Design Thinking Definition, Stages and Case Examples

Historically, the word “design? always associated with the product, but not with design thinking. Products that users can touch, feel and experience. Michelangelo designed David, Charles Babbage designed the first automated computing machine.

Over time, designs shifted to ergonomics and ease of use: IKEA launched modular furniture, ergonomic chairs and computer peripherals began to take over the market.

Now, design has a new role. Design thinking has taken over: Many business-level strategies, and problems solved through a design thinking approach.

But the main question arises in every mind, how is design thinking built?

Table Of Contents

1 What is Design Thinking?
2 When Should You Apply Design Thinking?
2.1 When the Problem Focuses on Humans
2.2 When You Want to Have a Solution to a Mystery
3 When Should You Not Apply Design Thinking?
3.1 The Problem Is A Puzzle
4 Five Steps in Shaping Design Thinking
4.1 Stage 1: Empathize
4.2 Tahap 2: Define
4.3 Stage 3: Ide
4.3.1 Braindumping:
4.4 Stage 4: Prototype
4.5 Tahap 5: Tes
5 Contoh Design Thinking
5.1 Honeypots and Helicopters

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to understanding, defining, and then generating solutions that will help users.

In general, this would be a very clear approach to solving any problem. But unfortunately, we humans are driven by pattern bias or cognitive bias. We tend to think in one particular direction than we are fully aware of; thus we generalize the problem based on our perception and the solution based on our knowledge.

Design thinking forces you to break out of your usual patterns and find solutions that are uncomfortable for you as an idea creator but are actually useful for the end-user.

When Should You Apply Design Thinking?

Since design thinking is one of the things that are needed today, many people abuse the idea of ​​using design thinking everywhere. But when do you really use design thinking?

When the Problem Focuses on Humans

We have already discussed that design thinking is a human-centered approach to any problem. In this way, we can clearly define what the user needs, which needs can be turned into wants and what will drive him to turn them into wants.

The key here is understanding what the user wants and solving the problem through constant feedback in an iterative approach.

When you want to have a solution to a mystery

This may sound very strange, but design thinking is actually an exploratory tool. This helps you understand and define the problem clearly and proceed with solutions for problems you don’t fully understand.

The results may not be what you anticipated and sometimes you may change the problem statement completely.

Knowing when to apply design thinking alone is not enough, another important aspect is knowing when not to apply design thinking.

When Should You Not Apply Design Thinking?

The problem is the puzzle

Now, what that statement implies is: you have a problem and you know how to anticipate it, the only problem is the approach.

Such a complex problem is a very well-defined problem, which requires very specific results. If you have any of these, the design thinking approach may be counterproductive when you fall into a loop of iterating solutions with no tangible results.

Now that you’re sure you need to apply Design Thinking, here’s what you need to do next:

Five Steps in Forming Design Thinking

Design thinking has a dedicated step-by-step process that gives you a structure to help you design better solutions.

Although there are no specific rules for them to adhere to, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, better known as has provided an outline of the five stages.

It’s important to note that you don’t always have to follow this step, sometimes you may skip several stages, jump or work in parallel at some stages because there will be many iterations of your solution.


Stage 1: Empathize

Here, you need to have a deep understanding of the needs of your users. The reason why you should empathize is so that you know the user’s needs and understand the problem they are facing from their point of view. Usually, empathic understanding is gained through the user’s experience and their perception of a problem.

Avoid: Assume the problem. Most people make the mistake of assuming the problem and starting with the define phase. Avoid looking for trouble points from your point of view as the product owner, the problem should come directly from the target user and from what the user perceives as a problem.

Stage 2: Define

For the define phase, you group all the information you gathered during the empathy phase and use your observations to define the core problem you identified. You write it down and define it as a statement of the problem you want to address.

Avoid: Defining the problem you don’t know about. A well-defined problem statement will be helpful to most target users and generally solve the most recurring problems.

Stage 3: Ideas

After the first two steps, you should have a clear idea of ​​what the problem is and the expected solution in general. When it comes to ideas for a defined problem, you have to think of solutions that are outside the norm. Here are some methods you can use to come up with a better idea.

Brain dumping:

Brain dumping is similar to brainstorming but on a piece of paper. The essence of brain dumping is pouring a lot of ideas onto a piece of paper that might solve a problem.

The ideas may be far-fetched or sometimes very naive and basic. That shouldn’t stop you from writing it down. There are a few things to keep in mind whenever brain dumping:

  1. No stupid ideas: Most people ignore their ideas and don’t write them down on paper.
  2. The more the better: The more ideas, the better the solution. Therefore, try to work in a team and give each member lots of sticky notes to write one idea per sticky note.
  3. Time-box: The longer you give your brain time to think, the more it will ignore ideas. So give yourself 15 minutes with the team and set a goal to jot down 15 sticky note ideas. Repeat the exercise if you don’t think it’s a good idea.
  4. Clusters: Now, when you have sticky notes full of enough ideas, start grouping them on clusters with axes for ease of implementation and utility. Many use this for the defining stage as well to have a better understanding.
  5. Groups: Group all the relevant ideas at the top right of your chart and a club of ideas that you can implement in one final solution.
  6. Bring your ideas to life: With these resources you can now formulate solid ideas.

Stage 4: Prototype

A prototype is where you start experimenting with your idea. You can develop a very economical and better version of a product that comes from an idea that will solve the general need group of your problem. This will help you to be aware of any problems you may encounter during implementation.

If you can’t develop a prototype, you can create a storyboard that will help users understand your idea.

Avoid: Creating complex prototypes. The prototype will most likely never be your final product and investing resources in it will actually cost you your work. Make it simple and easy to use so users can provide easy feedback.

Stage 5: Test

Your prototype/storyboard is ready, now you need to see if it actually benefits the target users.

You can approach target users and give them your prototype to use and get their feedback. Oftentimes, the testing phase is used to redefine one or more user-facing problems. The testing phase is what brings the solution closest to what the user expects.

Avoid Testing on a single user. Try testing on multiple target users and make changes accordingly. Also, avoid testing on users who don’t fall into your target user category or the results could be damaging.

Tip: Every designer likes their idea and believes that it is a perfect fit for the problem. Sometimes, you force these puzzle pieces together and that’s why the solution never works.

Design thinking was developed to ensure you are closest to the user but the process will only work if you are willing to let go of the ideas you originally envisioned.

The process is very human-centered and a designer should always remember that the solution is for the problem the user is facing, not the problem you think it is.

Contoh Design Thinking

Honeypots and Helicopters

A well-known example of creative thinking, this example takes us through the perspective of Pacific Power and Lighting (PP&L), which is responsible for powering the mountainous Northwest Cascade region of the US.

The area is prone to blizzards and severe ice conditions, which result in thick deposits of ice on power transmission lines. This is a concern as it can disrupt the operation of the electricity supply on a large scale.

The traditional way to deal with the problem is to send a janitor to manually remove the ice, which is expensive and dangerous.

To solve the problem, the company set up a brainstorming session with the help of an external agency. The agency confirmed that the meeting was held in the presence of people from various departments, not just technicians and managers.

Meeting fruitless, disillusioned employees gather for coffee in the break room. Between chats, a technician recalled his recent experience with frozen wires, he said, “We really need to get a solution to this problem. Last week, I removed the thick ice on the tower and slipped off the ice pillar. I came face to face with one of the biggest bears I had ever seen who then chased me for more than a mile. ”

After the coffee break, the agency insisted on bringing this anecdote to the meeting.

“Let’s train the bears to get the ice off the poles,” one technician said with a laugh.

Another quipped, “But there is no incentive, why would they do it. Let’s hang the honeypots from the poles, the heavy bear will shake off the ice while trying to reach them. ”

The room exploded again with laughter.

Seconds later, another senior technician said, “We’re going to have the folks at headquarters use their helicopters to install honeypots on those high masts.”

Another round of laughter.

When the laughter stopped, the secretary said, “I was a nursing aide in Vietnam, they take injured people by helicopter. If we can fly one of them at low altitude, we don’t need the honeypot idea at all”.

Everyone is silent. This is the solution, here it is.

It just needs to run some tests to see if it can work. And so it happened, and PP&L used helicopters to clear the ice lanes from that day onwards.

But the question that may arise, how does design thinking play a role here? Of course, design thinking is not a guide to clearer thinking and it’s an exercise done without any real guidelines.

Empathy: It starts when the linesman narrates the story. Pain points are felt by the linesman here and he explicitly points it out.

Define: They quickly define the problem and then decide to have a solution where people on the ground would not be needed.

Ideas: When a room throws away all ideas, relevant or irrelevant it is brainstorming in its truest form.

Prototype: PP&L then found the feasibility of the task and ran the demo.

Testing: After a few runs, PP&L made this standard operating procedure whenever they encountered a cold situation.

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