Explore the fundamental principles of design thinking and learn how this user-centered approach can help your company innovate and creatively solve problems. Discover the key steps of the design thinking process and learn best practices to adopt for improving the user experience.



4 minutes read

Table of contents

A project ? A question?

Leave us your contact information and one of our experts will contact you shortly

Design thinking is an approach that allows you to find solutions to problems, to innovate by putting people in the course of your strategy. It is based on the following principle : using the approach of a designer to respond to an innovation problem. 

But where does this concept come from? Has its very principle evolved over the years? What are the steps and benefits of this approach? We will try to answer all these questions in the rest of this article. 

Where does Design Thinking come from?

Nobody can really define the exact creation date of Design Thinking. However, the idea that design is a discipline in its own right began to be defended in the 1960s and 70s in the United States. 

Researcher and Nobel laureate Herbert Simon defends the idea that design is not just the concrete work of giving shape to physical objects but a way of thinking. It is an abstract work of thought that solves complex problems. 

In the 1980s, a new generation of researchers appeared focusing more on the actual practice of designers than on design as a science. During this same period, the American cognitive psychologist Donald Norman, focused on the notion of “user-centered design”, one of the fundamental principles of design thinking. 

The 90s marked a turning point. This is the beginning of the democratization of this concept. The prestigious Stanford University and the design agency IDEO formalize design thinking. We are now talking about an innovation process comprising different stages and many tools. 

At the same time, Richard Buchanan, professor of design, management and information systems, defines four major areas of designer intervention : visual communication, material objects, organizational activities and services, complex or environmental systems. 

Finally, from the 2000s, design thinking began to spread on a large scale in the United States and then in Europe. He works in various fields such as business, education and social innovation. 

What is Design Thinking?

In French, design thinking means “design thought” or “design spirit”. To put it simply, it is a method, a vision of work that is supposed to make it more efficient through its innovative process. 

By drawing inspiration from the methodology of designers, everyone is allowed to be creative and to be an actor in the innovation process at several stages. This approach makes it possible to solve the most complex problems using collective intelligence as a basis, even in sectors traditionally far from design. 

Design Thinking combines both process, methodology and state of mind. This is why it is not easy to define it.  

Even today, the methods of applying design thinking are varied even if they all stem from a common approach. 

The Different Stages of Design Thinking

Depending on the method chosen, there are different stages in the application of design thinking. Here we will focus on the two main ones.

Stanford University d.school

One of the founders of IDEO, David Kelley participated in the creation of the d.school at Stanford University. This school breaks down Design Thinking into a five-step process

Empathy  : the empathy phase corresponds to a total immersion in the skin of its consumer. This is an essential phase to which you must give as much time as possible. Nothing is more important than understanding the world in which your target lives, the problems they may encounter and the questions they ask themselves. 

Empathy towards the user, being able to put oneself in their shoes is a foundation at the heart of the Design Thinking approach. 

We can meet him, in the form of an interview for example. The goal is to interview them in order to know their way of life, their thoughts, their feelings and their opinions. 

Definition : here is a key step for the smooth running of the rest of the method : the definition of the problem. 

The basis of Design Thinking is not to start from an idea but from a problem. We must therefore ask ourselves and define exactly what the problem is. In order to develop an innovative offer or service, it is essential to define the exact problem encountered by its consumers. What are the limits of his experience? What frustrations can he encounter? And especially how to reverse the trend? 

Idéation : ideation is one of the most creative phases. It’s time to give free rein to all these ideas even the most wild ones. 

Design Thinking is sometimes only summarized by this stage. Although important, it will only work if the two previous steps have been applied. So make sure you have a well-defined persona and problem. 

For this phase of ideation we can bring together all the teams: marketers, designer, developers, engineers… 

It is necessary to form a team with various functions in order to think of all the angles of an idea. Once the team is assembled, the best known and used way to let these ideas flow is brainstorming. 

The ultimate goal of this workshop is to find the best possible solution to the problem, in terms of feasibility, viability and desirability. 

Prototypage : with the prototyping stage, it’s time to bring your project to life. For this, it is important to model all the possible options for the realization of this project.  

Designers who are prototyping professionals can use all kinds of software to show a tangible project that can be understood by everyone. There are different kinds of prototypes. Whether it is the digital prototype, physical prototype, experiential prototype, the objective is to make the project a reality.  

Test: Finally, the last step in the process consists of carrying out tests of the solution found directly with its users. It is with the return of these that we can correct and review our priorities. This user feedback allows you to see any problems and see if the project really holds up.  

It is necessary to remain in a benevolent and curious posture with regard to its consumers. This is the time to take their feedback into account to assess the situation and react accordingly. 

Rolf Faste

We are now going to discuss the 7 stages of Design Thinking according to Rolf Faste. Director of the Design Product section of Stanford University, he was the first to see the Design Thinking process formalized. 

The Benefits of Design Thinking

Step 1 : the definition
This phase corresponds to the definition of the problem. It makes it possible to locate and identify the problem, from there arises a problematic.
Step 2 : the research
This second step consists of bringing together all the teams from the different professions involved in the project in order to seek as many ideas as possible. This phase will also generate insights.
Step 3 : brainstorming
The goal of this step is to exchange all the ideas that come to mind with all employees. The objective is for everyone to bring their stone to the building. This is an opportunity to discuss and seek solutions together.
Step 4 : prototyping
The prototyping stage is, as the name suggests, the time to create a prototype. With the help of sketches and diagrams, these are the first drafts of the project that comes to life.
Step 5 : the selection
The selection is a very important phase of the project since it is a question of making a choice on the different ideas mentioned above. What is the most innovative idea? The most viable project? The most profitable? All aspects of the project must be taken into account to arrive at the best choice.
Step 6 : implementation
The implementation mainly consists of writing an action plan to have an organized and global vision of the project.
Step 7 : learning
This last step collects user feedback following their familiarization with the product or service. This feedback will make it possible to see if the project responds well to the problem found and to identify areas for improvement.
Previous slide
Next slide

As you will have understood, design thinking is a method that brings together many advantages. It boosts creativity within your teams. Companies using this work technique often achieve more creative and innovative results. 

The workshops set up during the different stages of the process make it possible to create links between all the project teams. Everyone takes part in the project and brings their ideas, this organization is rewarding and increases team cohesion. 

The very principle of empathy, testing and adjusting your project again is at the heart of the Design Thinking methodology

Having to constantly put yourself in the shoes of your users to understand their habits and desires also means working first through the human side of innovation. The company therefore works with more empathy 

Why is the Notion of User at the Center of the Concept?

But then one might ask why focus the user so much on the concept of Design Thinking? Quite simply because it is to increase its chances of adoption of the product or service by it. 

The user knowledge phase is often set aside or relegated to the background because it is considered obvious and therefore acquired. 

However, it should not be forgotten that the project will be faced with competition and that developing a product in total expectation of the one of its target is essential. This helps save time and money. 

Design Thinking for Innovation

Design thinking is a key element of innovation. It provides a structured, user-centered approach to identifying opportunities and generating new ideas.

By understanding users’ needs, desires and limitations, design thinking helps generate solutions that are adapted to these needs and can be innovative.

It also encourages experimentation and testing, which validates new ideas and reduces the risk of failure. This iterative process allows teams to quickly identify and discard unworkable solutions and refine and improve viable ones.

One could say that design thinking provides a framework for innovation by focusing on user needs, generating new ideas and validating them.

This approach allows teams to create solutions that are not only innovative but also useful and valuable to users.

Did you like this article? Share it!

Discovers more VASPP articles


Découvrez nos solutions VASPP et les nouveautés SAP !

Nous n'avons pas pu confirmer votre inscription.
Votre inscription est confirmée.