Design Thinking (DT)

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User-Centered Design, Human-Centered Design, Empathic Design


What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions for clients. It draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be, and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).

The Five Stages of Design Thinking

Design Thinking is usually manifested in a five-stage process, though these stages do not have to follow any specific order and can often occur in parallel and repeat iteratively. The stages are as follows:

  • Empathize: Understanding the needs of your users.
  • Define: Articulating a clear problem statement.
  • Ideate: Brainstorming a range of creative solutions.
  • Prototype: Creating a small-scale model of the solutions.
  • Test: Reviewing the response to the prototype and refining it.

Advanced Aspects of Design Thinking

While Design Thinking is often associated with product development, its application is much broader. It can be used to develop business strategies, to create organizational cultures of innovation, and to solve complex societal problems.

Usage Examples

1. Apple: The company’s user-centric approach, a core principle of Design Thinking, has led to innovative products like the iPhone and iPad.
2. Procter & Gamble: Used Design Thinking to reinvent their Swiffer product line, turning everyday cleaning into an easier task.
3. Airbnb: The founders used Design Thinking to pivot their business model and create a peer-to-peer lodging site, revolutionizing the travel industry.

Historical Context

Design Thinking has its origins in the 1960s and 70s where it was first introduced in the domains of urban planning and industrial design. The concept was later refined and popularized by design firm IDEO and Stanford University’s


  • Design Thinking is not just for designers or creatives.
  • It’s not a linear process but is iterative and flexible.
  • It’s not just about product design, but can be applied to a variety of fields and problems.


  • Design Thinking vs Lean Startup: While both methodologies focus on solving problems and delivering value to the customer, Lean Startup emphasizes rapid prototyping and testing assumptions, while Design Thinking starts with a deep understanding of the user’s needs.
  • Design Thinking vs Agile: Agile is a project management and product development methodology that values adaptability and customer satisfaction, while Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach that values empathy and experimentation.

Related Concepts

  • User Experience (UX)
  • Lean Startup
  • Agile Development
  • Prototyping
  • Empathy Mapping
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