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A Simple Guide to Design Thinking

It doesn’t matter if you are an engineer or an artist by profession – everyone has an inner designer within their hearts. Being a designer is far more than just creating intricate logos or visuals for a business or a start-up. It englobes a whole process of creation and complex problem-solving, all centred around the user. We believe that a simple guide with actionable steps can help out anyone to think like a designer. It all comes down to breaking down complex thoughts into comprehensible steps that anyone can follow and create personal works of art. Design thinking and marketing go hand-in-hand. Writers are unable to create good content for designers without understanding the thought process behind it. Let’s get right to it and see how you can guide your thinking towards creativity.

The Principles of Design Thinking

what is design thinking

Before breaking down the whole process of design thinking, it is worth having a look at the four principles that all design activity should follow, as described by Christoph Meinel and Harry Leifer, from Hasso-Plattner-Institute of Design at Stanford University, California:

The human rule: no matter its purpose, all design activity is social in nature. This means that any social innovation will ultimately bring you back to the human-centric point of view.

The ambiguity rule: Meinel and Leifer believe that ambiguity is inevitable and that designers must preserve this ambiguity, by experimenting at the limits of their knowledge and ability, to see things differently.”

The redesign rule: because basic human needs remain unchanged, no matter how much society changes. This means that all new design is, actually, redesigning the way people fulfil these needs.

The tangibility rule: prototypes are a way of making ideas tangible, for designers to communicate them more effectively.

Following these principles, the design thinking process can be broken down into a few different steps: deconstruct, ideate and create.

Below, you will find a detailed analysis of these steps.


design thinking definition

Designers often have to deconstruct things around them when they create new design pieces.

It doesn’t matter if you are interested in poster design, book covers or industrial design – everything starts with deconstruction.

Find your favourite logo, your childhood picture book or any other item at your disposal.

Try to break it down into its primary components by following a few simple thought processing steps:

  • What is the item made of?
  • Is it made out of wood, out of pixels, or maybe even paper with printed colour?
  • What are the common geometrical shapes, curvatures, and angles that repeat all through your item? If there are none, why is your item asymmetrical?
  • Why is it made in this way in particular?
  • What did the original designer think while they made this item?

Keep in mind that you should write down any thoughts and solutions you come up with in your deconstruction.

Briana Baird, a blogger and content contributor at Canada-Writers, spoke about constructivism in content recently:

“Every good article started as another already-existing article. Learning from our past experiences as content creators is just as important as focusing on the future. We can find inspiration and lessons both in our own work and the work of our peers.”

Designers often look at works of other creators, marketing agencies, popular brands in search of inspiration.

Creativity and originality are simply combinations of existing components that no one thought of yet.

Don’t be shy to get silly with your responses and findings, because those are the most valuable ones you will come up with.


process design thinking

Ideation can often be paralleled with brainstorming. There are different ways in which you can brainstorm ideas based on the first step of your design thinking process. For example, try to put all of your deconstructive findings onto a piece of paper. Add in any elements that are relevant to your own project and try fitting them together.

You can do this in several ways, and some of these include:

Mind mapping – Place your keywords and phrases onto the centre of a paper. Start mapping out different branches that correspond with their keywords. Once you have sufficiently branched out from the centre, start combining your newly found words into even more creative solutions.

Brainwriting – Look at your deconstruction findings and grab a piece of paper while you’re at it. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind while observing those findings. Brainwriting is often called a “brain dump” for a good reason – there are no rules for right or wrong answers.

Coach brainstorming – Find a friend or a colleague that is willing to help you out. Coaching is a process in which someone asks you rapid questions in regards to an issue you face. For example, this can be the creative process you are currently working on. Tell someone to ask you questions in regards to your design thinking, the project you are working on and the terms you are brainstorming about. It usually takes around 3-5 questions for someone to come up with an “a-ha” solution to creative issues, so don’t give up prematurely!


brand design agency

Many professionals will tell you that the creation process of your creative design thinking is the easiest step to follow. You will need to use software such as Adobe Photoshop, online tools such as Canva or even your favourite notebook for a start. Combine everything you have come up with, sketched and ideated about in previous steps. Choose the technique you will use according to the later application of your design project. For example, if you are creating for the sake of creation, notebooks, sketchpads and other drawing materials will suffice. Design software is needed for any creations you want to print, publish, distribute and retouch afterwards.

Creation is the most exciting and most rewarding part of design thinking, which is why it will make you want to go back to step one and create something else entirely.

Why does Design Thinking matter?

Simply following the process of Design Thinking is not enough to deliver quality content. For this, you must understand why Design Thinking is so critical and why this approach brings so many benefits. To begin with, Design Thinking encourages creativity and sparks innovation. Humans rely mostly on knowledge and experiences and, in time, they create patterns to help them solve certain situations. These patterns can limit the way you see things, especially when it comes to problem-solving. Design Thinking helps break those patterns and consider alternative solutions. To some, it often seems like the healthy, neutral ground of problem-solving, as it combines both analytical thinking and science, with intuition and emotions. Design thinking has a way of putting humans first, by focusing on empathy and encouraging businesses to focus on the real people, the consumers who use their products or services.

This leads to creating more meaningful user experiences, which can only attract consumers even more.

In other words, it can be viewed as a win-win situation. Consumers benefit from more useful products that actually have a strong impact on their life, while businesses can maintain customers happy and attract others along the way.

When it comes to shaping the products or services that a business puts on the market, including Design Thinking into the process can bring tremendous value and benefits to the company:

Reduced time-to-market: having a new approach on problem-solving can reduce the amount of time spent on developing the product

Cost savings: successfully bringing products to the market faster also cuts costs and improves ROI

Improves customer retention: by following a user-centric approach, you can boost user engagement and develop a loyal customer base


design thinking definition

Everyone should nurture and practice their design thinking.

Just because there are professionals who work in the graphic design and art industry doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to contribute.

Larry Allison, an independent journalist, and editor for TheEssayTyper, had this to say on the matter:

“You never know when the next creative spark might go off. It’s important to follow through on your ideas no matter what background you come from. The chances are that you have a lot to say that others might find interesting.”

Many successful freelancers often work in seemingly unrelated niches as a means to pay the bills, only to come back home and design for a living.

Follow this simple guide to design thinking and try to apply it daily – soon you will notice the improvements in your results and will want to pursue the matter further.