design thinking process

How I use the Design Thinking process

My work methods are hands-on and very structured. I work according to the 5 stages of the Design Thinking process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. Design thinking is a process which seeks to understand users and create innovative solutions.

Design Thinking - Empathize

1. Empathize

I always start off with a conversation with my client (face-to-face or via phone). In this conversation I try to gather as much information as possible. For example:

- What is the purpose of the business;
- Who are the main target groups;
- What are the unique selling points of the business;

Next, I will conduct research on what I can find about the business, competitors, target group behaviour etc.

Design Thinking - define

2. Define

Once I gathered enough information, I will analyse my observations and process them to define the core need(s) of the business. My clients customers are always the central point of attention when the needs are defined.

The outcome of this stage will be used as input for the ideation phase, to make the created ideas fit for the purpose of my clients business.

Design services by Marlies

3. Ideate

This is where the magic happens! By the time I reach this stage, I have gathered all the information I need to start creating. My mind is full of ideas that I will put down on paper. I usually start with sketching, because putting the basic pen to paper for me is the best way to visualize my creativity.

With a logo or graphic design, I make many different sketches and iterate upon them. With a website, I will sketch setups of web pages and how they would link to the other pages. I create several customer journeys and think of what pages should be on the website.

At the end of this stage, I will have many concepts that can be taken to the prototyping stage.

Design Thinking - prototype

4. Prototype

In the prototype stage I will select the best ideas from the Ideate stage and use them to create several digital designs for testing and evaluation.

For graphic images I use Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign to make my creations. For websites, I design mock-ups of the web pages and visualize the customer journeys that can be experienced by visiting the website.

Design Thinking - test

5. Test

Here the design options are presented to my client and evaluated by them and their customers. The goal is to get as much feedback as possible, so that this can be used as input for the detailing of the prototypes.

Design Thinking - finalize

Iterate / Finalize

Depending on the feedback, I will go back to one of the previous stages or I will proceed to the detailing and creating a final design.

Design Thinking is not a linear process and there is always room for changes or adjustments throughout all the stages. And my clients can become part of the design process as much as they’d like.
In the end, the result will be something that fully represents my clients business and speaks to their customers.

How the Design Thinking process brings focus

So, that’s how I use the Design Thinking process in my work. It helps me bring focus to the target group. And that subsequently brings focus to the overall user experience of my designs. However, it can sometimes also be hard to keep structure while constant changes occur in the process. In my blog about Scrum I explain more about how I keep structure, even when changes are needed along the way.