Introducing Design Thinking: What is it and How Can it Help Researchers?

Introducing Design Thinking: What is it and How Can it Help Researchers?

Design Thinking is an iterative process that designers use to generate design solutions to problems. By understanding this process, you can expand your offering to clients. The next four installments of Monthly Dose of Design will increase your understanding of Design Thinking by covering:

  1. Introducing Design Thinking
  2. Define – Exiting the First Diamond
  3. Develop – Generating Ideas
  4. Deliver – Testing Viability

This month, we’ll tell you about Design Thinking origin and the steps you need to take to turn insight into a design solution. 

What is Design Thinking?

The Design Council developed the Design Thinking process over 15 years ago. Its aim is to help explain a designer’s creative process from start to finish. To do this, The Design Council developed a framework that consists of two double diamonds

Since then, innovation agencies and technology companies have used this process to develop new products. However, you can also use it to generate solutions identified by the insights you’ve uncovered. But to understand Design Thinking, you first need to understand the double diamond.

Understanding the Double Diamond

Each stage of the diamond begins with a stage where you think broadly and explore new possibilities (divergent thinking) and finishes with a period of refinement (convergent thinking). The double diamond’s stages are:

Stage 1: Discover (divergent thinking)

This is about conducting both primary and secondary research, thinking as widely as possible, and collecting as much information as you can. The goal here is to discover problems and areas of opportunity within your area of investigation.

Stage 2: Define (convergent thinking)

The define phase aims to synthesize the information and date from stage 1 and define the problem you’re trying to solve based on the insights you extract. Getting this right is important as this will be the defining goal you work towards.

Stage 3: Develop (divergent thinking)

This stage’s goal is to develop as many ideas as possible regarding how you can solve the problem you’ve defined in stage 2. These ideas should be proposed regardless of their feasibility – quantity and breadth of thinking here is key. Once you have lots of ideas, you need to narrow these down to the one(s) that can best potentially solve your problem. The criteria for ‘best potential’ should be defined based on viability, differentiation/uniqueness, the value it can generate for your client and the speed of implementation. The ideas with the most potential are then carried forward to the next stage. 

Stage 4: Deliver (convergent thinking)

Focusing on your best ideas, you enter the prototyping stage. Here you turn your best ideas into prototypes – a preliminary/initial outline/model of your solution to the problem defined in stage 2. The prototype’s ability to solve your problem is then tested. The learnings from this test are then applied and the prototype is refined and re-tested. This process is repeated until you’re satisfied that your prototype solves your problem.  At this point, the same expertise and tools of researchers used in the Discover stage can be used to gather feedback on the prototype to better refine it. 

Now you understand Design Thinking and the value it can create for researchers. Next time, we’ll explore the Define stage in more depth.

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