“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

- Joseph Campbell

What is Design Thinking?

What is Design Thinking?

There is a lot of talk in the design and startup community these days about the “design thinking”? But what is it? How does it work? And how can we benefit from it?

Some consider design thinking a methodology, while others consider it a philosophy. The one thing that everyone tends to agree with, however, is that design thinking is a systematic approach to solving problems and creating new opportunities .

The design thinking approach can be applied towards any field and purpose. For example, this approach can help to restructure an organization, create a new product, brand or customer experience, or take a business to the next level.

What Are Some Common Design Thinking Mindsets?

Last week, we attended a presentation on ‘design thinking’ by Manuel Garzarón, a multifaceted mechanical engineer and creative entrepreneur. He highlighted that design thinking is based on several mindsets:

1. Have a vision of the future.

Don’t base your ideas on past work, but rather innovate based on your vision about the future. Let your scenarios of the future guide your thinking.

2. Seek inspiration.

Find an inspiring place to think and work with a stimulating environment. Also, begin to surround yourself with things that inspire you and begin to seek inspirations in everyday life.

3. Acknowledge uncertainty.

It’s important to understand that you won’t know all the facts in the beginning and that your thought process may very well fail. However, answers may come later through seeing how people use your product/idea/business.

Manuel shared an example of a Japanese garden that did not have any trails. The idea was for visitors to walk freely without a pre-set path, thus they could naturally create the trails themselves. This is acknowledging that uncertainty exists, but still managing to function.

4. Learn by doing.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and don’t overthink things. The best way to learn is to put your ideas into practice. If you have an idea, just do it and see how it turns out.

5. Think with your hands.

This means that you shouldn’t be stuck in your own head all the time. When you have an idea, you should do whatever you can to grasp it and understand it as a tangible concept. Get your ideas out of your head as soon as possible, whether through prototyping, sketching or talking about them.

6. Go visual.

Create visual aids to better convey the information you have. Visual aids are also helpful for your users to see your ideas more clearly.

7. Fail often, fail early, fail cheaply.

Don’t be afraid to fail! At some point, you probably will experience failure and it will only enrich your design thinking process. It’s actually better to fail early so as to avoid wasting too much of your time and budget.

What is the Design Thinking Process?

The regular innovation process consists of these steps:

  1. ideate
  2. define
  3. design
  4. develop.

These steps need to be managed in a linear fashion in order to innovate within an organization.

Meanwhile, the design thinking process is based on 5 stages:

  1. empathize
  2. define
  3. ideate
  4. prototype
  5. test

They are not called steps because design thinking does not assign any order to how they should be followed. Rather, design thinking embraces the multi-dimensionality of a creative process and we are free to refer to the stages in the way that suits our workflow or thinking process best.

As a consequence, the design thinking approach opens us to more ideas and creates more choices. It is then for us to manage these ideas by making choices. It’s a diverging and converging process as opposed to the linear innovation process:


You will probably find these steps also familiar, as they have been part of the product development cycle for years. What design thinking does is simply bring together the best practices of user experience, agile development, iterative development, user testing, prototyping, multi-disciplinary teams, and creativity.

It gives us a framework to solve problems and spur innovation in a systematic way.

Here are further good reads on Design Thinking…

How to create a good packaging design brief

How to create a good packaging design brief

10 Things to Keep in Mind When Creating a Website Design Brief

10 Things to Keep in Mind When Creating a Website Design Brief