A typical 'design thinking squiggle'

What is design thinking and why should you care?

Do you ever wonder if there’s a consistently effective way to solve complex, client-focused problems as a team? Thanks to a flexible process, design thinking, we can now create user-friendly, collaborative solutions in half the time.

Design thinking is both a method and philosophy that teams can use for both practical and creative problem solving. While designers have heavily influenced design thinking, through ongoing experimentation, it’s evolved to be useful in more sectors than one.

Read on to learn more about what design thinking is, how to apply its best principles to your next big team project, and banish the exhaustive idea-to-product pipeline for good.

Learn the Basic Design Thinking Principles & Step-By-Step Process

The Four Design Thinking Principles

Before you dive into the process, it’s important to understand some of the principles that make design thinking work for every complex problem. Four rules build a strong foundation for design thinking: humanity, ambiguity, redesign, and tangibility.

  1. Humanity. Focusing on humanity allows us to look at problems from a human-focused point of view.
  2. Ambiguity. We can be ambiguous in our thinking. Push the limits of your knowledge and ability to experiment on a broader scale.
  3. Redesign. Design is redesign. While technology and society may evolve, basic human needs don’t change. Design & redesign for these needs.
  4. Tangibility. Strive to make ideas physical to communicate them better.

The 5 Actual Steps of Design Thinking

We break that down into 5 steps: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

1. Empathise

Main goal: Gain real, practical insights to avoid making assumptions about what your user needs.

This is a non-starter. You can’t effectively solve a problem without understanding whose problem it belongs to. Get to know your user’s issues, desires, and goals. You might use observation techniques (i.e. workshops or surveys) to engage your audience and better grasp their demographics.

2. Define

Main goal: Translate the problem into meaningful words so you can better outline & develop tangible solutions.

Once you’ve gathered enough information about your user, you now understand all the different roadblocks, difficulties, and thought patterns that surround the issue. Now’s your chance to spell out the problem in clear, manageable terms.

3. Ideate

Main goal: Come up with as many ideas as possible to evaluate and move forward to create a tangible plan.

Create an open, inclusive space for you and your team to generate solutions. You might try methods like mind-mapping, roleplaying, or storyboarding. Don’t focus too much on practicality here. By the end, you’ll have plenty of solution-based ideas to narrow down.

4. Prototype

Main goal: Change abstract ideas into real solutions people can use. Then, you can move forward with an idea to improve upon, redesign, or ultimately reject based on how they work in the next step.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, a prototype is “a preliminary model of something from which other forms are developed or copied.” In simpler terms, you want to take the solution and create a down-sized representation of the resulting product.

5. Testing

Main goal: Observe how your users interact with the product, gather feedback, and use the new insights to revise.

Lastly, you’ll unveil the product to a small group of people to test and gather additional feedback. From there, you can use your insights to determine which parts of the process you should revisit to refine your new solution.

A Design Thinking Process Helps Your Team Work More Effectively

Design thinking finds a perfect medium between emotional, intuitive, and analytics-driven design. Human nature steers us to adapt based on our skills and past experiences. With design thinking methods, you and your team use these differences to find the best solution that prioritizes the user’s happiness.

You'll also gain some benefits for your whole company including:

  • A flexible, solution-based ideation process you can apply to any department.
  • A proven way to break down ambiguous problems your users face and define them.
  • Reduced time spent in design and development so your product gets out faster.
  • Cost-savings from the reduced development time and resources.
  • Better client retention & loyalty from your heavy focus on their experience.

Using Axis to jumpstart your design thinking journey

Now that you know all the steps involved in design thinking, you might wonder if there’s an easier way to streamline the process while you work with your team. Axis adds value and saves time by structuring the design thinking process into an easy facilitation tool.

Using Axis gives you a clear, structured design thinking framework and platform to work on - so even if you're a design thinking or facilitation expert, you can benefit from the very best skills anyway.

Here's how we break that down:

  1. Share. Empathize with your team and understand your differences to inspire better, more effective collaboration tools (i.e. icebreakers, games, and tools to shift your team’s mindset).
  2. Frame. Set up the big problem and establish surrounding context to narrow down the problem.
  3. Create. Create and group ideas while giving everyone a say. Access the vast template library and get detailed with SWOT, risk, and trend analyses or use a sophisticated game of round robin to refine ideas in real time.
  4. Evaluate. Evaluate and prioritise ideas based on how relevant or valuable they are to the main problem. Save some for later and move forward to further refine others. In Axis, it’s all completely anonymous and done in a few taps of your phone’s screen.
  5. Action. Now it’s time to create an action plan to put your idea in motion. During the Action step, you and your team can set goals, drive accountability, or plan first drafts you can export.

Unlike typical presentation decks and dry discussions, an engaging, online tool can build design thinking principles into your workshops and drive better outcomes for your team. Get started on Axis for free today!

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