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Design Thinking methodology - a practical look at a new trend in education

Learn about the Design Thinking methodology and practical examples of its use in personal and professional life.

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Rafał B.

Design Thinking is the key to innovation in many industries around the world

In the digital age, when technology is evolving at incredible speed and competition on the market is constantly fierce, companies must constantly look for innovative ways to provide customers with valuable solutions. In this context, the Design Thinking methodology is emerging as a light at the end of the tunnel. It is not just another “buzzword” or a temporary trend. Design Thinking is an approach to problem solving that reverses the traditional thought process, putting human experience and needs at the forefront. Instead of starting with technological capabilities or business constraints, Design Thinking focuses on what really matters – the human experience. In this article, we will dive into the fascinating world of Design Thinking, trying to understand its essence, its mechanisms of operation and why it has become a key to innovation in many industries around the world.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is an empathy-based, human-centered process. The methodology is used to solve problems in creative and innovative ways, as it focuses on understanding user needs and providing valuable solutions.
Here’s a step-by-step look at the Design Thinking methodology:

1. Empathy

Goal: Understanding the problem from the users’ perspective.
Conducting research: Interviews, observations to understand user needs, motivations and challenges.
Immersion in the environment: Direct experiencing of a problem to understand its context.

2. Definition

Goal: Identify the main problem to be solved.
Data analysis: Processing the information gathered during the empathy phase.
Formulating the question: Defining a specific problem, based on user needs, to be solved.

3. Ideation

Goal: Generate as many ideas as possible to solve the problem posed.
Brainstorming: Create a wide variety of ideas without evaluating them at this stage.
Idea selection: Selecting the most promising ideas for further development.

4. Prototyping

Goal: Create initial physical versions of the solution.
Building simple models: Create simplified models of a solution that can be tested quickly without regard to the aesthetics of the implementation.
Iteration: Modify prototypes based on feedback and testing.

5. Testing

Goal: Verification of the solution in real conditions.
Conduct user testing: This allows you to understand what the users’ experience of the prototype is and what comments they have about it.
Iteration based on test results: Improve the solution, make necessary changes and retest.
Once the testing process is complete, the project can return to any of the earlier stages, depending on the received feedback. The Design Thinking process is iterative, meaning that each step can be repeated multiple times to improve the final product or service.

Design Thinking methodology stages

Design Thinking methodology stages: 1. Empathy, 2. Definition, 3. Ideation, 4. Prototyping, 5. Testing.
Keep in mind that although the steps described above seem sequential, Design Thinking is a more flexible process. Depending on the specific problem and results obtained, you can go back to earlier steps, skip certain steps or modify them. The key here is flexibility, creativity and a focus on human needs.

Practical examples of using the Design Thinking methodology

Example 1 – Cyclists in search of the perfect pannier

Empathy – a deeper understanding of the cyclist
Empathy is the starting point in Design Thinking. In order to create a product that is truly responsive to user needs, you must first understand the user. Company Z, which specializes in bicycle accessories, doesn’t just focus on the aesthetics of panniers. The design team decides to spend the weekend on a bike tour. During the trip, they talk to other cyclists and find out what is important to them. Some of them complain about the lack of waterproofness of the panniers, some about the difficult closing and unfastening, and others would like more compartments for small items.

Definition – a precise definition of the challenge
The collected information and observations allow to formulate a specific problem to be solved. Company Z defines the problem: “How to create a bicycle pannier that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but most importantly functional, waterproof and tailored to the needs of the cyclist on different types of routes?”.

Ideation – brainstorming and looking for creative solutions
The team is attempting to find as many solutions as possible to the problem posed. Among the proposals are a pannier with multiple compartments, a modular pannier that can be adjusted in size, different methods of closing and opening panniers, or a pannier with a waterproof coating and a special place for electronics.

Prototyping – materialization of ideas
Before a product goes into production, it is useful to create a preliminary, often simplified version. The team creates several different panniers from paper, fabric and plastic. They test them for capacity, functionality and convenience of attachment.

Testing – confrontation with reality
Prototypes are tested in real conditions. Cyclists take the panniers on a trip for several days, and when they return they share their comments. The company learns which elements of the panniers worked well and which need improvement.

After all the tests and modifications, the product is ready to hit the market. But the Design Thinking process doesn’t end with the product launch. Customer feedback received after the launch can lead to further improvements to the product.

Example 2 – Parents in search of the perfect baby strollers

Empathy – understanding the parent’s needs
A key step in the Design Thinking process is empathy. Company Y, known for manufacturing baby accessories, wants to understand what parents really expect from baby strollers. Instead of relying solely on market trends, the project team opts for direct observation. They spend several days in the park, observing parents as they walk with their children. They notice that some struggle when folding the stroller, others complain about insufficient ventilation, and still others would like more space for small items and toys.

Definition – a precise definition of the problem
After collecting all the observations, Company Y defines the problem: “How to create a baby stroller that is easily foldable, airy, functional and suitable for storing necessary accessories?”

Ideation – generating innovative ideas
A brainstorming stage follows, during which the team tries to come up with as many potential solutions as possible. Ideas emerge for: a one-button folding stroller, a stroller with a mesh backrest for better ventilation, special pockets for bottles and toys, and a stroller with an adjustable seat angle.

Prototyping – creating physical models
Before the stroller goes into mass production, the company decides to create several prototypes. Using different materials, they create versions of the strollers, which they then pre-test for functionality and ergonomics.

Testing – feedback from real users
Selected families receive prototypes of the strollers for testing. They use them for a few weeks, after which they share their comments and suggestions. The company learns which features are most useful and which need improvement.

Once the necessary modifications have been made, the cart is ready to be launched on the market. However, remember that Design Thinking is an ongoing process. Customer feedback received after the sale can lead to further innovations and product improvements.

Applying Design Thinking in various fields

Design Thinking is an approach that has become extremely popular in many areas of business, from product design to service development to solving complex social problems. Its versatility comes from the fact that it focuses on people, their needs and expectations.
Below are a few areas where Design Thinking finds its use.
  • Product Design: Design Thinking can help identify user needs, leading to more useful and innovative products. With this approach, companies can create products that actually meet customer expectations.
  • Services: The use of Design Thinking in service design focuses on optimizing the entire customer experience, from the initial contact with the company, to the use of the service, to post-sale support.
  • Education: teachers and educators use Design Thinking to create innovative curricula that are more responsive to students’ needs and to promote creative thinking and problem-solving among students.
  • Healthcare: Design Thinking can be used to design more effective healthcare systems that focus on the needs of patients and their families.
  • Social Problems: Nonprofit organizations and others are using Design Thinking to address complex social problems such as poverty, hunger and lack of access to education.
  • Organizational Development: Companies and institutions are using Design Thinking to improve organizational culture, increase employee engagement and create a more innovative work environment.
  • Technology and IT: Developers, UX/UI designers and digital product specialists use Design Thinking to create apps, websites and other technology solutions that are more responsive to user needs.


Design Thinking is a versatile tool that can be applied to almost any area of life. By focusing on human needs and values, it allows you to create solutions that are more useful, innovative and effective. Whether you are an entrepreneur, designer, teacher or social activist, Design Thinking can become the key to achieving better results in your work.

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