Guillen Design | Design Thinking
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Design Thinking

Design Thinking


As the industry’s design knowledge is maturing and organizations are more interested in understanding how good design is made, Design Thinking is increasingly garnering more attention. Many business leaders want a better understanding of the design process rather than simply relying on the graphic designer’s knowledge and investing good faith in the outcome.

For most designers, Design Thinking is not a new idea. It is at least as old as the industrial revolution and was probably first used by the German Bauhaus and systematized by the HfG Ulm. In recent decades, it was most substantially documented and expanded on by IDEO, which also recognized its potential beyond immediate design problems and promoted it as a useful innovation method.

Design Thinking’s innovative method produces meaningful results quickly and precisely. It is a collaborative creative approach between innovators and the community in which the innovation or service is intended.

The Design Thinking Method consists of five components: definition or goal setting; research; extracting and analyzing research results; ideation; and prototyping & testing.

Definition/ Goal Setting

Utilizing Design Thinking, the start of any project brings together a cross-functional collaborative team to gather and analyze existing knowledge and data about a specific project. For example, if the project is to create a communications app for teens, your team should be comprised of telecom engineers, marketers, teens, teen behavioral specialists and designers. One person will facilitate the project and create a workspace where each team member contributes initial thinking. Discussion on the pros and cons and challenges and advantages based on existing knowledge can be gathered from all team members. Based on this information, the facilitator can guide the team to create goals and assumptions which will define the project. In the case more information is needed, such as added market data, team members can be assigned tasks to gather more information and report back to the team.


Research will allow you to observe your project from different angles. Marketing and Business Research will look for profitability and market opportunities. Analytics gives you insight into user behaviors. All of these are important to gain a comprehensive image. Designers prefer a method called Ethnographic Research.

Ethnographic research (user research) is a qualitative form of research where the interviewer engages the interviewee in a topic of interest. The goal is to verify assumptions with the end user and ensure you’re meeting real human needs. Otherwise, your product may not be adapted because it will not fit with your end users lives. During the interview the interviewer often follows the thought process of the interviewee to understand better how the person works or approaches specific problems. Ideally, he observes how the user in his/her own environment approaches tasks or solves problems. The surprising aspect of this method is that the interviewer can draw some assumptions and at the end of the conversation realize the user will approach a problem from a completely different angel. One advantage of in-person interviews is to observe the environment of the interviewee and detect workarounds the user uses to accomplish their goals. The workarounds are your opportunities for meaningful product innovations, and it is here you can innovate. (Read More about Ethnographic Research)

Extracting and Analyzing Research Results

After the research is conducted, you present the findings to the team and discuss how these findings impact previous assumptions or open up new opportunities. You adjust your product goals and develop an evaluation matrix which outlines your business and user goals. The evaluation matrix creates a framework which will become helpful during ideation.


After results are analyzed, the team comes back together for the ideation session. Here, it is important to rid yourself from product and development constraints and develop ideas and scenarios quickly around the topic. The ideas could be useful or completely nonsensical but the goal is to develop as much volume as possible without judging the ideas. As you move beyond the obvious and dig deeper, this is when you often find some true innovative solutions. For a logo development, the rule of thumb is about 100 different ideas. By the end of the session, you have several great ideas and this is when you go back to the evaluation criteria and compare them to your ideas and see which few will have the greatest potential to match closest to the business and user goals. You pick maybe 2 to 3 and start prototyping them.

Prototyping & Testing

There are different ways to prototype. A very early version is paper prototyping. Here, you can create wireframes for your product, review them with your team and have them usability tested. Based on the user feedback, you can adjust the prototype and review with the team. As your prototype progresses and gets validated, you may create an HTML prototype at the same time. Keep usability testing your work – test, adjust, and test again until the users and team agree on a successful product.

Agile and Design Thinking greatly complement each other because they both come from the same understanding that you plan carefully but don’t expect to know everything. You create, you test and you adjust. It requires focus not to lose track of what you set out to do. To hold on to the essence of your product throughout an entire development cycle can be exhausting. One of the bigger challenges is to stay realistic throughout and remain true to the needs of the customers and the business opportunity within it.


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