Gone are the days of unintentional design based on aesthetics alone. Aesthetics add value to a design, but modern users expect intuitive and clever design choices that make their lives easier. That is where design thinking comes in. This creative process first considers where the user is coming from, what they are struggling with and how a designer can help solve their problem. Read on to learn about the individual steps involved in design thinking, why it is a foundational element of most UX courses and how the process can revolutionize your work.
Getting Back to Basics
What is the design thinking process and why is it so important? The Interaction Design Foundation defines design thinking as a creative process that can help designers “to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.” Innovation is a foundational element in the process, but so is careful listening and observation. For example, what good is a brilliant solution if it does not address the problem that users are actually facing? Scholars Rim Razzouk and Valerie Shute offer an expanded definition in their article on the importance of design thinking. From their perspective, design thinking is “an analytic and creative process that engages a person in opportunities to experiment, create and prototype models, gather feedback, and redesign.” Both definitions touch upon the ongoing process of revision and redefinition, which is fundamental to good design.
Breaking Down the Steps
The process of design thinking is comprised of five repeated actions that can be applied to any project:
- Empathize: get personal and be curious about the emotions, frustrations and needs that will drive your future design
- Define: identify the challenge or issue that people are facing
- Ideate: get creative and brainstorm a robust list of potential solutions to help address the problem people are facing
- Prototype: now it is time to experiment and create a model or sample product or page to demonstrate the proposed solution
- Test: find out how effective your solution is and gather information for necessary adjustments to perfect your design
One of the most important aspects of the process is that it is repetitive and cyclical. Once you have gone through all five steps and are in the process of testing out your prototype, you will undoubtedly encounter additional issues that you will then have to go back and brainstorm solutions for. It would be unreasonable for anyone to expect perfection on the first attempt or prototype, which is why the testing and empathizing stages are so important to revisit.
Envisioning Broad Applications
Design thinking also has broad applications outside the world of graphics and websites. In an academic article on rethinking design thinking, Oxford professor Lucy Kimbell argues that “the ways professional designers problem solve is of value to firms trying to innovate and to societies trying to make change happen.” Essentially, the creative insights and processes of designers have the capacity to influence businesses and communities around the world. How cool is that?
Planning for the Future
Now that you understand the basics, how can you learn more about the intricacies and nuances of design thinking? There are countless ways to foster your curiosity and continually seek out knowledge. Listen to podcasts and read inspirational blogs on Dieter Rams’ ten principles of good design or how to map out your UX design career. Soak up as much information and inspiration as you can. One of the most effective ways to cultivate your creativity is by signing up for a UX design course or even a digital marketing course where design thinking is a core focus.