A while ago we explored the difference between design thinking and design feeling, and focused on the ways in which these two differed from each other. To quickly recap, design feelings ultimately differs from design thinking because it emphasizes a design process that is based on emotion and intuition, as opposed to design thinking which relies on thought, logic and strategy. While the two do differ in their understandings and even execution, perhaps there is more in common between the two than one would think. In this article, we are going to dive back into that topic to explore what exactly design thinking is and how it is carried out.
Design thinking is a concept that first emerged in the 1970s when Herbert A. Simon stated that design, in and of itself, is a specific way of thinking. A science. Much like science, design thinking helps provides us with a process of questioning. This process of questioning is what allows us to create new and innovative ideas by investigating and exploring the various ways a problem can be solved. It also, like science, is an iterative process that requires ongoing experimentation in order to yield results. And much like science, design thinking is driven by an organized and rational set of guidelines for how to carry out these experiments (scientific method, anyone?).
Design thinking usually consists of 5 steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.
Often times the goal of the effective design is to help solve a problem. How do you expect to be able to solve a problem if you cannot empathize with the person who is experiencing it? Being able to have an empathic understanding of the problem is crucial to being able to not only identify, but understand the users' pain points, therefore being able to effectively address them. Empathic understanding is typically gained through conducting some form of user research in order to identify the pain points ahead of time.
Just as it is important to understand why something is a problem, it is important to be able to state what that problem is. Defining the problem helps create a clear end goal of what it is your team is working to solve. Once again, defining the problem is done through conducting some form of user research and analyzing that data in order to define the specific problem(s) at hand.
This is the idea of forming, creating, and brainstorming part of the design thinking process. Through creating an empathic understanding and defining the problem, now you can begin to think of ways to solve that problem. This is the chance to think outside of the box. What is something new and innovative that could effectively solve this problem?
During the prototype phase, you are creating various different prototypes in order to investigate the various ways it can be solved. These prototypes can be a scaled-down version of the product or specific features of the product that you are testing.
Once you have created your smorgasbord of prototypes, it is time to begin testing them to figure out what the best solution for that specific problem is. This is where the trial and error comes in.
While the execution may vary between the ways in which design thinking vs. design feeling are carried out in the world of UX, the goal of both remains to create an authentic, innovative and seamless user experience. Placing human experiences at the center of the design process is essential for creating a good user experience, regardless of whether your design process focuses on a more rational, thought process or emotion based, intuition. Both design thinking and design feeling are crucial to being able to figure out what the users really need- and how we can give it to them.