Design Thinking - What is It and How Does It Work? - Strefa Designu

logo design sapce

“The myth of creative genius is resilient: We believe that great ideas pop fully formed out of brilliant minds... …[But they are] the result of hard work, augmented by a creative human-centered discovery process and followed by iterative cycles of prototyping, testing, and refinement” - this is how Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO, the world leader in the creation of innovative products and services, defines innovation. Design thinking methodology that has been developed over the past 40 years has revolutionized the development of products, services, processes and even strategy. Dr. Joanna Jeśman from School of Ideas at SWPS University explains what design thinking is and how it works.

In 2008, Jeff Chapin, then an employee of IDEO, decided to use his vacation in Cambodia to help a local community by building toilets. He chose a village that could boast only one private toilet and no public facilities. The inhabitants of the village preferred to use a nearby field instead of constructing private washrooms on their properties. They did not wash their hands and they did not have sinks in their homes either.

This example shows that a product that is not aligned with the needs of the users will not sell. For the villagers, building a private toilet required making multiple trips to the far away town and spending a substantial amount of money at once. How did Jeff Chapin and his team made it possible for the people of the village to afford private washrooms necessary for their health? The team employed design thinking to understand the needs of the villagers to come up with a solution that the community would not devise otherwise. And the solution did not involve common public toilets.

Design Thinking

Over the past several decades, globalization and standardization of procedures on the global market have led to the unification of products. Objects that once were distinctive have become more and more alike. However, consumers want to feel special and they increasingly want to feel that businesses have created something unique, just for them. Therefore, manufacturers should carefully analyze consumer needs and constantly introduce ne and revolutionary improvements to the market.

Design thinking changes the product development process completely. While thinking about new ideas and designing new solutions, designers must step out of their comfort zones. They can no longer use ready-made answers and approach clients’ requirements meekly. In design thinking, the needs of the users are in the center of the design process, which includes the following stages: empathy (understand your customer), define (the problem), ideate (look for solutions), prototype, and test.

Design thinking changes the product development process completely. In design thinking, the needs of the users are in the center of the design process, which includes the following stages: empathy (understand your customer), define (the problem), ideate (look for solutions), prototype, and test.

Design thinking methodology has been already implemented by many corporations, for example, McDonald’s has created mock-restaurants where they can test new ideas. The methodology has been popularized by IDEO, a company that is currently regarded as the global leader in developing innovations.

The Ins and Outs of Design Thinking

Don Norman, businessman, lecturer, and writer who collaborates with Apple and Hewlett-Packard says that the key to design thinking is not to immediately look for solutions, but rather to define the problem in the first place. Only when you understand where the problem lies, you may start looking for acceptable solutions.

Jeff Chapin and his team have defined the problem: the inhabitants of the Cambodian village did not have private toilets, even though building such toilets on their property was feasible. To find the solution, Chapin’s team talked with the villagers and local business people. They observed and wrote down everything they saw and heard. It was the empathy stage of the process, which allowed them to define the needs of the users.

They came to two realizations: firstly, villagers were convinced that a private washroom must be big and full of luxuries, because this was the type of washroom their leader had; secondly the villagers usually expanded their dwellings gradually, as their financial means allowed them. They often would begin with a small hut and gradually build it up to a two-storey building.

It transpired that not only the local businesses, but also the villagers were so convinced that building a bathroom must be an immediate, expensive and complicated enterprise that they overlooked other ideas, such as the one proposed to them by the Chapin’s team, namely purchasing the inexpensive plumbing elements of the future bathroom first and delaying the construction of the fully-fledged bathroom to a later time.

The solution turned out to be very simple. During the test and consultation phases, Jeff Chapin and his team put together a prototype that was most suited to the users’ needs. Moreover, the local businesses selected by Chapin, got involved in the prototyping and testing and came up with interesting ideas on how to motivate the villagers to purchase the toilets. In the end, the price of the toilet, proposed by the team that implemented design thinking, was 50 percent lower than the market price at the time.

Human-Centered Design

As users, people usually choose the unique solutions that seem to be tailor-made for them. For example: ergonomic, safe and beautiful cars; banks that provide customers with great service and where people can quickly complete their transactions; hotels that pamper their clients; programs of study that inspire students to grow and learn. People tend to chose products and services that have been designed with the user in mind.As users, people usually choose the unique solutions that seem to be tailor-made for them. For example: ergonomic, safe and beautiful cars; banks that provide customers with great service and where people can quickly complete their transactions; hotels that pamper their clients; programs of study that inspire students to grow and learn. People tend to chose products and services that have been designed with the user in mind.Searching for solutions in the design process usually takes on the form of a brain storming session, which is to bring forward the most abstract ideas. And even if in the end the more plausible solutions are selected, the elements of the outrageous proposals may turn out to be revolutionary in the overall scheme of things. Design thinking aims to develop solutions that will not only be desirable by the users, but also profitable and feasible for businesses.

As the result design thinking is to improve the life of users in accordance with the requirements of the market. Additionally, design thinking provides a solid base for companies to move towards corporate responsibility, which increasingly becomes the focus of businesses wanting to show their clients that they care. Perhaps soon all business will really do, but in any case, design thinking is a good first step in this direction.

 

Author

258 joanna jesman

Joanna Jeśman, Ph.D. - Joanna Jeśman, Ph.D. - culture expert. Her research interests focus on the relation between the humanities and life sciences from the perspective of posthumanism. She is also an educator and proponent of scientific communication.