Design thinking

What is design thinking?

As part of my Masters degree in Strategic Design and Management at Parsons we constantly use the process of design thinking. When starting classes we heard a lot of buzz words or phrases to explain this process, it uses a range of ‘research methods’, it ‘uses ideation processes’, it ‘uses theoretical frameworks’ and ‘it helps us to identify areas of opportunity’. I needed this explaining in simple English so here is how I’d explain it to my younger self on my first day of university.


Design Thinking is an alternative approach used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions for clients. This process works better than usual methods as it focuses on co-collaboration which allows for constant feedback, increased engagement and a higher level of buy in from the client.

The process involves 5 phases that take us on a journey using various tools throughout. At every stage of this journey we run workshops to help us identify research, synthesis our data and ideate around what we had found. The process itself is very circular and we would constantly revisit stages throughout.

Design thinking


It starts with empathy phase which is the ability to understand the current landscape and share the feelings of others. This is where we research and gather data on the industry, the users and the future using such tools as journey mapping, personas, interviews and surveys. This stage begins with an initial meeting with the stakeholder.


The next stage is the define stage where we synthesis our data and research to understand better the metrics we have gathered. We do this by identifying pain points and opportunities from our research in the form of ‘How might we’ questions.

Design thinking


Then we come to the ideation phase where we form ideas by thinking visually and envision a new future. Here we look at new ideas which could bring value to the industry and the client.


Following the ideation phase is the prototyping phase where our concepts are narrowed down to those that offer the most potential value and these are developed for new business opportunities through various forms of prototyping.

Design thinking


And finally we come to the testing phase where we test our prototypes in the market place. Using the prototypes we launch and learn from them in the real world by collecting feedback and data. Based on this we developed them, reiterated them and found which ideas worked best.

It’s not a perfect explanation but it’s simple and, hopefully, easy to understand! 


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