The Interaction Design Thinking Foundation defines design thinking as follows:
“Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. Involving five phases—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test—it is most useful to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown.”
This might give you the gist of it, but what it doesn’t tell you is why design thinking is the next big wave. That’s what this article is about! Design thinking heralds the beginning of a new era in design – an innovative and creative era that will be defined by creativity and collaboration!
While there are many forms of thinking, such as how generally thinking in the tech world is centered around the product or thinking in the creative world is centered around the artist, design thinking is radically different because it is centered around the user, first and foremost! It looks at what is possible and then looks at how it should be done to cater to the user in every way.
“Other clues to how things work come from their visible structure - in particular from affordances, constraints, and mappings. Consider a pair of scissors: if you have never seen or used them before, you can see that the number of possible actions is limited. The holes are clearly there to put something into, and the only logical things that will fit are fingers. The holes are affordances: they allow the fingers to be inserted. The sizes of the holes provide constraints to limit the possible fingers: the big hole suggests several fingers, the small hole only one. The mapping between holes and fingers - the set of possible operations - is suggested and constrained by the holes.”
― Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
Design thinking is also extremely practical and efficient. It does not meander around in curves or zig-zags, but always looks for the shortest path to the result – a straight line. But, at the same time, design thinking does also leave room for the little details that spark joy when users notice them and it definitely incorporates care and thoughtfulness at every level.
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Empathy is also a huge part of design thinking. We must incorporate empathy right from the very foundations of our work, to make sure that we are mindful to be inclusive and representative of all.
Ideation is another key component in design thinking. It encourages a rapid and effective free flow of ideas, all clashing against one another to make sure only the best ones make it to the top.
Prototyping and testing plays a key role as well. It all comes down to iteration. Consistent and constant iteration. As the ideas evolve, so does the product or service and it keeps becoming better and more robust. Regular prototyping helps sharpen and polish it to a stellar degree.
Finally, design thinking at its core comes down to finding out what people want, appreciate, and enjoy, and crafting every single detail right from the smallest one to ensure that those desires are perfectly matched or even exceeded.
“We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.”
― Donald A. Norman, Living with Complexity