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What Is Design Thinking and Why is it Important in 2024?

Written By Zainab Aftab | Last Modified On April 22, 2024

Every art or content creation requires critical thinking to convey its message correctly. Similarly, software designs need design thinking to propose innovative solutions for customer problems through design. But What makes design thinking so unique? Why do some of the world’s leading brands, like Google, Apple, and Samsung, use a design thinking approach?

Design thinking is a set of processes that designers use to add value to their design creatively and innovatively. These solutions help designers to make improvements in prototyping and testing. Read this blog to learn what is design thinking and how it has become essential to implement in the upcoming year.

Definition of Design Thinking

Design thinking is an ideology that focuses on solving complex problems with user-centric strategies and helps you to avoid web design mistakes. It has evolved from engineering, architecture, and business, which is why it can be used in all design-related fields. You can also apply it to maximize output in your software development life cycle (SDLC).

Design thinking is a solution-based approach because it supports solving user problems by touching their pain points and providing value. It requires interacting with design problems through an understanding of human emotions. Designers must observe these emotions with empathy to better understand the problem and find the best possible solutions.

Read more to learn what exactly is design thinking.

What Is the Purpose of Design Thinking?

Now you must be wondering that when there are already so many design approaches that are trending, why do we need design thinking? What purpose does it serve? We are here to clear up your confusion about that.

Design thinking is not just a process it’s a collaborative way of thinking where different mindsets collab. It has the following purposes:

  • To have a deep interest in understanding the customers for whom you design products and services.
  • Develop empathy with target customers.
  • To tackle problems that are ill-defined or not adequately known.
  • To question assumptions and implications regarding the problem.
  • To engage in continuous experimentation through prototyping and texting.

Main Difference Between Solution-Based and Problem-Based Thinking

Let’s learn about the difference between solution-based and problem-based thinking. Solution-based thinking revolves around the result of a possible solution to solve a business problem. In this approach, you focus on your goal and progress backward.

On the other hand, problem-based thinking is focused on fixing the obstacles and issues which frequently arise in your business. In this approach, people work in groups to solve an open-ended problem and collaboratively devise a solution. It is a constructive approach that promotes active learning in teams.

Although both terms focus on different goals, you cannot choose which is better. It depends on the type of problem you want to resolve. Design thinking is, however, based on problem-based thinking. This is why it requires collaboration among the design team to evaluate a problem and find its best solutions critically.

How Should You Start Design Thinking?

To implement design thinking in your UI/UX design projects, you need to understand its basics and stages. But first, we will tell you about the three parameters involved in design thinking.

  • Desirability: What do people want or desire from the product?
  • Feasibility: What can be possible to create with the given resources/solutions?
  • Viability: What is likely to be effective for your business sustainability?

These are the main questions that you have to answer before getting right into the design thinking process. It is essential to understand the desirability of your audience first, then move on to checking whether your strategy is feasible for your business or viable for it.

“We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.”― Donald A. Norman, Living with Complexity

Before moving on to the 5 stage design thinking process, learn about the market and research your audience. This will help the team to start from the same point.

What Are The Five Stages Of The Design Thinking Process?

Design thinking encourages you to think outside the box. You must go through the design thinking process to think differently and creatively. What is the design thinking process? Well, it is a simple process with five stages. Read in more detail below.

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

1- Empathize

As it is a human-centered design, you must put people’s emotions first. Empathize with your audience by determining their priorities for the design. What features do they want? What problems your target group is having with your design? Ask these questions because then you will have quantitative data to support or debunk your assumptions about the product.

2- Define

Now that you have analyzed the market and have a proper understanding of the problem, define problem statements. Create a persona around the problem to help you better understand it. After defining the problem, you can move on to the ideation stage.

3- Ideate

Now it’s time to brainstorm ideas for the solution to your problems. You already have well-supported assumptions about the issue at hand. But now is the time to think outside the box. Here you will use the information and knowledge gathered about the problem to search for ideas.

4- Prototype

Then the experimental part begins. You have a list of plausible solutions at this stage, but you have to choose the best one. For this purpose, you will use prototyping. You can make different dummy versions of your product with distinctive features to try each one out in the next phase.

5- Test

In the last stage, you will test each prototype. However, this is not the final stage because design thinking is iterative. Your results might cause you to redefine the problem. You might have to return to the previous stages as well. But you can have successful testing, giving you a hint of which direction to move forward.

Why Is Design Thinking Important?

The reason why design thinking is critical is that it has helped in solving many business problems, and it can be used in any industry. It helped big companies like Toyota, SAP, and IBM to solve their complex design-related problems. It breaks down complex problems into simpler parts. As there is massive competition in the market, design thinking is essential to know how to respond to globalization and the growth of technology.

Moreover, this approach makes customers the highest priority, which is the need of businesses today. A design-driven culture evades the differences between physical and digital experiences. You can also optimize your business processes through design thinking by knowing what is feasible for you to achieve and economically viable but also fulfilling your customer’s requirements.

10 Key Benefits of Design Thinking at Work

Now that you have a complete idea of “what is design thinking?”, let’s move on to the benefits it provides you. We have a list of 10 main benefits which you gain from design thinking:

  • Opportunity to View Problems From Different Perspectives
  • Innovative Thinking and Creative Solving
  • More Informative and Effective Experience
  • Increase in Knowledge
  • Final Outcomes Meet Customer Requirements
  • Easy to Determine the Root Cause Of a Problem
  • Easy to Predict New Problems
  • Careful Testing
  • Adds Value to Offerings
  • Usable For Public Institutions

1- Opportunity to View Problems From Different Perspectives

Different opinions arise when different designers sit together to ideate on a problem. Designers put themselves in their customer’s shoes to learn what they want. Everyone views the problem from an entirely different perspective. Therefore, you can formulate a better solution targeting customers’ needs.

2- Innovative Thinking and Creative Solving

Design-thinking professionals become innovative thinkers, meaning they think outside the box. It offers everybody on the team a chance to present their ideas that are creative and innovative. Each idea is assessed based on viability and resource allocation. In this way, you can fill the potential gap in your design.

3- More Informative and Effective Experience

As a teamwork setup, information exchange among members makes it more effective. Everybody learns from each other’s ideas and then thinks thoroughly about them. Not one leader is responsible for making the final call, but everyone has their input. It keeps team members on the same page and gives them a direction to follow throughout the project.

4- Increase in Knowledge

With different people in the same work environment exchanging their thoughts, designers get to increase their knowledge. They must also research the market before jumping into the design phase. Therefore, they are well-informed about the trends. And at the end, everyone gets to learn something from one another.

5- Final Outcomes Meet Customer Requirements

This approach uses prototyping, which means you create a product that has undergone numerous rounds of testing and client feedback. You don’t deliver a product but deliver value to customers by keeping their goals in mind. Your design aligns with the vision behind the product and portrays it well. Also, your customers have a considerable role in finalizing the design.

6- Easy to Determine the Root Cause Of a Problem

One of the most significant advantages of this approach is that you get to figure out the root cause of the problem. You can conduct focus groups, hold one-on-one interviews, and conduct surveys to research the problem more in-depth. It helps you to define it better. When you define the problem, you can quickly identify its root cause.

7- Easy to Predict New Problems

Another significant advantage of this problem-based thinking approach is that it makes designers aware of the potential problems that might arise further in the development. Through observations of customer demand and trends, designers are already aware of changes in customer behavior patterns. Therefore, you can find potential solutions immediately if a new problem arises.

8- Careful Testing

Testing is an integral part of the design phase. Usability testing of a software product plays a crucial role in its success. The benefit of design thinking here is that it helps you to carefully analyze every aspect of the design through different testing methods. You can even identify the minor flaws that could create significant problems after the launch.

9- Adds Value to Offerings

In this approach, you are creating a product or service design and adding value to each aspect. Your goal is to create a unique customer value to differentiate a company’s offerings from its competitors. This leads you to build a premium brand image by aligning with customers’ needs and offering them quality.

10- Competitive Advantages

The last main advantage of design thinking is that you can achieve a competitive advantage in the market. How is that done? As you are collaboratively ideating on a problem and finding perfect solutions, you are one step ahead of your competitors. You are offering your customers what they exactly want, which many companies fail to do because they focus on marketing and advertising. The key to a customer’s heart is giving them what they desire, not manipulating their buying behaviors.

These were all the natural benefits that the design-centric approach has to offer. It is up to you to use it to optimize your processes or stick to traditional design methods.

What Is The Value Of Design Thinking In The Market?

Design thinking has become a rising trend in the market. The reason is that it minimizes uncertainty and risks associated with innovation. As it involves prototyping to test and refine concepts, it becomes easier to understand how to deliver value to customers. It generates insights through real-world experiments, which helps companies to create a strategy that stands out in the market.

It delivers businesses value and a proven ROI which is why more and more user-centered businesses are demanding design thinking. Harward Business Review and Forbes have also written about the benefits of design-centric culture. It is believed that design thinking provides a competitive advantage to businesses. Therefore, design thinking is a new way forward for designers in the foreseeable future.

Relationship Between Design Thinking and UX Design

Design thinking is a management strategy for delivering creative design, whereas UX focuses on making better products and services through different techniques. UX is more tactical, but design thinking is more conceptual and strategic. Also, design thinking can be applied to a range of industries.

But the exciting thing is that you can maximize your output if you use design thinking in your UX design projects. UX design needs a user-centric method to prioritize their needs and make their experience with products delightful. To achieve this, UX designers should apply design thinking in their projects and improve their processes. Both design methods go well together and keep designers up to date with the latest trends.

Read also about 18 Tools to Measure, Quantify and Optimize the UX

Applications of Design Thinking

Following are the fields in which the design thinking approach can be applied to achieve better problem-solving and creative product design:

  1. Information Technology (IT)
  2. Healthcare
  3. Business
  4. Education Sector
  5. UX design
  6. Value engineering
  7. Public Institutions
  8. Social Organizations
  9. Visual thinking
  10. Graphic Design
  11. Digital Design
  12. Automotive manufacturing
  13. Advertising
  14. E-learning


This article helped you figure out what design thinking is and why it is essential for businesses. It is critical to note that if you are a UI/UX design company, design thinking is the approach you should choose to deliver quality and solve complex tech problems. Applying this approach is not difficult as it is a simple 5 stage process.

Companies not already using this method can easily convert to design thinking. The best part about it is that it encourages collaboration among team members, which is a significant part of the design process. It is also a substitute for a lean and agile approach. We hope this article made you understand this term better and you will be able to apply this approach in your design projects.


What are the Four Principles of Design Thinking?

Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer of Stanford University’s Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design have derived four principles of design thinking:
Human rule
Ambiguity rule
Re-design rule
Tangibility rule

Is Design Thinking a Non-linear Process?

Yes! Design thinking is not a linear process but an iterative approach. It is non-linear because it does not have a sequential pattern of stages.

How to Do Virtual Design Thinking?

Virtual design thinking is done in a remote setup. It should be done in the following steps:
Conduct research and form insights.
Ideate and prototype.
Evolve and test ideas.
Implement the plan and launch.

Is It Difficult to Apply Design Thinking?

It depends on the type of setup and whether design thinking is challenging to implement. If a team encourages collaborative effort, then everybody can easily adjust. But when different minds come up with different ideas, it’s hard to get everybody to agree on one solution. Otherwise, design thinking is a fun and straightforward approach to use in your projects.