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Design Thinking – what’s all the fuss about?

When undertaking designing according to the Design Thinking methodology, our intention should be to create a multitude of different possibilities and solutions. So this is not a method that is meant to label yourself and limit yourself to one specific result.

By using Design Thinking, we want to give free rein to our imagination, generate more or less real ideas and approach template solutions from a completely different angle. What is the practical side of applying this methodology? How can your company use it to create a new offer, generate a creative concept for a marketing campaign or new ideas for CSR activities? About it below!

Design Thinking – what is it?

Design Thinking is a method of solving problems and creating new solutions. It’s different design thinking. This methodology is based on understanding and indicating a given problem or need of the recipient, and then on looking for solutions, often in an unconventional and ambiguous way, and ending with implementing these ideas, as well as testing and improving them in practice.

This term was first defined in the USA in the 1960s. Design Thinking courses, workshops and trainings have appeared. This solution quickly gained its fans among marketing and social media specialists, employer branding, brand managers and project managers (in most areas where we have a special need for non-standard ideas and creative problem solving methods).

Design Thinking – for whom?

The Design Thinking process, despite the fact that it seems complicated at first glance, is in fact a very universal method, not reserved only for large companies and large design teams. Anyone can use it. It will be used in the areas of business, science and culture. It is so universal that it will work well both with smaller internal projects and creating a global advertising campaign. It’s not everything. The benefits of the Design Thinking approach can also benefit:

– UX designers, UI and graphic designers interested in getting a new approach to solving design problems and generating solutions that work;
– project managers looking for a holistic process that integrates all stakeholders to create user-centric solutions;
– developers interested in participating in the idea generation and design process;
– entrepreneurs who want to empathize with users and create products that fit the market and the lives of users;
– marketers who want to deeply understand customers;
– project / company stakeholders who want to get involved in the process of building a product or service;
– anyone who is interested in an innovative approach to problem solving both at work and in life.

Design Thinking is useful for solving complex problems that are poorly defined or unknown, by understanding the related human needs, re-formulating the problem in a user-centered manner, generating multiple ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.

Design Thinking – examples when is it worth using?

Design Thinking can be used by anyone who is familiar with the purpose and the process of following this methodology at least to a small extent. This process may turn out to be more fruitful than standard processes aimed at creating a new service, product or approach in the company. When is it worth getting interested in Design Thinking and trying to follow its principles?

– creating a new service for customers or improving current services / products,
– creating a new advertising campaign (offline and online), including its strategy, necessary materials and techniques to reach recipients,
– improving strategies for acquiring new customers, partners or associates,
– improving the paths of our potential client,
– developing benefit packages for employees and forms of remuneration,
– designing processes in the company (employment, administration, procurement, technology or customer service, etc.)
– creating the concept of CSR activities,
– by developing an Employer Branding strategy,
– during rebranding activities, changes in the company’s visual identity,
– and more.

Design Thinking – How to start?

The Design Thinking process is divided into five stages: Empatization, Defining (problem), Ideation (looking for solutions), Prototyping, Testing. In practice, however, this process can be conducted in a more flexible and non-linear manner. For example, different groups on a project team may conduct more than one phase at a time, or designers may gather information and prototypes throughout the project to present their ideas and visualize solutions to problems at any given time.

Importantly, in Design Thinking, designers do not make early assessments of the quality of ideas. The goal is to minimize the fear of failure and maximize stakeholder input and participation in the ideation (brainstorming) and prototyping phase (more on this below). To start your adventure with Design Thinking, all you need to do is get to know the general assumptions of the process and divide your work into fixed stages.

Design Thinking stages

Design Thinking can be divided in several ways. The most common and used five step process is broken down as follows:

– Empathizing – collecting data and getting to know our recipient.
– Defining the problem – collecting all information from phase I and analyzing it in order to identify problems / conundrums of our recipient.
– Ideation – the stage of starting to generate ideas.
– Prototyping – designing solutions that will answer the problems identified and analyzed in the earlier stages.
– Testing – checking whether the generated ideas and created prototypes are effective and helpful.

Empathizing (Empathy)
The first part of the Design Thinking process is related to “empathizing” with the recipient’s needs. It is necessary to look at the problem from the viewer’s point of view and try to understand how he thinks, acts and feels. The first stage of Design Thinking is the moment of collecting data about the recipient. It may turn out that the way we look at a given problem differs from the way the potential recipient looks at it. Information analysis and gathering can take place through interaction and conversation, but also through observation and analysis of statistics. Popular measures used at this stage include: empathy maps, ethnographic interviews, user observations or surveys. Everything that is collected at this stage determines the next steps to some extent.

Defining (the problem)
The next stage of Design Thinking is to define, more specifically formulate a given problem. To do this, it is necessary to synthesize the information gathered at the empathy stage. Noticing the real needs of the recipient is difficult, the more so as we tend to close ourselves in our habits and mental frames. Defining or redefining the problem allows you to set a further direction of work. It is important to define the problem optimally, that is, not to close it too narrowly or too broadly. It is also worth getting away from habits or stereotypes, which can significantly affect the perception of problems and thus make it difficult for us to look at the problem objectively. Techniques helping to identify and define the problem we are working on include brainstorming, 5x why technique, problem mapping on the “how?” vs “what for?” etc. It is difficult to recommend one particular technique unequivocally. Each project team may have a different favorite or more proven method, according to which it works best. You can also experiment with techniques to spot differences in approaches and collect as many different results as possible.

Ideation – looking for solutions
Having a defined problem, in the next step of Design Thinking we look for its solutions. It should be a series of ideas, of which only at the end those considered the best will be used for the prototyping stage. The solution stage is a bit tricky. We often want to look for answers right away. However, without thorough working through the two previous stages, we can find wrong solutions, because the recipient’s needs are different than we originally assumed or the problem has a different basis than what we thought at the beginning. The primary tool at this stage is brainstorming. What is important at this stage is the approach of looking for many possibilities, instead of one specific result. Our goal should be to find unconventional solutions, and these will not always be appropriate and rational at first glance.

This is the time to create initial versions of our solutions and specify the materials, sources or necessary resources for their implementation. We are creating a prototype, i.e. our beta version, which, based on the results obtained at a later stage, i.e. testing, we will modify and refine accordingly. At this stage, it is worth informing our team that we do not want everything to be buttoned up to the last button and that the solutions are perfectly refined. Here we want to visualize what we have been working on. If it was a mobile application – we can evaluate the mock-ups sent by graphic designers. If this is a new service that we want to enrich our portfolio, we can subject it to final evaluation by the team. What we have been working on in the last stages will soon see the light of day. Prototyping is the last opportunity to analyze the collected data, check whether the solution meets the needs and problems of our user and compare them with other solutions to make sure that we can test them.

This is the last stage of Design Thinking, although some sources mention the sixth stage: implementation. The results obtained during the testing phase are often used to redefine one or more problems based on the available data about users, their way of thinking, behavior, or how they use a given product or service. Even at this stage, changes and improvements are still made to exclude all shortcomings and obtain the most effective solution.

Design Thinking – tools that support your work!

Different tools can be useful at each stage. Depending on how we work: is it an online meeting during which we have the ability to communicate only via the messenger or all stakeholders are gathered together in the room.

Design Thinking tools for online work
In the online version, we will certainly need tools to help you collect all the ideas created during the brainstorming in one place. It can be, for example, RealtimeBoard, Milanote, MindMap, MindMeister, Coggle or the well-known regular Google Documents.

Design Thinking tools for offline work
In offline work, in addition to a desk and comfortable chairs, materials that will help you save or visualize the collected ideas, such as flipcharts, colored sticky notes or boards, will also be useful.

Tools in the prototyping and testing phases
In the prototyping phase, Figma or Adobe XD may be useful for us. However, at the testing stage, tools such as HotJar, SmartLook or A / B testing will be useful.


Design Thinking requires conscious behavior and openness in order to obtain a proven and rational solution, which may be an innovative product or service that meets the needs of our customers. It is a way to introduce an unconventional solution to our company and allow colleagues to propose their ideas to a wider group, without risking criticism or hasty evaluation. Although it is a relatively simple method, the use of appropriate tools and moderating the group by a responsible person plays a key role in determining the success of the project.

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