Last Updated on July 29, 2023
What is Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is a problem-solving process: First we begin understanding and scoping a clear problem. Next we focus on how we can solve it.
To help you better understand this, let’s look at the Design Council’s Double Diamond, which helps to visually explain the process.
Discovery is the beginning of the process, which looks to understand the ‘problem’: The user and their environments, behaviours, tools they use and decision-making processes. It looks at the landscape somewhat broadly often through methods such as surveys, user diaries, observations or immersion.
The idea is to really understand the user to build empathy.
The “Define” phase is an opportunity to refine and narrow down ideas and to look at the main challenges the product/service may face. At this point, research is for depth. That means implementing methods such as customer journey mapping and focus groups.
The final two stages of the Design Thinking process are “develop” — the ideation stage where design concepts are tested out — and “Deliver” — where the product is finalised and launched.
The double diamond isn’t the only illustration of Design Thinking out there, though we do think it’s a great starting point for beginners. Another alternative way of understanding the process is through Stanford Design School’s Design Thinking Bootleg:
What is Human-Centred Design
Human-centered design is an approach to problem-solving that has a focus on the people that you’re designing a product for. It starts by establishing who your user is and what their problem is and then ends by finding a solution that is tailored to them.
The core of Human-Centred Design (something referred to as “HCD”), is deep empathy. This in turn helps designers to have an abundance of ideas, which feed into building and then sharing a prototype with the ideal customer and, eventually, putting the product or service to market.
Human-centered design consists of three phases.
During “inspiration”, you focus on learning from the people you’re design for. To build empathy with them and better understand their needs, you immerse yourself in their lives through solid user and market research.
In the “Ideation” phase, you bring order to what you’ve learnt. You begin to map out opportunities for design and prototype solutions to the problems that you uncovered in the previous phase.
Finally comes “Implementation”. This is when you build your solution and take it to market, trusting that its human-centred nature means that it will be a success.
IDEO suggest that this mindset can manifest into the following, more actionable steps:
- Observation: Learning about the end-user, through research
- Ideation: Brainstorming a lot of ideas
- Rapid Prototyping: Quickly building a low-fidelity prototype
- User Feedback: Getting input from your end-user
- Iteration: Iterating and fine-tuning the product and its design, whilst continuing to get user input.
- Implementation: Test the idea out in the real-world
We know that that’s a lot of information. So, to re-cap…
Design Thinking at a glance:
- A framework that allows you to redefine problems to seek solutions that may not have been seen.
- An iterative process that understands and empathises with the user.
- A process that challenges and tests the assumptions product or service managers/designers may have.
- A non-linear process.
Human-Centred Design at a glance:
- A focus on developing solutions to problems by putting the human perspective into all parts of the problem-solving process, to meet their needs.
- It is “a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibility of technology, and the requirements for business success” (Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO).
At this point, you may be thinking: “Those sound very similar”. And you’re right. In many ways they are. However, there are some really important differences that you need to understand in order to grasp which of the two is best suited to your situation.
What are the key differences between Design Thinking and Human-Centred Design?
- Design thinking looks at the bigger picture: It focused on innovation and creating products or services that solve problems.
- Human-centred design looks at the details: It is a way of improving the usability and the user experience of a particular product or service.
- Whilst Design Thinking is a Process, Human-Centred Design is a mindset.
Despite their differences, the two can be used in conjunction, providing you with both the mindset (Human-Centred Design) and the Toolkit (Design Thinking) for creating products and services that solve the real problems of users. In both cases, users and stakeholders are involved throughout the product development process, which is what makes them such a winning combination.
The Key Takeaways
When it comes to Design thinking and Human-Centred Design, the question isn’t which of the two you should be using in your business. Instead, it’s how you can utilise both! Using one of them will no doubt get you positive results, but we believe that using both is a key to even more success.
There are three reasons for this: Through problem-solving, they will help you to increase viability (whether or not you should do something), feasibility (whether or not you can do something) and desirability (whether or not people want something) within your business.