What is Design Thinking?

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like… That’s not what design is. It’s not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

Design Thinking is a problem solving technique, used by designers, to find the best outcome for every client. It is a creative, solution based, action focused mindset; and draws upon logic, imagination, intuition and reasoning to explore the possibilities of what could be.


When Design Thinking is applied to the strategy of a business the success rate for innovation dramatically improves. This means design has evolved beyond making objects. Organisations are now learning to think like designers, and apply design principles to the workplace itself.


Design thinking has become the core of effective strategy development and organisational change.

How does it work?

The Design Thinking methodology has 6 stages from identifying a design challenge to finding and building a solution. When you first start it makes sense to follow these steps in a linear way, but ultimately it is a never ending cycle and stages can occur simultaneously.


Stage 1: EMPATHISE and understand the problem.

Begin with understanding of needs and the motivations of the end user. How do you do this? Ask them; speak to people, survey them, look at feedback. Or put yourself in their shoes, if you were them what would you want?


Stage 2: DEFINE the problem and find out as much information as possible about it.

This is the research stage. Collect as much information as possible; anything from historical and contextual information, to competitors, to visual ideas.

As a visual designer I collect visual information. It used to be going through design/art books, collect information and create sketch books. These days I tend to generate secret Pinterest boards for each new project.


Stage 3: IDEATE. Generate ideas, ask ‘How could I manage this situation’?

I love this stage, the brainstorming. There is no right or wrong. All ideas are encouraged and everyone needs to input. Sometimes it’s the ideas people laugh at that lead to the solution.


Stage 4: Create PROTOTYPE and test the ideas out.


Stage 5: IMPLEMENT the chosen product or solution.


Stage 6: Always EVOLVE.

Ask for feedback, this allows you to refine the solution and start the process again. Remember your business strategy must always be evolving.

Design Thinking circular wheel

Design Thinking for work

If you are looking for a new way to approach problems in your organisation try Design Thinking for yourself. It is best done in pairs or a group. Get together some colleagues and tackle problems in the office. Sole trader? Meet a friend for a drink and see if you can look at the problem a different way.


Through the Lakeland Businesswomen’s Network I have helped businesswomen tackle difficult clients, time management, work/life balance, marketing and improved office space.