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What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a type of design methodology in which the creator takes an iterative, non-linear and solution-based approach to solving problems.

It was first pointed out by cognitive scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon in his 1969 book, The Sciences of the Artificial. He contributed many ideas to its principles and since then professionals from a variety of fields, including architecture and engineering, art, subsequently advanced this highly creative process to address human needs in the modern age.

Design thinking is very useful in breaking down complex problems, such as seeking to understand the user, the challenges involved and an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions
that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.

5 Stages of Design Thinking

Although there are many variants of the design thinking phase which we use today — ranging from three to seven phases—they, however, are similar to one another because they all embody the same principles, which were first described by Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon.

But for the sake of this article, we will focus on the five-phase model, which the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (aka ‘d.school’) proposed. These are:

  • Empathize: Here the designer is expected to gain an emphatic understanding of the problem s/he is trying to solve. This could mean consulting experts in the concerned field, engaging with the people to understand their challenges and concerns as well as physically immersing yourself in such field to gain first-hand experience.
  • Define: Here you are expected to define your users’ needs and concerns, analyze them and come up with useful insights.
  • Ideate: You ideate by challenging well-known assumptions and come up with useful alternatives to viewing the problem so that you can identify innovative solutions.
  • Prototype: Here you are to use the information you have gathered to start creating solutions.
  • Test: This is the final phase of the design thinking phase. Here, the designers rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified during the prototyping phase.

In a changing environment like ours, it is needful to develop and improve upon our skills so that we can better understand and address the surging changes in the users’ environment.

Whether it’s engineering or software design, effective design thinking will result in a useful and successful creation.

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