Design Thinking & Human Centered Design

read time: 8 min

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a methodology created in the 60’s, to help companies solve
problems in a creative way. It didn’t gain popularity until the 90’s, after the UX term was
disseminate and a company called IDEO which designed the first Apple mouse became
a leader in promoting the HCD – Human Centered Design. Design thinking is based on
thinking „outside the box” and providing creative solutions.

The motto of design thinking is “doing, not talking”, so writing down every detail of a
project is turned into a multi-stage division of tasks extending and specifying subsequent
threads. Design Thinking is an approach to creating new products and services based on
a deep understanding of the problems and user’s needs. Design Thinking is a
methodology on which UCD (User Centered Design) principles can be based. IDEO has
come up with useful set of tools simplifying design thinking – an acronym- hear, create,

Design Thinking is based on the following assumptions:

  1. Hear – focusing on the user, for whom the product is created, what does the user want?
    A thorough understanding of his conscious and unconscious needs. Will the suggested
    solution meet his needs?
  2. Create – associated with long term benefits. Looking at the problem from many
    perspectives, looking for new solutions, going beyond the usual patterns.
  3. Deliver – building prototypes and gathering feedback frequently from users. How does
    the product impact the user/company? Does it strengthen the existing activities of the

According to IDEO Design Thinking is divided into five stages and it helps in creating
valuable products.

design thinking stages
Design Thinking Stages – from

Empathize – The Design Thinking process starts with empathy. The first stage is a deep
understanding of the user’s needs and problems. The key is to recognize the problems and
motivations that influence people’s choices and behaviors. For this purpose, tools such as
empathy maps, ethnographic interviews, user observations, reconnaissance surveys along
with a detailed analysis of the environment and needs in the context of functionality are

Define the problem – At this stage, the team synthesizes the information gathered during
the Empathy Phase in order to define what the actual problem is. This stage requires
breaking down the mental frames and habits that limit the field of view. Defining the
problem can radically change the direction of the solutions sought. This stage can be a
huge challenge, because most people prefer to work on a specific solution right away,
rather than being certain of many possible directions. Defining the problem quickly
narrows the complete picture. It may turn out that the invested money, time and energy
do not address the right problem. Defining the problem can be supported with techniques
such as re-framing the problem, the 5x WHY technique, mapping the problem.

Generate ideas – At this stage, the team focuses on generating as many possible solutions
for the defined problem as possible. This requires not only a strong substantive
background, but above all, courage in creating new, unconventional solutions and
stopping evaluation and criticism of the ideas of other team members. The stage should end with an evaluation and democratic selection of the best idea on the basis of which the
prototype will be created. The basic tool here is the brainstorming process. The main
challenge is to follow the basic rules of brainstorming: propose even the craziest
solutions, do not judge, build on the ideas of others, do not get used to your idea, get rid
of the ego, do not focus on limitations.

Prototype – This stage involves creating a prototype. The most important part is to be able
to visually present the idea to users and quickly gather feedback on the solution.

Testing – At this stage, the selected solution is tested in the user’s environment. First of
all, it is important to define the parameters necessary to meet, so as to clearly define the
result of the test. This stage requires the involvement of many parties and support from
the technical, formal, administrative, and legal side.

Human Centered Design and User Centered Design

The most important aspect of design thinking is to concentrate on innovations
oriented on the human to create practical and useful solutions for the user. Design
Thinking, Human Centered Design
and User Centered Design are often used
interchangeably, however they are not identical. Human Centered Design is a usability
standard based on universal human features as a whole, while User Centered Design
concentrates more on specific users, their personality traits and certain behavior.
Human Centered Design (HCD) – is an approach towards creating interactive systems that
strive to provide usability and suitability by concentrating on users, their needs,
expectations, requirements. This approach increases the effectiveness, efficiency,
performance, provides comfort of use, satisfaction, accessibility, and durability.
User- Centered Design (UCD) – is known as a philosophy in designing, providing
guidelines on the programing development cycle requiring constant focusing on the needs
and limitations of the user in order to create the best end solution.

User Centered Design
Designme- User Centered Design stages

The UCD process always consists of the same elements: research, concept, design,
develop and test.

• Research – Developing in-dept research including benchmarking the competitors,
field studies, focus groups, interviews, also collecting the satisfying amount of
data and observations in order to draw reliable personas.
• Concept – Data collected during the research phase are used to define the scope
of the project, requirements, while the personas define the utility goals and usage
scenario for the purpose of testing which will be conducting using paper
• Design – During the design phase the User Centered Design concept must be
properly shaped. Test involving the users should give the freedom to point the
proper direction of progress and demands.
• Develop – The product implementation must be compatible with the best
standards and rules otherwise the usability of the product might be poor. Not only
the visual part is essential.
• Test – After implementing, the final product must be tested among the focus
groups, questioners in the circle of its users. The testing phase allows to indicate
functional problems and applicate fixes in the next UCD circle process.

The User Centered Design process is an interactive cycle used to measure and evaluate
the initial scope and requirements and allows to ensure the product is developing and
evolving in the right direction.

Design Thinking can be used not only by software companies and corporations, but also
by foundations, colleges, government agencies, and every other company seeking for
innovation, but not by copying and duplicating common and traditional solutions, but by
implementing unique solutions centered on well-defined user needs.

Due to its universal nature, Design Thinking is commonly used while companies are
dealing with “Wicked problems,” that is, problems that do not have a single obvious
solution or rigid structure. These are mostly complexed and dynamic problems that
require an integrated approach that combines competences in the field of technology,
psychology, design, ergonomics, business etc. The goal of this method is to develop and
introduce novel strategies, such as new products, facilities, activities, procedures,
educational programs, and business models. Design Thinking encourages the
advancement of creativity and ensures non-standard solutions regardless of the industry.

share on social media

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Designme is a full-service design agency specializing in providing ui/ux design, branding, development, and hosting solutions for startups, SMEs and brick & mortar stores.

Featured case study

Need help with a project?

Book a call and let’s talk about how we can help you.

Become an agency partner!

Book a call and let’s talk about how we can help each other.

Need help with a project?

Whether it’s an app design, website development, or a brand refresh. Tell us all about it. 


trusted by companies from over 11 countries and counting.

Shopping Basket