Design Thinking Process and Its Phases | Adobe XD Ideas (2022)

Design Thinking Process and Its Phases | Adobe XD Ideas (1)

Illustration by Kyle Webster

Design plays a crucial role in a product’s success. A product that fails to meet its customers’ needs cannot be successful on the market. In order to increase chances of success, more and more companies are focusing on human-centered design—they put the end user at the heart of product design and evaluate every design decision according to the user’s needs and wants. Design thinking is one type of human-centered design methodology that enables companies to solve design challenges in innovative ways.

This article will describe the design thinking methodology and walk you through each step of this methodology.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a methodology that attempts to solve complex problems in a creative and user-centric way. Core features of the design thinking methodology include:

(Video) The Design Thinking Process

  • Focus on end-users. The end-user plays a key role in the design thinking process—all key product design decisions are evaluated according to the end user’s needs and wants.
  • Solid problem framing. Rather than accepting the problem as given, designers explore the problem space to find a root cause of the problem. The insights they gain can help designers reinterpret the given problem.
  • Creating tangible solutions. Convey design solutions using sketching and prototyping as opposed to presentations and slide decks.

Who can participate in design thinking?

Design thinking is focused on collaboration between designers and users; but does it mean that only designers can participate in this process? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s recommended to invite colleagues from various disciplines to participate in design thinking because it can produce a range of ideas. Different perspectives on the problem will ultimately lead to better solutions.

Does design thinking work only for digital products?

No. Design thinking is a universal methodology that works equally well for physical and digital design. No matter what you design, whether it’s a digital app or a physical chair, design thinking allows you to set your assumptions aside and build products tailored specifically for your users’ needs.

Five phases of the design thinking process

The five-stage design thinking model was originally posited by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school). The design thinking stages are:

  • Empathize. Understand the problem of the user for whom you are designing.
  • Define. Form a problem statement.
  • Ideate. Generate creative solutions to this problem.
  • Prototype. Build a tangible representation of this solution.
  • Test. Validate this solution with your target audience.
Design Thinking Process and Its Phases | Adobe XD Ideas (2)

Empathize

The design thinking process starts with empathy. In order to design user-centered products and services, you need to understand who your users are and what they need. To achieve this goal, product designers immerse themselves in the context of the problem. During this phase, designers observe and engage with real users or people who represent the target audience.

Try these useful techniques to empathize with users:

  • User interviews.During user interviewers, interviewees are asked to tell a story about the last time they experienced the problem. The answer will help product creators understand how people currently solve the same or similar issues.
  • Contextual inquiry. This is a technique of immersing yourself in your target users’ physical environment so you can see how they interact with an existing product and gain a deeper personal understanding of the problems they face.
  • Empathy map. An empathy map is a visualization tool used to summarize what a product team knows about its user. It describes what the user says, thinks, does, and feels. This information leads to a better understanding of the target audience.

As you continue developing empathy for your users, focus on the emotional part of interactions (how do products make users feel?). Emotions play a tremendous role in how we think about products. When users develop positive associations with products, they are more likely to continue using them. That’s why it’s essential to collect emotional responses (both positive and negative) that test participants’ experience when performing a particular task in a product.

Define

At this stage, we analyze the qualitative and quantitative data we obtained during the empathize stage to draw insights from it. This information will be used both to define a problem statement and guide the ideation process. Clear problem statements will guide the product team throughout the design process—those statements will help you understand what features and functions your users need in order to solve their problems.

(Video) What Is Design Thinking? An Overview

Try these useful techniques to help define the problem and guide your process:

  • User journey analysis. A user journey is a visual depiction of the trip the user takes across the solution. The user journey considers the steps that a user takes as well as their feelings, pain points, and moments of delight. User journey analysis will help you to identify key pain points in a journey.
  • How might we technique. Try rephrasing questions by adding “How might we…” at the beginning. The phrase “how might we” followed by a particular pain point can encourage team members to think more about problem space.

To help you define the problem, take a human-centered approach. For example, if you redesign an online book subscription service and need to acquire new users, do not define the problem as, “We need to increase the percentage of teenage readers by 30%.” Frame it from the user’s perspective: “Teenagers need to have affordable access to educational literature in order to learn more about the world.”

Ideate

Ideation, or generating ideas, is a phase in which you go from understanding problems to exploring solutions. The ideas that are identified will be prototyped and tested with people who represent your target audience.

Try these useful techniques during the ideation phase:

  • Worst Possible Idea. Worst Possible Idea is an ideation method where team members purposefully seek the worst solutions. This technique can stimulate free thinking.
  • Sketching. Sketching is a fast and efficient way to visualize your ideas. You don’t need to be a skilled artist to create sketches. As long as you can draw boxes and arrows, you can communicate your ideas to other people.

During this stage, do not judge the ideas. When it’s time to generate ideas, you should give yourself and your team creative freedom. The more ideas you generate, the better. Don’t judge technical feasibility or quality of your ideas in this step.

Prototype

Prototyping allows you to turn ideas generated in the previous phase into tangible artifacts that can be tested later with real users. Most of the time, you start with low-fidelity prototypes (prototypes that convey the basic idea of the intended solution) and move towards high-fidelity as you get more user feedback.

Try these useful techniques during the prototyping phase:

  • Paper prototyping. Paper prototypes can help you quickly build and validate your design hypothesis with minimal effort. Build rough paper prototypes to find what’s working and what’s not.
  • High-fidelity digital prototyping. Hi-fi prototypes are great for validating user flows and identify areas that require further attention. You can collect more detailed feedback using hi-fi prototypes.

Consider the following during this stage:

(Video) Design Thinking in UX

  • Do not limit yourself only to one prototype. Prototype multiple solutions to understand which one performs better.
  • Create a library of common elements. Use a design system manager to create a library of common UI elements and try to reuse them as you design individual screens. This approach will help you achieve visual and functional consistency in your design.
  • Think about technical feasibility and business viability. At this stage, you need to rely on data informed decision making—use qualitative and quantitative data to evaluate your design solutions against the technical feasibility and the business viability.
Design Thinking Process and Its Phases | Adobe XD Ideas (3)

Test

The goal of this phase is to understand what parts of your design are effective and which are not. During the testing phase, a product team gives a prototype to test participants and encourages them to complete some common tasks with it. Testing will give a product team a clearer understanding of how real users interact with a product, what problems they face, and how they feel.

Try these useful techniques during the test phase:

  • Moderated usability testing. You conduct a series of testing sessions with your solution so you can get feedback from people who represent your target audience. Moderators can ask clarifying questions and collect more detailed feedback from participants (i.e., why exactly do test participants act the way they do).
  • Focus groups. Focus groups are typically small groups of people (six to nine participants) who come together to review and discuss a particular solution. Focus groups are great when you have a specific topic you want to explore (say, understanding how user onboarding makes users feel). Here’s how to conduct focus groups.

Consider the following during this stage:

  • Learn how to critically evaluate design. Constructive criticism is a way of giving feedback that provides specific, actionable suggestions. It’s the best way to provide feedback on design solutions. Here’s how to critique product design or website.
  • Focus on minimizing cognitive load in UX. Cognitive load is the amount of brainpower that users have to invest in order to interact with your product. The more cognitive load users need to invest, the less enjoyable a product experience becomes. Testing should help you to identify areas that can cause a high cognitive load.

Design thinking isn’t always a linear process

It is important to mention that the five phases of the design process defined above are not always sequential. In many cases, it’s a highly iterative loop. Depending on the needs of a project, individual steps can occur in parallel, or the product team can move between phases as they design a product.

Embrace the iterative nature of the product design process. It’s rare to design a perfect solution right from the start. A very common situation happens when insights acquired at later stages can influence decisions made in earlier stages. For example, when a testing phase reveals new information about user behavior, the team might want to run another brainstorming session and based on insights from the session, they may decide to design a new prototype.

Design Thinking Process and Its Phases | Adobe XD Ideas (4)

Understand people you design for

The goal of design thinking is to design with real users in mind. Designers gain an intimate understanding of people who will use their product and offer a solution that satisfies their needs. The success of organizations like IDEO proves the fact that when the design thinking process becomes an integral part of organizational culture, the organization starts to foster creativity, collaboration, and innovation.

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Design Systems

Design Thinking Process and Its Phases | Adobe XD Ideas (5)

Words by
Nick Babich

(Video) The Story of Design Thinking: From Philosophy to Productization [E6]

Nick Babich is UX architect and writer. Nick has spent the last 10 years working in the software industry with a specialized focus on research and development. He counts advertising, psychology, and cinema among his myriad interests.

FAQs

Design Thinking Process and Its Phases | Adobe XD Ideas? ›

Five phases of the design thinking process
  • Empathize. Understand the problem of the user for whom you are designing.
  • Define. Form a problem statement.
  • Ideate. Generate creative solutions to this problem.
  • Prototype. Build a tangible representation of this solution.
  • Test. Validate this solution with your target audience.
Jul 13, 2021

What is design thinking and its phases? ›

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.

What are the 5 stages of design thinking with examples? ›

What are the 5 or 6 stages of design thinking? ›

The design-thinking framework follows an overall flow of 1) understand, 2) explore, and 3) materialize. Within these larger buckets fall the 6 phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement.

What are the 3 main phase of design thinking? ›

The Three Phases of Design Thinking: Immersion, Ideation and Prototyping.

What is a design thinking process? ›

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.

What is meant by design thinking? ›

Design thinking is a process for creative problem solving. Design thinking has a human-centered core. It encourages organizations to focus on the people they're creating for, which leads to better products, services, and internal processes.

What are the main ideas in point of view phase? ›

A Point Of view (POV) is a meaningful and actionable problem statement, which will allow you to ideate in a goal-oriented manner. Your POV captures your design vision by defining the RIGHT challenge to address in the ideation sessions. A POV involves reframing a design challenge into an actionable problem statement.

How many steps are in the design process? ›

The five steps that make up the design thinking process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. By now, you've probably heard about design thinking.

What is the 6 step design process? ›

Define – clearly outline the identified problems. Ideate – unleash the creativity and begin noting ideas. Prototype – create some possible solutions. Test – check with users if what you have in mind and plan to deliver really answers their needs and expectations.

What are the 4 D's of design thinking? ›

Design Thinking methodology involves FOUR distinct stages – Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. Collectively, this is known as the 4D Framework.

Why design thinking process is important? ›

Design Thinking is a strategy for creative problem solving by prioritizing customers' requirements above everything else. It helps to engage a person in several opportunities like experimenting and creating a prototype model, gathering feedback from customers and redesigning the product using innovative solutions.

Why is it called design thinking? ›

Design thinking is created not only because Tim Brown coined the word that became a buzzword. There's a logical reason to it. Design thinking is created because big corporation lack the ability to be creative and on extreme cases, aren't able to create new products and services that meet unmet needs of their customers.

What is design thinking process PDF? ›

Design thinking is generally defined as an analytic and creative process that engages a person in opportunities to experiment, create and prototype models, gather feedback, and redesign.

Who uses design thinking? ›

Design thinking has been used to solve business problems at companies like Toyota, Intuit, SAP, and IBM. One reason for the proliferation of design thinking in industries is that it's useful to break down problems in any complex system, be it business, government, or social organizations.

Who started design thinking? ›

Cognitive scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon was the first to mention design as a way of thinking in his 1969 book, The Sciences of the Artificial. He then went on to contribute many ideas throughout the 1970s which are now regarded as principles of design thinking.

What is idea box in design thinking? ›

The Idea Box is a matrix tool in which you insert all of the different parameters of a design so that you can see them clearly. Simple How to… Across the top, list different parameters (material, shape, target audience), then list options under each (i.e. audience – could be young, old, college student, CEO, parent).

What are the features of design thinking? ›

There are five key elements of the Design Thinking process:
  • Human-centered. If you don't understand the person who will be using the thing you're trying to create, it simply won't work. ...
  • Creative and playful. ...
  • Iterative. ...
  • Collaborative. ...
  • Prototype driven.
Nov 2, 2020

What are the types of design process? ›

Some areas of focus of design processes and their models are:
  • product development.
  • software development.
  • web site development.
  • systems design.
  • project management phases.
  • instructional design.
  • User-centered design.
  • Interaction design, user experience and usability.
Nov 2, 2016

What is a good design process? ›

A design process enables two things: A shared approach on how to find and solve problems. A framework to evaluate ideas, inform priorities and prevent myopic work.

What is the 5th step of the design process? ›

Test. The fifth step in the Design Thinking process is dedicated to testing: putting your prototypes in front of real users and seeing how they get on. During the testing phase, you'll observe your target users—or representative users—as they interact with your prototype.

What are the 4 steps of design thinking? ›

The Four Phases of Design Thinking
  • Question. If you spend any time around designers, you quickly discover this about them: They ask, and raise, a lot of questions. ...
  • Care. It's easy for companies to say they care about customer needs. ...
  • Connect. ...
  • Commit.
Jul 29, 2010

What are the 4 principles of design thinking? ›

In Design Thinking: Understand - Improve - Apply (Understanding Innovation) [PML10] Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer propose four universal principles of design. These principles apply to software architecture as well as to detailed program design, user interaction design, or any other design-focused discipline.

What are the 4 D's of design thinking? ›

Design Thinking methodology involves FOUR distinct stages – Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. Collectively, this is known as the 4D Framework.

What is design thinking and why is it important? ›

Design Thinking is a strategy for creative problem solving by prioritizing customers' requirements above everything else. It helps to engage a person in several opportunities like experimenting and creating a prototype model, gathering feedback from customers and redesigning the product using innovative solutions.

Videos

1. The Design Thinking Process - An Introduction
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2. Iterative Design & Adobe | XD Product Manager | Demian Borba
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3. What is design thinking in UI/UX design? | UI/UX tutorial in Telugu
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4. Free Adobe XD Tutorial | Travel app using Adobe XD | UI / UX | Persona and Design steps
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5. The Design Thinking Process | Google UX Design Certificate
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