How Can Design Thinking Solve Problems?



The concept of Design Thinking is often proposed by service provider. In fact, design thinking can be applied to design or product design, as well as our daily life in order to provide more creative solutions. So, design thinking is a mode of thinking.

What’s special of it is that it combines various perspectives: environment, ease of use, problem solving, etc. It also cares about the level of creativity in problem solving. Does it have insight into the overall concept? Is the proposed solution creative? Another saying is that design thinking is people-oriented. Design has to consider the needs of users and their behavior. In another words, be user-friendly. The fundamental of these designs is for commercialization, popularization, rather than for the purpose of aesthetic or artistic only.

Design thinking is a kind of creative thinking. As it is diversified, resulting a win-win situation, which is a perfect balance between people, design, and environment. Sometimes the steps and sequence may change due to the difference between purpose and targets. In fact, design thinking, like creative thinking, does not have certain rules. Learning creative thinking or design thinking should not be too rigid about the tool itself. It may limits us from producing good ideas. Having the basic knowledge is essential, however, we must remember that the tools have their limitations. When we are able to integrate them, we should develop our own new tools.

In general, the steps of design thinking include nine steps: problem study, definition, research, concept formation, prototype formation, selection, introduction, learning, and modification. These nine steps are also the basic processes that Project Works Group places in the curriculum. Bare in mind that these steps are not always in a fixed order. In addition to these steps, one often uses tools, regular researches, brainstorming, travel, visits, or inspections to train himself/ herself.



Thinking steps

Step 1: Problem Study

Asking the right questions is important. You should be clearly understand what kind of problem your have to solve. For example, building a building requires to design not only cement, bricks, but also lighting, temperature, lines, functions, and so on. So we must first clarify the problem at the beginning.

Observation is needed to solve the problem. The environment, usage habits, materials, time, climate, will often complex the problem. Thus, we will require different expertise to join together to tackle the issues. At this stage, we have to clarify:

• What is our problem?

• What is the meaning of it?

• What is the rationale behind the problem?

• What is the expected result?

• What is the value of solving this problem?


Step 2: Definition

At this stage, we have to clarify:

• Identify the problem

• Who is the target?

• Segment the goals to be achieved and prioritize them

• What are the key success factors?

• What is the core value?


Step 3: Research

At this stage, we have to:

• Confirm the needs of users (not only the request of the client)

• Identify the users’ need for this design

• Brainstorm to start your idea

• Collect considerable opinions (do not sort the ideas as there are no good or bad at this stage)

• Do not criticize ideas


Step 5: Prototype Formation

At this stage, we have to:

• Expand ideas, diverge with various possibilities

• Classify and refine the ideas to produce the right solution

• Combine ideas and form preliminary models

• Explain to different audience and seek their opinions

• Choose an idea that everyone is satisfied with

• Explain the best way to client and explain the reasons behind it

• Examine your work in an neutral perspective

• Use various ways to make models, animations


Step 6: Selection

At this stage, we have to:

• Look at the project from a third party perspective

• What will the project look like, and who will benefit from it? How to benefit? Who will be harmed? Is there a solution? Is there a way to avoid it?

• Add more five senses into the design

• Find someone to play the role of opponent in the team

• Consider the feasibility of existing resources

• Is there any prior communication needed?

• The simplest, labor-saving, time-saving, and money-saving solution is not necessarily the best solution


Step 7: Introduction

At this stage, we have to:

• Create maps and manuals

• Make a task list

• Identify resources

• Allocate tasks

• Manage risk

• Perform tasks

• Transfer of operation rights


Step 8: Learning

At this stage, we have to:

• Use counters, detectors, video recorders to record usage

• Collect feedback data from users

• Confirm whether the solution has achieved the desired effect

• Measure the operational status, collect information, establish original samples

• Take pictures, record, make history files


Step 9: Modification

At this stage, we have to:

• Arrange monitoring groups to monitor project operations regularly

• Fine-tune the task

• Record all processes and continue to manage


Design Thinking and Creative Thinking

Design thinking emphasizes on people-oriented. While creative thinking focus on how to break through the framework.

The curriculum of design thinking has several features, such as the process of thinking, the application of thinking tools, how to focus on users, how to balance humanistic concepts, and how to have a self-destructive innovation.


Recommended reading

1. IDEO CEO and President Tim Brown Blog on Design Thinking:

2. Tim Brown’s Ted Talk: “Designers, think big!”

3. Documentary: Design and Thinking:


Picture from internet

Edited and translated by DSIGN Team


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