Why Designers are going to take over the world — Design Thinking explained

What the heck is Design Thinking?


Kene Ohiaeri

3 years ago | 3 min read

About thirty years ago, Apple Computers released the first ever personal computer with a graphical user interface and named it Lisa.

Although, the Lisa was crazy expensive (enough to build a mansion in Nigeria!) and a failure (Duh..), it introduced something out-of-norm, and they called it the computer mouse. The mouse used in Apple’s Lisa was a cheaper, sexier ripoff from Xerox and they needed the help of a product design team to get it done — IDEO.

Apple’s first mouse, designed by IDEO

To design this mouse, IDEO had to employ a process that involved understanding the target users, exploring hundreds of prototypes, and conducting exhaustive testing with focus groups in order to create the perfect device. This process came to be known as Design Thinking.

Many approaches have been used in solving problems, but over the years, Design Thinking has evolved to become the preferred method of solving problems. You might be reading this article and say,

“What the heck is Design Thinking?”

“Do you mean thinking of how to use photoshop?”

Design Thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing and understanding the people for whom we’re designing the products or services.
~ Interaction-Design Foundation

No no, Design Thinking is not how to use photoshop, neither is it a process used for just product development. Design Thinking is a user-centered iterative process that involves a set of phases used to successfully solve problems within any industry — not just tech or design.

We could break down the Design Thinking process into 5 general phases:

Source: Interaction-Design Foundation

1. Empathize

According to an interview of Tom Kelley from IDEO, he pointed out that IDEO Anthropologists carefully observe and listen well to people in order to get personal insights, and most of them don’t even hold an Anthropology degree. The main aim of this phase is to go out there, find your users and gather as much information you can.

2. Define

Armed with the information you gather from your users, this phase involves analysing the information and trying to connect patterns from your user information. The define phase tries to make sense of all the jargon spilled to you from your users. To be honest, this phase can get somewhat cumbersome.

3. Ideate

After the madness of research and empathy, and defining the user problems, we then ideate the product(s) we want to prototype. The ideation process takes into consideration the following concepts — the user desirability, tech possibility and market viability. The intersection of the above concept sets gives birth to the perfect idea or solution.

Source: Interaction-Design Foundation

4. Prototype

Tom Kelley also said in his interview that we should phrase everything as small iterative experiments, so the major aim of the prototype phase is to create quick prototypes for testing and experimentation. It’s easier and cheaper to create testable prototypes than building complete products that haven’t been tested with the target users, hoping and praying that your final product is the hit.

5. Test

Here, you bring back your prototype to your users and watch them use the product. Testing is a rigorous process that may even lead to redefining your user problems and going through the whole process again.

“The faster we make our ideas tangible, the sooner we will be able to evaluate them, refine them, and zero in on the best solution.”
― Tim Brown

Why Designers are going to take over the world

Design Thinking could be viewed as a mindset to solving problems and also could be seen as a good alternative to the widely known analytical thinking process. I see it as synonymous to…

Thinking Outside the Box

I get this impression every time in Nigeria that a designer is just some guy who knows how to draw. This notion oftens makes the production team push the Designer role to the kiddies table.

But wake up people! Design is now taking the center position in every team and executives have started searching relentlessly for Designers. We are going to take over the world!


Created by

Kene Ohiaeri

Product Designer. Crafting interactive experiences for digital products one pixel at a time.







Related Articles