Learn more about Design Thinking & how it is applied.

Design Thinking is a design methodology that requires a particular mindset, process of framing and way of doing. 

A brief introduction and overview of Design Thinking

What is Design Thinking?

Design is everywhere. It comes in many forms and outcomes. Therefore, the outcome of the design process could be a car, a chair, a catalog, an interior space, a recreational park and in many cases today a new App of some sorts. Nevertheless, one thing that all these ‘solutions’ have in common is that they satisfy a human need.

For example, let’s say a person needs to get from A to B, one of the potential transport solutions could be a car. This need may also carry different value depending on a particular person’s economic situation. For instance, Sally needs a way to get to work because she lives almost 20km away. Sally puts value on using a car as the choice of getting there because she feels unsafe on public transport, she also likes the comfort of a car and she can afford to spend the money on petrol every month. Joyce on the other can’t afford to have her own car and has to travel the same distance as Sally. Joyce’s only option, is to catch the bus and has less flexibility because of the regular bus schedules. 

In both these cases, the users have specific needs that are defined by their context and the context of the need is shaped by economic variants.  Therefore, Design Thinkers translate these needs into preferred solutions that speaks to a particular persona.

The approach to create these value propositions for that persona is in essence Human-centered Design (HCD), a fundamental principle of Design.

Don’t worry Design Thinking is not that simple and this explanation might not be that clear to how it brings value to different companies and organisations. What we do know about Design Thinking today, is that is has a much more structured approach and has more definite guiding principles than previously known.

How do we go about the Design Thinking process?

What is now theorised as Design Thinking (with capitals), is an intentional Design Thinking methodology. The methodology follows a logical design process that every designer follows, from turning problems into ideas and ideas into solutions. Furthermore, it offers us a collaborative approach to understanding the context of challenge and observing key behavioral insights, to framing those insights in order to be able to develop a new idea that addresses a relevant need, such as discussed above. New features are developed into a prototype that can be tested before implementation and big investments are made. 

Therefore, at a meta level Design thinking requires three distinctive parts. These parts are research, Ideation and Prototyping.


Challenge your assumptions; understand people and context


Ideas are the cornerstone of creativity. But how do we come to them and how do we make sure they are original or relevant 


Explore, iterate, build and evolve ideas in reality to their context 

In the image below, we also explore the Hasso Plattner dschool model and the main objectives of these phases below.


This model is meant to give designers and teams a guideline of where they are in the design process and the aim of the phase. There are also various Design Thinking models. Some may be better for certain things than others. However, the logic of Design Thinking is based on two prerequisite elements, which are between, problem-solution or need-idea. 

There are also relationships between phases which we describe below.

  1. becoming familiar with the context of the problem
  2. observing the users behavior to discover insights 
  3. frame the user insights and identify the needs
  4. come up with different ideas that might be useful to people
  5. turn a concept into a communication tool so that the features can be tested  
  6. share your prototype and gain invaluable feedback from users

Visualisation methods

Visualisation and frameworks used for communication are useful thinking tools to help us think through the Design Thinking process. The mental model helps us with a representation and gives us a  logical understanding of the links among various concepts, ideas, rules and inferences. Below are the basis of some Design Thinking methods to facilitate a common understanding between teams, creators and investors.

Mind map Mapping

Sketching mind maps to initially flesh out and get an understanding of problem or solution spaces.

Affinity Mapping

Making sense of different ideas by grouping sticky notes into distinct themes, creating an affinity diagram

Service Blueprint

Understanding the elements of an idea and its constituent elements by modelling it through Service Blueprints or customer journey maps

Customer Journey

Understanding crucial high and low points through customer journey maps

Business Model Canvas

Using a Business Model Canvas or a Lean Canvas as a support tool to understand, systematically map, coordinate, and evaluate different aspects of a novel business idea

Swot Analysis

Plotting points of differentiation, strengths and weaknesses 

Some examples of using visualisation during Design Thinking projects

A Design Thinking approach to creating great ideas

to fail early and as often as possible

to encourage wild ideas even if they seem crazy

to be visual and frame your thinking

to build onto other ideas and merge opposing ideas 

to defer judgement based on your beliefs or rituals

to go for quantity and limitations based on absurdity 

to stay focused on the topic, listen and let everyone have their chance to speak

to build empathy and imagine being in the shoes of the users shoes 

What is Empathy in Design Thinking?

In Design Thinking, empathy is, as explained in IDEO’s Human-Centred Design Toolkit, a “deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for”. It involves learning about the difficulties people face, as well as uncovering their latent needs and desires in order to explain their behaviours. To do so, we need to have an understanding of the people’s environment, as well as their roles in and interactions with their environment.

– Interaction design foundation

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