Design Thinking Process
(Re)define the problem
Design never ends
users & the design
D I V E R G I N G C O N V E R G I N G
Design Thinking Phases
(Re)defining the problem asks you to simplify the visionary
challenge into a more differentiated problem statement. By (re)
defining the problem statement from the users perspective,
you are able to focus on unanswered and specific areas during
the needfinding phase. Framing what your team seeks to ‘un-
derstand’ enables you to generate interview questions and to
come up with places for observations that seem promising to
understand the problem statement. Through constant and crit-
ical reflection, the problem statement needs to be redefined
as insights that provide new directions.
Design Space Map
»» Establish a common understanding of your challenge
»» Formulate key questions and discuss important aspects
»» Keep modifying and expanding your map throughout your project
»» Treat your map as a visual record of how your project evolves
»» Revisit this map from time to time, so your team stays aligned
Experts | Skeptics | Fans | Extreme Users | Lead Users | Non-Users |
Mis-Users | Early Adopters | Innovators | Followers | Laggards |
Customers | Partner Organizations | Competitors | Suppliers
Who should we talk to?
Who can we learn from?
Where can we find them?
Ask, listen, observe and engage! Understanding the people
you are designing for is the foundation of human-centered
innovation. By observing and directly engaging with users, your
team learns about the way people think and the values they
hold. Gaining empathy enables you to discover the emotions
that guide peoples’ behavior and helps to capture physical
manifestations of experiences. This allows to sense intangible
meanings of user experiences and define latent needs. These
insights evoke user-centered inspiration for ideation and
»» Do desk research to get a first deep dive into your
challenge (read articles, blogs, forums regarding your
topic and look at your company’s website, …)
»» Identify sources of inspiration
»» Explore emerging trends and market opportunities
»» Constantly share your research with the team (Diigo.com)
»» Print out important numbers, quotes, and findings to
share your desk research within the team
»» Update your Design Space Map accordingly
How To Become An
How To Interview
Shortly introduce yourself. Tell the interviewee that you are interested in
their experiences regarding your topic.
What do you like about coffee (example topic)?
Have you had coffee today? How was your experience? How did you buy
it? How was the provided service?
Can you describe your most memorable coffee experience? What
If you would design the ultimate coffee experience, what would that be
Choose one who is leading the interview while the other is documenting
Encourage storytelling: use open-ended questions like “Tell me about…”
Always ask why! (“5 Whys”)
Do not skip to a new topic before you’ve exhausted the current one
Capture memorable quotes to illustrate your findings
Look for inconsistencies and non-verbal clues (body-language, tone)
Expand your notes as soon as possible after each interview
Keep in mind: there might be a gap between what people say and what they
How To Engage
Self Test and Self Documentation
»» make first-hand experiences and walk in the
shoes of your customers
»» engage in things and activities that people
»» do typical activities of your stakeholders
»» use empathy tools
Tips Don’t lose the balance between objectivity and subjectivity. You
are still the design team and not the target group
Empathize without judgment!
What are the
ities they go
Activities Environment Interactions Objects User
What is the
function of the
What is the
nature of inter-
What are the
have in their
Who is there?
What is their
A E I O U
Distinguish interpretation from observation
Don’t let your expectations affect your observations
Look for anything that surprises you, that you may find irrational,
that makes you question your assumptions, that prompts shifts in
Take field notes, photos, videos, audio recordings
Try to picture the scene from different perspectives
Capture everything (notes) you experience, see, hear, feel, and taste
After the observation - print pictures and put quotes on post-its
Share the observations with your team
What To Observe II
CONFUSION. Watch the users’ facial expressions. A confused look
signals an opportunity to make the experience more intuitive.
EXHAUSTION. Notice moments when people must work too hard
(even if they don’t realize it) as they seek to solve their problem.
PAIN POINTS. Look for moments that are actualy unpleasant or
annoying. You will see it in the users’ facial expressions and body
APPROPRIATION + WORKAROUNDS. Pay attention to adaptations
and the use of a product for a new/different purpose.
SKIPPED STEPS. If users skip a step, it might signal that they
don’t need, want, or understand the value of that step.
What to lookfor duringobservations
Synthesis is orientation and is therefore giving direction. After
engaging with users it’s time to transform your data into in-
sights. This is a difficult mental task to work out what connects
to what, which ideas are more outliers on their own, and which
concepts tie to the core of the design challenge. By looking at
your findings, try to link similarities, contradictions, exceptions
or patterns. Common themes provide inspiration for new,
improved prototypes which solve uncovered user needs. The
process of focusing your needfinding and testing data enables
you to create a shared understanding and team knowledge.
Share your findings with your team!
Share them while they are fresh. Which
stories/behaviors are most intruiging?
Listen actively! This helps to identify first
patterns and repeating themes.
Look for patterns, repetitions, exceptions.
Group notes together that form a theme.
Find titles for each cluster and phrase
insights. Insights extrapolate individual
stories into overall “truths”.
learning about your
user that you wouldn’t
have assumed before
I saw I know Insight+ =
Venn Diagram 2x2 Matrix
THINK & FEEL
What really counts, major preoccupations,
worries and aspirations
SAY & DO
Attitude in public, appearance, behavior towards others
What friends, boss, or
Environment, friends, what the
Fears, frustrations, obstacles
Wants/needs, measures of success
I need to...
Common needs …feel respected
Context needs …confirm the validity of my work
Activity needs …get feedback at the end of a project
Qualifier needs …talk to my project supervisor
demographics like age, education
needs and tasks
goals and aspirations
behavior, bugs and likes
Name & Picture
Point of View (POV)
User + Need + insight = Persona
Ideation is the mode of generating a large quantity of diverse
ideas. Mentally, it represents the process of “going wide” which
enables to explore a broad solution space. Brainstorming is a
renowned method to come up with a lot of ideas. It leverages
collective thinking of your team by engaging with each other,
listening, and building on each others ideas. Generating ideas
based on specific user needs and insights provides the fuel
and source material for building rapid prototypes in order to
get relevant innovations into the hands of your users.
DEFINE GOALS & STATE THE PROBLEM. Start by defining a clear,
concise statement that explains the purpose of the session. Make sure
the problem statement isn’t too specific as this can limit creativity.
IDEATE INDIVIDUALLY. Instead of immediately shouting out ideas in a
group setting, allow to generate ideas individually for a fixed amount of
time. Then come together, share and build on each others ideas.
CATEGORIZE AND SYNTHESIZE. It’s crucial to move forward with the
ideas that you generate. Categorize common themes and decide on
evaluation criteria that allow you to identify the most promising ideas
for prototyping and testing.
Go for quantity
Encourage wild ideas
Build on the ideas of others (Yes, AND...)
Stay focused on topic
Build to think! Prototypes are tools to have a conversation
around. Prototyping gets ideas and explorations out of your
head into the physical world. A prototype can be anything that
takes an experienceable form – a role play activity, a paper
wireframe or even a sketch or storyboard. Creating quick,
low-resolution prototypes allows your team to test assump-
tions early and learn without investing a lot of time and money.
Rapid prototypes also enable to refine ideas together with the
user and gain deeper empathy, by allowing people to interact
with a tangible version of your vision.
Prototyping is a tool to deepen your understanding of the design space and your
user, even at a pre-solution phase of your project. Identifying a variable to explore
encourages you to break a large problem down into smaller, testable pieces.
»» Paper prototypes
»» Customer Journey
»» Graphics and interface mock-ups
»» Role Play
»» And many more
»» RIGHT. Think about the goal that is to be
reached with the respective prototype.
Consider which aspect the prototype is
to represent and what is an appropriate
method for creating this prototype.
»» RAPID. Turn your ideas quickly into low
cost and effort prototypes.
»» ROUGH. Get things built fast and cheap,
a scribble or artefact not looking pretty,
to see what people think by testing your
»» FORM - “looks like”. This relates to size,
proportions, aesthetics or ergonomics of
a product or service.
»» ACTION - “works like”. This relates to the
functionality or interplay of components.
BEHAVIOR - “behaves like”. This
embodies the interactivity with the user.
»» CONTEXT - “has a relationship to”.
This relates to the situation-dependent
use (action + behavior).
One question, one prototype
Build fast, before overthinking your idea
Stop before it’s perfect
Cannibalize as much ideas as possible
Don’t fall in love with your prototype
Always build and share more than one prototype
Create to provoke and persuade
Break rules, laws and facts
Testing is the chance to refine solutions together with the user.
It is another opportunity to gain empathy through observa-
tion and engagement and often yields unexpected insights.
Testing is the mode in which the low-resolution artifacts are
put into practice by placing the prototype in the appropriate
user context. Handing over a prototype into the users’ hands,
observing how they interact with it and listening to what they
say, allows your team to discover new insights and gain deeper
understanding of hidden user needs.
SHOW, DON’T TELL. Communicate your vision in an impactful and
meaningful way by creating experiences, using illustrative visuals, and
telling good stories.
COLLABORATE TO INNOVATE. Bring together innovators with various
backgrounds and viewpoints. Enable breakthrough testing insights in
order to allow solutions that emerge from the diversity.
EMBRACE FEEDBACK. Testing is not simply a way to validate your
idea. We test to learn. Not only do we not get the solution right, but we
sometimes also fail to frame the problem correctly. Testing inspires to
reframe and focus your point of view.
Arrange your feedback and draw a mini-synthesis in order to decide what to
take further into your next iteration.
Feedback Capture Grid