Pills of Design Thinking

The concept of Design Thinking

Herbert A. Simon used the phrase "Design Thinking" in 1969 to define and characterize a holistic notion. As a result, Design Thinking may be a powerful way of interacting, pushing the boundaries of imagination and overcoming the belief that something is impossible. Despite being obviously derived from the field of Industrial Design, the notion of Design Thinking in the literature announces its independence from this discipline and is now much more researched in the fields of Management and Marketing.

Design has always been a driver for new product and service development processes. However, in the last decade, the term has gained popularity among business media and has become a label that any organization can benefit from the way designers think and work, thanks to numerous publications on the subject as well as the creation of special interest groups in social networks (such as the Design Thinking Group on LinkedIn in 2007). Design Thinking is now thought of as a way of thinking that leads to transformation, evolution, innovation, new ways of living, and new business models.

Without a doubt, Design Thinking has a lot to contribute to Innovation Management. However, many managers are still unsure about the additional value of Design Thinking in inventive practice, and little is known about how to evaluate and select the best model for their individual situation. Its original concept has recently been expanded and has naturally migrated outside its original fields. Design Thinking is now recognized as a complicated thought process for conceiving new realities, which is done by incorporating design culture and methodology into diverse sectors such as Business Innovation.

The Design Thinking Process | powered by Sprouts

There are loads of Design Thinking models - and afterwards we'll see the most famous ones - but the traditional process foresees 5 stages:






Design thinking is in fact described as a five-stage process by the pioneers of Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the "d.school").

Note that these steps are not usually in order, and teams frequently run them in parallel, out of order, and iteratively.

Different Managers' Characteristics

Traditionally, Design Thinking has been defined as the ability of designers to evaluate all of the following factors at the same time: human demands and new visions of living well; material availability and technical resources; project or company restrictions and opportunities. Designers must be analytical and empathic, rational and emotive, systematic and intuitive, aware of planning and varied boundaries while remaining spontaneous in order to integrate these three characteristics.

Source: Tab 1 Differences between the Design Thinking process and the traditional process, K. Tschimmel, 2012

Models of the Design Thinking process

IDEO is an american design company established in the 90's, early leader in the practice of design thinking and especially known for its human-centered, interdisciplinary approach. It is a community made up of designers, entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers and researchers. The company created one of the most popular model of design thinking in 2001, called the "3 I's" (Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation).

What is Design thinking?

💡Design thinking is about skills that everyone has but that are often overlooked by traditional problem-solving methods. Not only is there an emphasis on developing products and services that are based on the individual human, but the process itself is intensely human.

💡 Design thinking is founded on the ability to be intuitive, notice patterns, produce ideas with both emotional and functional meaning, and represent oneself in ways other than words and symbols.

💡 Design thinking is presented as a third method, arguing that no one wants to manage an organization that is exclusively based on feelings, intuition, or inspiration, but that an over-reliance on rational, analytical thinking might only be a risk.

Furthermore, rather than an organized sequence of actions, design thinking should be viewed as a system of overlapping spaces. There are three main areas:




In summary, inspiration is concerned with the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions, ideation is concerned with the process of creating, developing, and testing ideas, and implementation is the model that delivers the design phase into people's lives. Because they are not necessarily to be completed in the same order, they are referred to as gaps rather than stages.

In reality, projects may move through the stages of inspiration, ideation, and implementation multiple times to allow the team to fine-tune their concepts and explore new avenues. It's worth noting that while design thinking may appear chaotic to those who attempt it for the first time, participants will recognize that the process makes sense and produces outcomes throughout the course of the project, even if it differs from the linear, milestone-based methods that most businesses use.

1.1. Inspiration

The brief is a traditional beginning point for the inspiration phase. The brief consists of establishing a set of mental limits that can provide the project team with a workable framework to begin with, a unit of measure to compare progress, and ultimately, a list of the many goals to be met (such as sales prices, available technologies and market segments).

The brief is obviously not a series of instructions or an attempt to address questions that have yet to be answered. A good brief, on the other hand, considers serendipity and unpredictability (the creative field from which breakthroughs arise). A brief that is too broad risks leading the team astray, while a brief that is too narrow ensures gradual and thus substandard results. After the brief has been completed, the design team must determine what people's wants are.

1.2. Ideation

Ideation is the second phase of the design thinking process. The team goes through a synthesis process after being in the field of observation and performing design research, where everything they saw and heard is summarized into insights that can lead to solutions or chances for change. Multiple possibilities generate choices and varied perspectives on human behavior, which is facilitated by this strategy. Alternative concepts for new product offerings or options for generating interactive experiences could be included.

Furthermore, comparing and contrasting distinct concepts raises the possibility that the outcomes will be more evident and convincing. Linus Pauling, a scientist who has won two Nobel Prizes, said in a statement, "To have a good idea, you must first have many ideas." True new ideas question the current quo and stand out from the crowd, i.e., they are "disruptive" in a creative sense. They offer a completely novel answer to an issue that people were previously unaware of.

1.3. Implementation

Implementation is the third stage of design thinking, when the finest ideas developed during ideation are turned into a tangible plan of action. Prototyping is at the center of this arena, where ideas are turned into goods and services that are tested, iterated, and perfected. The design thinking method uses prototyping to discover the issues of unforeseen implementation and unintended repercussions in order to achieve more consistent long-term success.

In 2009, IDEO developed another design thinking approach as a toolbox for NGOs and companies working with underprivileged populations in developing nations in response to a request from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This paradigm is also built on three areas that IDEO's designers feel essential to a human-centered design process, and which are abbreviated as HCD: Hear, Create, and Deliver. The user is participating in a participatory design process that includes activities like building listening skills, workshops, and concept implementations.

On the HCD Connect website, the toolkit can be downloaded for free. The following is an explanation of the HCD technique included in the toolkit's introduction: "Human-Centered Design (HCD) will assist you in listening (hearing) component needs in new ways, developing (developing) innovative solutions to meet those requirements, and delivering (delivering) solutions that are financially sustainable."

The HCD model is made up of a series of design thinking methodologies arranged into three process spaces, all of which are demonstrated using real-life projects from underprivileged communities in Africa and India.

2.1 Hear

This phase's goal is to provide relevant and unique solutions that help team members and project subjects understand their requirements, desires, and dreams. Qualitative research approaches are used to do this, which foster deep empathy between the design team and the people for whom they are developing, as well as give inspiration for new ideas.

These qualitative methods can uncover deeply held demands, and they're especially valuable in the early stages of a project to test certain assumptions about the project's surroundings, especially if the designers don't already have a comprehensive understanding of the participants' replies, attitudes, and ideas.

2.2. Create

A process of synthesis and interpretation is required to get from the study area to real-world solutions. This necessitates the selection of facts and the translation of present reality viewpoints into a collection of future possibilities. This is the most abstract portion of the process, where the design team transforms the concrete demands of individuals into high-level opinions and operational systems.

The team will shift into a mindset of developing hundreds of solutions, some of which will be made tangible soon, after outlining key opportunities. During this phase, solutions are developed only for the benefit of the consumer. Synthesis, ideation, prototype, and feedback are the four main tasks in the creative process.

2.3. Deliver

After the team has come up with some appealing ideas, it's time to think about how to make them realistic and implementable. The Deliver phase is where the best ideas are put into action. Delivering solutions entails putting in place the resources and financial models necessary to ensure that the solution is executed properly and can be sustained over time. It is also necessary to develop a long-term learning and iteration strategy.

The tools of Design Thinking

Designers' tools for stimulating and liberating their open-minded approach, as well as for improving internal discourse and communication with various stakeholders, do not all come from the discipline of design. Design, as a multidisciplinary field, incorporates approaches and tools from a variety of disciplines, including art, engineering, anthropology, psychology, and others.

However, many of the tools connected to the visual component, such as drawing, sketching, mapping, and so on, can be considered design-specific tools because they trace back to the early days of design school. These tools are necessary because they enable designers to research potential future scenarios or solutions to a problem. They also help to turn abstract and immature ideas into something that can be expanded on and discussed with coworkers and other stakeholders.

Brainstorming, as well as its derivatives Brainwriting and Brainsketching, as well as the extensive usage of Post-it notes in the idea creation process, are all design-related disciplines. They are based on group procedures and assist participants in thinking more creatively and radically. Other significant human-centered Design Thinking tools, such as Audience Observation, Ethnography, Personas, Empathy Map, and Focus Groups, can be linked to anthropology and the study of human interactions with social groups.

🔎 General tools

On-site observation and recording

Frequently, research begins with a survey of existing literature on the project's subject and setting.

Information Maps (Mind Maps and Others)

Mapping is a process of searching for patterns and deriving meaning from the large quantity of data obtained throughout the literature study, observation phase, and interviews.

The Empathy Map and "Personas"

On the other side, the Empathy Map is a visual collaborative tool for arranging information acquired through the Personas tool or observation.

This kind of Map allows teams to learn more about their consumers. An Empathy Map, similar to a user persona, can represent a group of users, such as a consumer segment. This tool has acquired a huge popularity in the agile world.

Designers work in groups to construct the map, sometimes in front of potential clients. The purpose is to create a visual pulse that can be used to reflect and discuss a user's perspective, influences, needs, emotions, desires, and anxieties in relation to the project.

Designers use these techniques to better comprehend and analyze customer viewpoints and challenges.

The Personas tool is used to create a persona that embodies the users' research in a way that is clearly identifiable and understandable. To develop a single persona that represents the group, a lot of information on related people is combined. literature on the project's subject and setting. In defining personas, you take into account any information that may be useful in reconstructing your ideal customer/target:

  • Demographic information: age, gender, geographic location, income;

  • Psychographic information: behaviour, interests, reasons for buying, needs.

🔎 Tools in the Ideate phase

Brainstorming and Brainsketching

Brainstorming is a technique for swiftly generating new ideas and possibilities. The most important or intriguing ideas are then chosen and progressed through the design process. It's a particularly effective technique for breaking out of old thought patterns and generating new perspectives. It also aids the group in moving past some of the obstacles that can cause problems by resolving a difficult or unsatisfying procedure.


The transformation of ideas and information into visuals, as indicated in the previous section, is very important in Design Thinking. Because visualization tools are employed at every level of the Design Thinking process, some authors refer to them as "the mother of all design tools."

🔎 Tools in the Implementation phase


A storyboard is a collection of images (drawings, illustrations, or photographs) arranged in a logical order to depict a process, service, or event. Testing a sequence of user interaction with a new product, service, or business model is particularly useful in idea development. This method of visual thinking encourages participants to converse. Post-it notes are commonly used for storyboarding since they are easily detachable and can be rearranged once the final sequence is determined.


The details, forms, and dynamics of concepts are highlighted by bringing raw and incomplete models to light. Cardboard, bits of plastic such as regular bottles, and sketched sheets of paper are the most frequent materials used to create prototypes. The earlier the prototype is built, the better, because discovering that an idea does not work as early as possible in the concept development saves a lot of time and money in further development.

🔎 Communication and delivery tools


Designers use storytelling to share fresh ideas and to place new goods or services in a narrative framework. When a project is presented in an emotional setting, the audience is much more likely to pay attention to the details of the new idea.

Learning Experience/Test

Designers create scale or full-size models that contain or supply the most critical aspects of a finished product to test, demonstrate, and promote it. High-fidelity prototypes are viewed as a test by graphic designers. These models are quite helpful in gathering input from users and consumers in order to identify flaws and faults.