The Theory and Practice of Design-Thinking

The concept of Design-Thinking (DT) is core to our Masters programme ‘MACE’ and especially to our class Design-Thinking for Start-ups. Design-Thinking, even though once a concept mainly used by design researches, it has come to be used as a new paradigm for solving problems in areas ranging from IT to business (Dorst, 2011). Dorst, in his article The Core of ‘Design Thinking’ and its application, focuses on the usage of this concept in business communities (2011), where we come in as students as we will be starting up our own businesses by solving a problem. In MACE, since the start of the programme, we have been learning how to use DT to solve problems and we did many practical activities. Before I mention one of these activities, understanding the concept is important.

What basically design does is that it solves a problem. According to Dorst (2011), in design and productive thinking, the end result creates ‘value’,


WHAT              +          HOW                           =          VALUE

(thing)                         (working principle)                 (aspired)


rather than ‘justification’, which is the end result of Deduction mechanism. This mechanism is part of the Analytical Thinking equation that is used within the sciences:


WHAT              +                      HOW               =                      RESULT


Moreover, framing is also an important term used to understand the concept of DT, it helps the designer to work around themes and create meaning. Through framing, the problem-solving process gets tackled in a more effective way. In order to frame, identify and solve the problem, we need to go through 5 stages of Design Thinking, which you can find on the Dschool website.


Now, let’s go over these stages. Firstly, empathizing with the users is very important to understand the problem. Sometimes in organisations that have millions of customers, the managers have a difficult time understanding them since they become numbers and data. This happens because they forget how their products are actually used by their customers in real life (Kelley, 2014). If they observe the end users, they have the ability to design the products in a better way that satisfies the users’ needs and wants.


For example, to understand the concept of empathizing, we actually did an activity in class where we had different roles with lacking abilities. The activity was performed by ‘the robot, the deaf & mute and the blind’. These three characters had to go to the bathroom and come back to the class all together. Even though it might sound easy, it was really difficult. The reason was that it was hard to lead and act together if one skill was lacking. Our team was made up of Lulu and I, so we had to choose two of the roles. I was the deaf & mute and Lulu was the blind, so I guided Lulu by leading her. It was hard not being able to talk. However for Lulu, it was harder because she felt insecure with her eyes closed. She was going slowly and checking the space in front of her with her arms. I realised going back to the class was easier for her than the first way, since she started trusting in me. It was a great activity for us to empathise with people who had disabilities.


Secondly, defining the problem is about forming the user point of view using your empathies. Thirdly, ideating means finding many solutions and creating and exploring a range of ideas. Fourthly, prototyping is putting the ideas into a physical form so that the you can emphatize with the user better by using the actual product or experiencing the service. Lastly, testing the prototypes and getting feedback from the users to improve the initial idea.


By using all of these theories mentioned above, in the past weeks we engaged in different prototyping activities. In one of the activities, during a class period, we had to talk to people on campus about their experiences with their shoes and using our findings we had to create a persona. This persona would help us produce the prototype by using his needs and wants and adapting it to the product. Our team; Nora, Lulu and I talked to students on campus and realised that they cared about their shoes a lot, they would pay high amounts for them, so they didn’t want their shoes to get dirty by the weather. We empathized with them by trying to understand how they felt about their shoes. So we came up with different solutions that would satisfy the needs and wants of a person that wanted to protect his shoes. Therefore, the end result was a shoe which would belong to an expensive brand, Chanel in this case, and we made a bag that comes out of the bottom of the shoe to protect it from rain and mud. This shoe would create value for the user since it would be parallel to the users’ motivations. After we presented, the feedback from the class was varied. Even though it didn’t seem like it would become a product in real life, it was creative and logical. So, I believe if it is introduced to the market it would have many users.


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Using the theories we learned in our previous classes helped us go through the design thinking process more confidently. We talked to people, observed, brainstormed and created a prototype in 2 hours with a great team collaboration. I was really happy with my team’s work and I feel like all of the teams did great as well. The theories we were taught gave more meaning to what did and supported us to solve the problem.






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