Design Thinking

Design thinking is a human-centric thinking process for a holistic, practical, creative resolution of problems. It uses design and innovation processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analysing knowledge, and positing solutions. As a style of thinking, it is generally considered to be the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyse and fit solutions to the context.

There are five key phases in design thinking

Insight:    To find the deep and meaningful needs through observing and engaging

Define:        Reframe needs and insights into an actionable problem statement

Ideate:         Generate volume and variety of ideas

Prototype:  Visualise possible solutions by creating quick models

Test:            Communicating with users to gain feedback and refine solutions

Design Thinking Visual


Insight is the foundation of a human-centered design process. To develop insights, we:

  • Use diagnostic tools;
  • View users and their behavior in the context of their lives;
  • Interact with and interview users through both scheduled and short ‘intercept’ encounters; and
  • Experience what your user experiences.


The define mode is when you unpack and synthesize your insight findings into compelling needs and insights, and scope a specific and meaningful challenge. It is a mode of “focus” rather than “flaring.” Two goals of the define mode are to develop a deep understanding of your users and the design space and, based on that understanding, to come up with an actionable problem statement: your point of view. Your point of view should be a guiding statement that focuses on specific users, and insights and needs that you uncovered during the insight mode.

More than simply defining the problem to work on, your point of view is your unique design vision that you crafted based on your discoveries during your inisght work. Understanding the meaningful challenge to address and the insights that you can leverage in your design work is fundamental to creating a successful solution.


Ideate is the mode during your design process in which you focus on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes—it is a mode of “flaring” rather than “focus.” The goal of ideation is to explore a wide solution space – both a large quantity of ideas and a diversity among those ideas. From this vast depository of ideas you can build prototypes to test with users.


Prototyping is getting ideas and explorations out of your head and into the physical world. A prototype can be anything that takes a physical form – be it a wall of post-it notes, a role-playing activity, a space, an object, an interface, or even a storyboard. The resolution of your prototype should be commensurate with your progress in your project. In early explorations keep your prototypes rough and rapid to allow yourself to learn quickly and investigate a lot of different possibilities.

Prototypes are most successful when people (the design team, the user, and others) can experience and interact with them. What you learn from those interactions can help drive deeper insights, as well as shape successful solutions.


Testing is the chance to refine our solutions and make them better. The test mode is another iterative mode in which we place our low-resolution artefacts in the appropriate context of the user’s life. Prototype as if you know you’re right, but test as if you know you’re wrong.

[Adapted from Standford University Dschool Bootcamp Bootleg toolkit]