Design thinking is described as a systematic approach to problem solving that has its roots in business and starts from considering the needs of the clients or customers. Most challenges faced by individuals or groups of people require solutions that are grounded in the specific needs of these individuals or groups, so it’s unfortunate that many designers focus all of their attention on improving the look and functionality of a product. Design thinking also addresses the product or service appearance and structure, but first carefully addresses the needs of the people who will consume them. It is an extremely is a human-focused process, relying on the design team to construct ideas with emotional meaning as well as functionality. Instead of CEOs and behind-closed-doors conglomerates making big decisions on behalf of people they don’t know, businesses are beginning to use design thinking by working closely with the clients and consumers for more effective and innovative solutions.
According to IDEO, design thinking is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. These spaces are inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Inspiration can be thought of as the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions, ideation as the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas, and implementation as the path that leads from the production into people’s lives.
During the inspiration space, the brief is created. The brief gives the project team a framework from which to start, marks to measure progress, and objectives to be sought after (What are we trying to do? Who are we trying to do it for?). Then, the design team seeks to discover what their target audience’s needs are. And this is where many teams falter – they use focus groups or surveys, which only ask people what they want. They don’t lead to innovation. Instead, proponents of design thinking suggest designers go out into the world and observe the actual lives and experiences of stakeholders. Working with cultural guides, being immersed in a community, shadowing locals, and utilizing homestays are great ways to build credibility and understanding within a specific group of people.
During the ideation space, the team will synthesize what they saw and heard. They will discuss insights that could lead to opportunities for change and design solutions. These might be product ideas, or new ways of creating interactive experiences. The more choices and the more diverse the group of people involved in the process, the better – while more options and collaboration may decrease efficiency, it will lead to innovation, better ideas, openness and curiosity. As Linus Pauling put it, “To have a good idea you must first have lots. They’re creatively disruptive. They provide a whole new solution to a problem many people didn’t know they had.”
During the implementation space, the best ideas that were discussed during ideation are formed into a fully thought out action plan. Prototypes are made, tested, and refined. Through prototyping, the design thinking process can catch unforeseen challenges and consequences for the sake of reliable and long-term success. This part of the process is especially important when creating products and services for lesser developed areas, because the lack of systems in place make it harder to design new and innovative products and services. After prototyping is finished, the design team creates a communication strategy. Storytelling through multimedia helps communicate their solution to a diverse set of stakeholders.
Airbnb, a well-known company that allows people to both host and be hosted in their own homes, was on the verge of failing in 2009. Revenue dropped to only $200 per week, and the three founders decided to do some research to find out the problem. The overarching issue? They hadn’t been using design thinking. They realized that one of the major issues was the lack of quality images for the listings posted on their site. So, they decided to do something about it – they rented a camera, visited hundreds of listings, and replaced the poor images with high quality ones.
After doing this, they understood that their business model was not human centered. And since what they were trying to do – match real people with real homes – is incredibly human centered, this was a problem. Now, they focus on putting themselves in the shoes of an Airbnb customer. Each new employee will begin their job with a two week trip, staying in multiple Airbnb listed homes. This way, they can understand the struggles of customers, and figure out how to improve their company based on customer wants and needs. After using design thinking and making a decision to focus on the humanity that truly runs their company, Airbnb took off.
For my project in this course, I am going to be focusing on the experience one has in an airport. I’m not entirely sure of the direction I will be going, but I know that I want to increase the feeling of humanity in either an airport or airplane, because of the emotional experiences I have in and through them. Each and every person travels through an airport and sits on a plane for completely different reasons – some exciting, some devastating, some in-between. I believe that most people, including myself up until this past year, are extremely individualistic when it comes to airports. We’re so focused on getting from point A to point B as quickly and as easily as possible that we forget about the other passengers. The man that was just pushed to the side by a woman in a hurry to get through security? His mother just passed away, and he’s on the way to her funeral. The child who won’t stop crying? He’s extremely ill, and there’s nothing his parents can do about it. Airports and airplanes are often emotional places, and I want to make each person’s experience a more positive and simply human one. Because everyone has such different reasons for travelling, I hope to make something that can apply to a wide variety of people and experiences. And because this will be incredibly human-centered project, I will need to use design thinking to make the process incredibly human-centered as well. I will have to observe people in airports, looking at what they do, where they go, how they look, and how they act, even asking questions about why they’re travelling. I will have to draw upon my own experiences in airports, and ask a wide variety of people about their own. Possibly, asking flight crew and TSA members about their experiences with the passengers and travelers.
Pankaj. “How Design Thinking Transforms the World and Lives of Millions. Ikoniq. N.p., 3 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
Mugadza, Grace. “Systems Thinking and Design Thinking: Complimentary Approaches?” Systems Thinking World Journal. N.p., 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
Brown, Tim, and Jocelyn Watt. "Design Thinking for Social Innovation." Stanford Social Innovation Review. Stanford Graduate School of Business, Winter 2010. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.