June 20, 2018   |   4min read

Is Design Thinking the King? Methods & Resources for Every Designer

Design and Design Thinking

What is design? We all know what it does—it improves the quality of life. It’s an indispensable part of our reality and the general awareness of its importance and significance increases instantly. On the other hand, following Don Norman, we all know too, that “Complexity is a fact of life. (…) – it is the designer’s task to make the complex understandable and usable.”

So how to do that? The unstructured actions rarely give controllable results. By contrast, when we reach for the process, the chances to achieve desirable success grow and design thinking in business translates onto measurable numbers. Luckily we get to live in a time where we have a great selection of well-described design processes and methods. Now most of them are pretty mature and are adapted to different areas like Human – Computer Interaction or User Interfaces, service design, visual communication, industrial design and many more.

You are probably familiar with most of the processes and design thinking methodology, but the goal of this article is to point out some interesting free resources to use in your projects.

Group of designers writing plans in a notepad.

What is design thinking?

Let’s start with the most popular one, namely DESIGN THINKING. It is a process for creative problem solving. Its origins lie in the 1950s but it was popularized on Stanford University. Later on it was adapted for business purposes by David Kelly, the founder of IDEO and Stanford school who explains that “Design thinking brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable.” Great piece of explanation, knowledge, methods and design thinking examples can be found in Stanford Dschool resources library. Enjoy!

User-Centered Design, Google Sprints, Lean UX and Disruptive Design

Nowadays there is a fine selection of approaches or frameworks of processes. Although all of them emphasize different process phases, you can learn many design methods to leverage the design effect through each of them. Let’s take a quick look at them:

USER-CENTERED DESIGN was coined by Don Norman in the 80’, but later on, in 2009, it was popularized by Ideo as they designed and launched the HCD Toolkit. It’s another process that makes you put yourself in the shoes of the user and it seems to be closely related to Design Thinking, or at some point perceived as the superordinate framework. The process itself consists of three phases: Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation. Ideo actually released new HCD Toolkit the Field Guide to Human-Centered Design covering theoretical background and a number of exercises along with methods.

A desk full of app plans written on few pieces of paper.

GOOGLE SPRINTS is a very condensed, five days long process based on design thinking, but instead of emphasizing ideation it’s focused more on testing. This sprint-based approach gives a shortcut to learning without building and launching and compresses months into a single week (as it’s promised by the author from GV). They released some video tutorials and more informative resources that can be found on DesignSprintKit.

LEAN UX stands on three foundations: Design Thinking, Agile Software Development and Lean Startup. This process emphasizes product team collaboration and focuses on shipping great UX along with product development. Some explanation or resources can be found on Jeff Gothelf- the author’s -blog.

DISRUPTIVE DESIGN is a method used for activating positive social change through design. It employs Design Thinking among other things as well. It’s based on a three-part process of mining, landscaping, and building systems developed by Leyla Acaroglu. How does it differ, or not, from other processes? Learn about it on this website or become a student of The Unschool.

Hands of designers on the table doing a workshop.

The Benefits of Using Design Thinking and other Design Processes

Nowadays, we have a broad choice of processes and Design Thinking variations. Undoubtedly, each of us, designers, can pick the one that suits our project best. But why to use them? Because they come with benefits—for users, for clients and for the team.

The process:

  • makes you remember about the needs of the end user and guarantees the empathy and understanding
  • allows to bring the stakeholders to the table to unlock their experiences and expertise and to see the problem from different perspectives. That, in the end, increases the value and profit.
  • involves the iterative approach that allows us to achieve better results with each phase of the project.
  • covers some specific methods that force the teams to think outside the box.This in turn increases the chance to create an innovative solution
  • increases chances that the solution will meet the objectives and goals
  • puts your operations in order

See how to engage users
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More… free resources!

It’s always worth keeping an eye on many valuable free resources that are available across the internet. They are often more standalone processes or design methods and tools supporting one of the well-known frameworks. Here comes the list of our recommendations:

  • DIGITAL INNOVATION LAB by Ustwo– this will help you to innovate through the experimentation within your organisation.
  • LEAN SERVICE CREATION by Futurice – combines the Lean Startup with design thinking and agile philosophy. That’s an impressive collection of great templates of methods and tools.
  • PLATFORM DESIGN TOOLKIT – focused on business approach, it will help you design the strategy of a new product.
  • UX Design Methods & Deliverables by – nicely aggregated links to various methods in one Medium blogpost.
A designer writing the design process on a white board.

That’s a huge collection of free resources to make your design even better! Sky (or the Internet) is the limit and we encourage you to benefit from others’ experience and their great contribution to the design community. Now comes the question—what works best for you? Good luck with finding the right answer!

Want to learn more about design process? Read more here.

Karolina Chmiel

Head of Design

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