From Design Process to Design Thinking

I had the opportunity to participate in this week’s workshop with the Design For America-UIUC. They focused on guiding us through the steps of design thinking – a new trend/concept in the product development life cycle. These steps included:

  • Identify
  • Immerse
  • Reframe
  • Ideate
  • Build
  • Test

In this workshop, we went through many different scenarios and worked in groups to create a non-functional prototype in its simplest form using the deign thinking steps. Starting off with perceiving and questioning the consumers’ world/perspective. After which we worked on an idea, sketch, a model prototype out of arts and craft material available. We came up with so many questions and scenarios for the cinsumers and equally as many possible solutions in the “ideate” step then tried to combine them into one prototype out of art supplis available.

As mentioned in an article by Tim Brown, before companies made products that performed a specific function then it would try to apply to a problem by “dressing them up” with a design. I’ve learnt that this is a flawed way of creating a product. With the new concept of “design thinking”, I would be able to enhance the need and impact of my product ideas on consumers and reduce the chances of them being useless or redundant, this would make them much more innovative. The deign thinking process first pushes me to identify a problem or need. Then immersing my self, empathetically, relating to the world of the consumer encountering that problem or need, reframing the problem to avoid assumptions, coming up with an idea from the perspective of the consumer – this is where the human centered focus is crucial, then building the idea to those constraints and finally testing as in any product development cycle.

So we have an idea of what design thinking is, What does that do now? Now we can target specific problems and consumer responses to products as well as identifying new market potentials as in the examples given in Tim Brown’s articles. Universities are starting to implement this in their classes, as I have experience with this new concept from my ME270 class at UIUC which involved creating a product – primariy mechanical focused – to tackle a specific problem and reiterating till it solved the problem more efficiently. I could then see the business potential in these especially after reading the two articles mentioned below. In the  “Design Thinking: Past, Present and Possible Futures”, they did a great job doing in-depth definition of design thinking and the different ways it could be implemented. Also in “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking”, he kind of alluded to the challenges of incorporating design thinking as putting art before science and how it was difficult for ‘scientists’ to do so.

[1] “Design Thinking: Past, Present and Possible Futures” Ulla Johansson-Sköldberg,
Jill Woodilla, Mehves Çetinkaya . Wiley Online Library. Web. 25 March 2013

[2] “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking” Richard Buchanan. The MIT Press. Web. 23 October 2015

Now, we are entering a world where almost any new open-ended idea has been implemented. Now we need innovative ideas and products that solve the other problems – the specific problems. We will need this design thinking in today’s innovators and major players to tackle more specific problems. I believe companies like Amazon, Capitol One, General Electric and so on, are using big data and data analytics in a way to find these specific problems – these specific potential consumer/market – and provide solutions to these.

2 thoughts on “From Design Process to Design Thinking

  1. Hi Taofik,

    You have clearly introduced what design thinking is and listed its six steps. What interests me most is the project you have done in your ME 270 class. It would be great that if you can clarify what kind of problem you solved in details (I am just curious) and how did that focus on the demand of people. Meanwhile, the article written by Tim Brown compared the traditional design methodology to the design thinking. It helps me to see the superiority of design thinking over the traditional one. Moreover, you also mentioned the link between innovation and design thinking at the end of your article. I couldn’t be agreed more about this idea. I recommend you to read the article below, which explains how design thinking could promote innovation.


  2. Hi Taofik,
    I really enjoyed reading the articles you referenced, especially “Design Thinking: Past, Present, and Possible Futures.” One really fascinating distinction that this article makes is the fact that the major distinction that needs to be made within design thinking is the difference between creating something entirely new, and dealing with existing reality. However, there is no need to distinguish between the activities of designers and engineers; they are virtually inseparable. The idea that there are two main factions of creating (from scratch, and improving upon the existing) is an important distinction to make, as it entirely changes the ideating process. I feel as though this ties back perfectly to our work with Design for America, as we were told to ignore what is “possible” and currently existing solutions, and let our imaginations dictate our solutions. Overall, really interesting read!

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