication for designers in New York and followers all around the world. Design thinking is what makes us write here on Medium to share with the designers of the world.

Ankit Passi

Written by

Hi, I am a UX/UI Designer, and Level Designer. Loves to design and talk about it and help others.

NYC Design

A publication for designers in New York and followers all around the world. Design thinking is what makes us write here on Medium to share with the designers of the world.

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