What is Design Process Thinking?

The original purpose of design process thinking was to teach engineers how to approach problems creatively like designers. John E. Arnold, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, was one of the first to write about design thinking. He wrote Creative Engineering in 1959. This text established the four principal areas of design thinking. Design thinking evolved as a way of thinking in the fields of science, engineering, and technology. This is evident in Herbert A. Simon’s book ” Science and Artificial” as well as Robert McKim’s ” Experiments in Visual Thinking”.

Design thinking was popularized by the popularity of human-centered design, which gained prominence in the eighties. In the nineties, there was the creation of the design consultancy IDEO. Design thinking was a popular approach to business by the turn of the 21st Century. Stanford University’s school started teaching design thinking in 2005 as a way of social and technical innovation.

Many of the techniques and methods used in design thinking were taken from the designer’s toolbox.

Design process thinking is both an idea and a process that solves complex problems with user-centricity. It is focused on practical results and solutions that are:

  • The user will find them useful: They fulfill a human need.
  • Businesses can afford them.
  • Technically possible: They are possible to be made into functional products and processes.

Design thinking is based on the belief that designers must approach problems from the perspective of users to create innovative solutions. Design thinking is about being hands-on. The goal is to make your ideas tangible and test them as quickly as possible.

Wicked vs. Tame Problems

Design process thinking is unique because of the types of problems it solves. Design thinking is not limited to solving common, everyday problems with tried-and-true solutions. complex and “wicked” problems are what we’re referring to as the kind of problems that can’t be solved with standard approaches or methods.

These problems are not only difficult to identify, but also cause more problems. Wicked problems can be found everywhere. They include global issues like climate change and poverty as well as challenges that impact every business, such as change management, sustainable growth, or maintaining your competitive advantage.

Design thinking can be applied to solve the most difficult problems in the world. It encourages user-centricity and creativity as well as innovation and outside-of-the-box thinking.

What’s the Purpose of Design Thinking?

The goal of Design Thinking is to approach complex problems with a human perspective, regardless of whether you implement it. Design Thinking fosters creativity, innovation, and user-centricity. This process helps you produce practical solutions that work.

  • Technologically possible
  • Viable for business
  • It is desirable for the user

Design Process Thinking puts the user’s needs and desires first. The first stage is about building empathy with your target audience and understanding their expectations, needs, and behavior.

Next, you will focus on developing ideas that can be quickly converted into prototypes and then tested on real users. Design Thinking involves frequent and early testing of your ideas. This allows you to gather feedback and make changes well before the product is developed.

Briefly, Design Thinking allows you to produce innovative solutions for complex problems that are driven by the needs and want of your target users.

What’s the Value?

We have already discussed the purpose of Design Thinking and how it can help solve real-world, wicked issues. Let’s first consider the benefits of Design Thinking before we get into the steps.

These are just a few of the many benefits of Design Thinking:

Design Thinking offers a Competitive Advantage

Companies that are led by designers have consistently outperformed their competition. The Design Thinking process, which aims to create products and services that are attractive for users, financially viable from a business standpoint, and technologically feasible, is outlined above. This user-first approach, combined with frequent and early testing, helps to reduce risk and drive customer engagement.

Problem-Solving and Innovating Using Design Thinking

Although we are wired to solve problems as they arise, most people can’t look for them. Design Thinking encourages creativity in problem-solving. It forces you to rethink the problem space and find a solution that is worth solving. This can be especially helpful in a business context, whether it’s creating a digital product that is competitive, optimizing internal processes, or reinventing a business model.

Design Thinking encourages collaboration and teamwork

According to the HPI Academy, “innovations, answers to complex questions can be best generated in a heterogeneous group of five to six people.” Design Thinking encourages collaboration and challenges assumptions by breaking down silos.

Design Thinking is a tool that encourages creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. It helps designers produce innovative products. But it also fosters an environment of innovation and user-centricity at all levels of the business.

What are the design principles?

Design thinking is based on certain principles. These principles are reflected in the design thinking methodology which we will explore in more detail later. Below are five of the most important principles in design thinking.


Design thinking is a solution-based framework. The focus should be on producing the most ideas and workable solutions. Ideation is both a fundamental principle of design thinking and a step in the process. Participants are encouraged to emphasize the quantity and not the quality of their ideas during the ideation stage.

Empathy and user-centricity

Design thinking is about creating solutions that meet human needs and respond to user feedback. Innovation is driven by people, not technology. Therefore, it is important to put yourself in the shoes of your users and build genuine empathy for them.


Design thinking is about bringing together diverse perspectives and ideas. This is how innovation happens! Design thinking encourages collaboration among heterogeneous, multidisciplinary groups that may not normally work together.

Action-orientated bias

Design thinking encourages problem-solving that is hands-on and favors action over discussions. Design thinking encourages you not to just speculate about your users’ needs, but instead engage with them in person. Instead of talking about viable solutions, design thinking encourages you to create tangible prototypes and then test them in real-world settings.

Iteration and experimentation

Design thinking is more than just producing innovative ideas. It involves creating prototypes, testing them, and then adjusting them based on feedback from users. Iterative design is a method that involves repeating steps as you discover flaws or shortcomings in your initial solution.

The 5 Steps of Design Thinking

Five key steps can be broken down into Design Thinking: Empathize (Define), Ideate (Prototype), and Test.

You must remember the five steps of Design Thinking. Although the process is described as a series of steps, it’s an iterative loop. Each phase will bring discoveries that may require you to revisit previous phases.


Empathy is the first step in Design Thinking. To create products and services that are appealing, you must understand your users and what their needs are. What are their expectations regarding the product you’re creating? What are their challenges and pain points in this context?

The empathize phase involves spending time with real users (or people representing your target group). This includes conducting interviews and observing how they interact with a product.

The empathize phase is the first step of the Design Thinking process. It encourages you not to hold onto assumptions. You’ll be able to design with real users in your mind if you have firsthand insights. This is Design Thinking!


The second stage of Design Thinking is to identify the user problem. You’ll first gather all your information from the empathize phase, and then start putting them together. What were the common themes and patterns you observed? What user challenges and needs were consistent?

After you have compiled your findings, you will create problem statements. The problem statement, also known as a POV (point of view) statement, outlines the problem or challenge you are trying to solve.

The problem statement is the key to Design Thinking. It keeps the user’s attention. Instead of framing your problem as a business goal (e.g., “We need to increase the number of gym members among over-fifties by 30% “), frame it from the perspective of the user: “London’s over-fifties need affordable access to sports facilities to stay fit and healthy.”

At the end of the defined phase, you will have a clearly defined problem statement that will guide you through the design process. This will be the foundation of all your ideas and workable solutions.


This is the third stage of Design Thinking. It involves ideation or generating ideas. You now know who your target audience is and what they need from your product. Also, you have a clearly defined problem statement. It’s now time to brainstorm viable solutions.

The ideation phase is an open, non-judgmental zone that encourages the group to break from the norm, explore new angles, and think outside of the box. The ideation phase will allow you to have as many ideas as possible, regardless of whether they are feasible. Ideas sessions should be held in unusual places to maximize creativity.

Throughout the Design Thinking stage, you will be referring to your problem statement throughout. You’ll refine your problem statement as you move to the next phase. These ideas will be used to create prototypes that can be tested with real users.

Find out more about Ideation in Design Thinking. Here’s a guide to the most important ideas and techniques


The fourth stage of Design Thinking is where you will turn your ideas into prototypes.

Prototyping is where you turn your ideas into tangible products that can be tested with real users. This stage is essential in keeping the product user-centric. It allows you to get feedback and allows you to develop the product. This will ensure that the final product solves the user’s problem and is enjoyable to use.


The fifth step of the Design Thinking process is to test: you will observe your target users (or representative users) as they interact with the prototype. Also, you’ll get feedback from your users about how they felt during the testing phase. Any design flaws will be quickly highlighted during the testing phase. You’ll make improvements based on the results of user testing. Design Thinking is an iterative process. You will need to go back to the empathize stage or do a few more brainstorming sessions for the results of the testing phase to be valid.