Design thinking and Visual Collaboration
Despite having a word “design” in the name, design thinking is not an exclusive methodology of designers. Many leading international brands like Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric use design thinking approach to solving problems in a creative and innovative way. Many leading universities in the world like Stanford and MIT teach design thinking method. But, what exactly is design thinking and why is it so popular? 

What Exactly is Design Thinking

Let’s put it in a simple way: Design thinking is a methodology for solving a problem in an innovative and creative way, with human needs as a starting point. As in everyday life, in order to solve a problem, you need to define the problem first. Defining the problem requires a bit of investigating the needs of people who use your service/product. So, it all starts with getting to know your customers and their motivations, fears, emotions, and hopes.

But, why should you bother your team with some new method? Isn’t that just for designers? The answer is, you are already guessing, no! Design thinking is in a way a synonym for building things people actually want.

It is really not just a design in a narrow sense of the word, it is a way of doing things. Doing things in a way that will benefit both your customers and your company. Implementing design thinking into your business model offers a framework for innovation that contributes to the organic growth of your company.

Design thinking puts a human into a central focus of your business and consequently, it adds value to your customers.

5 Steps of Design Thinking

What is the right way to implement design thinking into your business? Are there any steps? Although there are several proposed methods in the use, we’ll demonstrate the 5 stage model, proposed by leading design thinking school, Hasso- Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

5 Steps of Design Thinking
5 Steps of Design Thinking. Photo Courtesy of Dee Lanier

Empathy is crucial to a human-centered model such as design thinking. In the first stage of the process, you are focusing on gaining the empathetic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. Getting to know your users includes observing, engaging, and empathizing with users to find out their motivations. However, the best way to gain understanding is by immersing yourself in the matter of concern and developing the personal experience of the issue.

Let’s say you are a cosmetic company and you’re trying to figure out the problems your users are facing in their everyday life. You’re gonna need to talk to your customers and find out facts like what they do for a living, what is their daily cosmetic routine and what skin conditions they have. But also, you’re gonna need to try your products for yourself and see how they work for you.

Empathizing with customers allows you to set aside assumptions and gain a real insight into user’s needs.

Once you have gathered all your data, it’s the time for your team to analyze and synthesize it into a single sentence that illustrates the problem. Rather than putting the problem as your own wish or need, build it around your user’s need. So, instead of defining the problem as “we need to increase our cosmetic products market share among women between 35 and 45”, it’s better to define it like “women need nourishing skin care without parabens to revitalize their face skin”.

design thinking process
Design thinking process. Photo Courtesy of Designshack

At the end of the second phase, you ended up with the human-centered problem statement. That is the perfect starting point for the next phase – ideation. Your team can now start thinking outside of the box to come up with different ideas of a solution to a problem. Various points of views can generate different kinds of solutions.

Following the example from above, your team members can think of a nourishing woman serum, cream or emulsion. There are various techniques for generating ideas like brainstorming, brainwriting, mind mapping, SCAMPER, and visualization. AWW can help you out with writing down and visualizing your new ideas and sharing it with the other team members.


It’s time for building some prototypes. You need to turn out the ideas you came up with in the previous stage into scaled-down versions of a real product. Prototypes may be shared and tested by the team members or on a small number of people outside the team. In this phase, you will create set of prototypes, each of them implementing one idea from the previous stage.

For example, you can test out the prototypes of the serum, cream and emulsion on 35-45 women focus group from our scenario. The goal of prototyping is identifying the best possible solution to a problem defined in the second stage. So, at the end of this stage, you will decide whether you’ll go with the cream, serum or emulsion.


Finally, in a testing phaseevaluating team tests out complete products using the best solution prototypes. Although it is the last stage of the model, the process itself is iterative. Often the result of testing phase is used to redefine the problem to some extent from the step two, or to inform the understanding of the users from step one.

Let’s say, your tests have shown that the cream has had the best results and you decided to launch the cream. Based on the feedback from the market, product designers will be able to make even better versions of the original cream.

Non-Linear Character of Design Thinking Process

design thinking non linear process
Non-Linear Process of Design Thinking. Photo Courtesy of The Interaction Design Foundation

Design thinking process is not a linear process. The information and resources are constantly flowing between each of the phases in both directions.

Even stages themselves are flexible and serve more as a guide for undertaking certain activities when implementing design thinking concept. They can be repeated, switched and conducted at the same time if that’s what’s necessary to find the best solution possible.

Design thinking is not just a popular idea which will fade away in few months. It is here to stay for next generations of great product developers and designers. Implementing it in your company will gain you the knowledge and a better understanding of your users and allow you to build better products. Admit that you are already falling for this concept and the only thing you need is a little push. So, jump!

Author: Dorotea Knezevic

Head of Marketing at AWW. Google certified specialist, content creator and social media enthusiast