Design Thinking Models and Processes

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that focuses on empathy, experimentation, and iteration. It has gained significant traction in the fields of corporate innovation and startups due to its user-centric focus, which leads to better product and service development.

Design thinking fosters a culture of experimentation, collaboration, and adaptability, which are essential for driving innovation in both startups and established companies. By placing the user at the center of the process, organizations can develop products and services that genuinely address user needs, thus increasing the likelihood of market success.

Variations of Design Thinking processes

Design Thinking Process Comparison (by Arizona State University)

There are several design thinking models developed by different organizations, each with its unique approach and emphasis. Here are the most popular ones:

  • Stanford model: The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, also known as the, has developed a widely recognized model of design thinking. It consists of five stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. This model emphasizes empathy, experimentation, and iteration as keys to successful innovation.
  • IDEO model: IDEO, a global design company, has its design thinking process that closely aligns with the Stanford model. Their process includes three overlapping spaces: Inspiration (gathering insights and understanding the problem), Ideation (generating ideas and exploring possibilities), and Implementation (prototyping and testing the solutions).
  • IBM Enterprise Design Thinking model: IBM’s approach to design thinking emphasizes collaboration, rapid iteration, and alignment with business goals. Their model consists of three main principles: focusing on user outcomes, iterating and learning through continuous prototyping, and aligning the process with business priorities. The key activities in IBM’s design thinking process include hills (defining the goals), playback (sharing and getting feedback), and sponsorship (securing support from stakeholders).
  • Google’s Design Sprint model: Developed by Google Ventures, the Design Sprint model is a five-day process aimed at rapidly prototyping and testing ideas. The process includes five stages: Understand (mapping the problem and defining the challenge), Sketch (exploring solutions), Decide (choosing the best solution), Prototype (creating a testable prototype), and Validate (testing the prototype with users).
  • British Design Council’s Double Diamond model: This model focuses on dividing the design thinking process into four distinct phases: Discover (research and exploration), Define (identifying and framing the problem), Develop (creating and refining ideas), and Deliver (testing and implementing the solution). The Double Diamond model is so named due to its emphasis on divergent and convergent thinking during the design process.
  • LUMA System model: The LUMA System is a framework for practicing design thinking that includes 36 human-centered design methods organized into three key areas: Looking (gathering insights), Understanding (analyzing and synthesizing information), and Making (envisioning and creating solutions). The LUMA System encourages users to mix and match methods depending on the specific needs of their projects.

Each of these design thinking models has its unique approach, but they all share the common goal of fostering user-centered innovation, collaboration, and experimentation.

Problem first, solution second: The benefits of the Double Diamond

Double Diamond Design Thinking Process (Adopted from The Design Council)

While it might be subjective to claim that the Double Diamond model is the most advanced among design thinking models, it certainly offers some unique aspects and advantages that make it stand out. Developed by the British Design Council in 2005, the Double Diamond model addresses the design process through four distinct phases, which are visualized as two diamonds representing divergent and convergent thinking.

Here are some reasons why the Double Diamond model is considered advanced or particularly effective:

  • Clear distinction between problem and solution space: The Double Diamond model emphasizes the importance of first exploring and understanding the problem space (Discover and Define) before moving on to the solution space (Develop and Deliver). This separation encourages designers to spend sufficient time on understanding users and their needs before jumping into ideation and solution development.
  • Emphasis on divergent and convergent thinking: The model’s visual representation of two diamonds highlights the importance of alternating between divergent (expanding and exploring) and convergent (focusing and refining) thinking throughout the design process. This approach ensures a balance between creativity and practicality, leading to more robust and innovative solutions.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: The Double Diamond model is adaptable to various industries, project scopes, and contexts. Its four-phase structure can be easily customized to suit the needs of specific projects or organizations, making it a versatile design thinking framework.
  • Encouragement of iterative refinement: The Double Diamond model promotes the iterative refinement of ideas and solutions by cycling through the four phases multiple times. This approach allows for continuous improvement and helps to ensure that the final solution is both effective and user-centric.
  • Comprehensive approach: The Double Diamond model covers the entire design process, from research and problem definition to ideation, prototyping, and implementation. This comprehensive approach ensures that all aspects of the design process are considered and integrated, resulting in more holistic and effective solutions.

While the Double Diamond model offers these advantages, it is essential to remember that the success of any design thinking approach depends on the organization’s ability to adapt, customize, and apply the framework effectively. In some cases, other models like Stanford’s, IDEO’s, or Google’s Design Sprint might be more suitable, depending on the organization’s culture, goals, and project requirements.

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