Design Thinking

Design Thinking, in short, is a human-centered way of thinking where creativity and innovation are at the forefront.

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This way of thinking is based on the design framework. It is very different from our normal way of thinking. Normally, our way of thinking is towards being a little more reasonable and rational. He tells us that in cases where we need to produce solutions, we should go the more known and risk-free path. Our normal way of thinking is the one we are used to. We have been familiar with this way of thinking since primary school. In business or social life, people behave reasonably and do not go beyond their molds. 


Design thinking goes beyond the normal way of thinking. We must realize the concept of Design Thinking to evaluate the events differently and to offer more creative solutions. We can explain the difference between normal thinking style and design thinking style as follows; for example, we are digging an oil well. In this context, if I dig deeper into the same hole to extract more oil, it would be a normal way of thinking. In a design-oriented way of thinking, I try to increase my chances of finding oil by digging wells in more than one area. I focus on developing possibilities and trying different methods. That's why design thinking; is a style of seeing alternatives and being open to possibilities. 

4 Dimensions of Design Thinking

Although the concept of design thinking is popular today, it dates back to the 1970s. So, how did the concept of design thinking come about? In the 1950s / 60s, creativity techniques were developed and new concepts related to designing emerged. This led to the idea of ​​developing a specific method. There is a need for a general problem-solving framework for designers and all other professional groups.

American engineer and scientist John Arnold used the concept of design thinking for the first time in 1959. The most famous of John Arnold's work is his book "Creative Engineering". In this book, Arnold talks about 4 dimensions of design thinking;


New Functionality

It is to produce a solution for a new need. It is about solving an undiscovered need or developing a new solution to an existing need.


The Achievement of a Solution to Higher-Performance Levels

It is said that a superior level of performance can be achieved with the resulting solution. 


Lower Production Costs

All effort is focused on cost reduction. Increased salability is targeted.



Covers all types of incremental and radical innovation.


Another name that has made significant contributions to design thinking is Rolfe Faste, an American designer working at Stanford University. Rolfe Faste worked in the 1980s / 90s and taught this work to others in informal ways. In 2005, Stanford University started teaching the concept of design thinking as formal education. This is one of the reasons why the concept of design thinking has become so popular and thus design thinking has become a major trigger of innovation.

4 Benefits of Design Thinking

  1. Allows us to empathize with our potential customers or target user audience. 
  2. It helps us to question the assumptions and conclusions and to reflect on the other party's assumptions. 
  3. It improves our ability to generate alternative ideas.
  4. Regarding the application, there is a constant trial/error in the prototype and test stages, that is, the questioning process continues. 

Questioning and being able to go beyond assumptions is not something that we normally do. As human beings, we have some assumptions and we act on these assumptions. Therefore, it can be very difficult to get out of our thinking patterns. Because of the thought patterns we create, we cannot achieve too many creative and innovative looks.

Why Is Design Thinking Important?

We acquire thought patterns later. We learn many patterns from birth. These thought patterns can take the form of very simple activities such as learning a language. Thought patterns can cause us to fall behind in situations we will encounter in the future. It can be difficult for us to go beyond the molds. For example, experience is always very important in business life. Job seekers know how important experience is. If someone has little experience, they make attempts to gain experience. However, companies also tend to hire experienced employees.

The main reason for this is that you don't have to think about everything from start to finish when faced with any problem. Thought patterns and experiences enable us to take faster steps in solving problems. Although these two concepts are important, when we look at them in terms of creativity, it is necessary to go beyond these patterns. It will be very difficult for people who have taken the same action for many years to go beyond the molds.

So why should we go beyond thought patterns?

If we explain this with a story; A truck gets stuck trying to pass under a low bridge. The truck can neither go forward nor backward. So the truck driver gets off and asks for help from the people around. People around call the fire brigade. As a result, traffic gets stuck in the back of the truck and creates problems.

Engineers and experts come to the scene and everyone tries to solve this problem. There is chaos and many experts, but still, the problem cannot be solved. Some say, "Let's remove some parts of the truck so maybe the truck can move." some said, "Let's trim the lower part of the bridge." but none of these suggestions are successful. Meanwhile, a child passes that road. He looks at the road, the bridge, and the truck and says, "Why don't you deflate the tires?" he says. Experts look at the child in amazement. They deflate and test the tires and this solution works. 

As the story suggests, the solution doesn't always have to be complicated. Sometimes it is also very important to be able to think simply.

Design Thinking Implementation

Since Design Thinking is innovation-oriented, it is a concept that is widely applied in the field of innovation. Companies constantly try to develop new products and services because innovation increases the level of competitiveness. In this process, design thinking is very important in terms of understanding the needs of the customer, evaluating these needs, and developing solutions. Design Thinking is at the forefront in all areas of R&D and innovation.

Emphasis should be placed not only on developing a new product and service but also on changing the existing order or organizational structure. Businesses focus on goals such as establishing correct communication with customers and keeping the creativity of employees high and have problems in these matters. In this sense, it is necessary to develop the organizational structure, and for this, Design Thinking should be carried out. 


Normally, everyone has a specific working time. Every employee also has specific duties. There is a different application built on it. This application is implemented by Google and 3M companies. They change the order related to the runtime. They give employees the right to work on the project they want 20% of their time, and thus the employees enjoy the job more.

As a result, internal motivation rises. When people work in the field they enjoy, they become more creative. With the change of working order, 3M develops the "Post-it" product that is used all over the world. At Google; He says that applications such as Gmail, Translate, and News emerged in this 20% time frame. This practice is completely unorthodox. It completely changes the thinking pattern and leads to positive results.

5 Stages of Design Thinking

Design thinking does not consist of logical and sequential stages. "After you do step X, you go to step Y." There is no such thing as a thought. In this context, there are many stages between 3 and 7 items, but the most accurate ones are the stages revealed by Stanford University.

According to Stanford University, design thinking has 5 stages;


It means communicating with, understanding, observing, and gathering information about users or customers. This includes understanding feelings and thoughts. It is necessary to observe constantly. The whole effort here can be seen as a research process. Before generating an idea, it becomes necessary to try to understand the subject. Being able to enter the lives of customers is also very important in this context.


After defining a problem, synthesis and analysis come into play. At this stage, the result is checked. The main purpose here is; to diagnose and describe a situation. 


One of the most important issues is to be able to generate many ideas, to be able to see creative solutions out of the box and to try to be creative to develop them. The process of generating ideas is more of a mental process. It can be used with creativity techniques. In the process of generating ideas, design thinking does not offer a method on its own. There are many ways people can be more creative and at this point, these methods should be applied. Creativity is not an easy process, so it is necessary to work with techniques in the idea management process. 


We aim to find the best solution in this process. We choose the applicable solutions from the existing solutions and try to evaluate them. Prototyping can be implemented on a specific or random team within the company. The key here is to create an environment where we can experience viable solutions.


It is a process based on establishing a clearer idea of ​​the product that customers would like to buy. 

There is no order of the above steps. In the testing phase, I can conclude or describe a problem, which can get me back to the empathy phase. It is necessary to make constant transitions between the stages. It is also necessary to have flexibility.

Design Thinking Examples

We see a lot of Design Thinking in real life. The concept that enabled Airbnb company to achieve its present success is design thinking. 

In 2009, Airbnb could only make a turnover of $ 200 a week. Therefore, they both could not earn money and had to spend their resources. So they came to the brink of bankruptcy. Airbnb, which was at the Y Combinator incubation center at the time, did a study to solve the problem. With this study, they started to examine the advertisements they published.

They thought of people's reasons for not applying to Airbnb. The common point of the ads was that the photos were amateur. After reaching this conclusion, they developed a simple method like Design Thinking. Joe Gebbia, one of the founders of Airbnb, started visiting postings in New York and took pictures of the houses with a professional machine. After doing that, their turnover doubled and they were successful. 

If we give an example of another application carried out within the company; In company, employees have the opportunity to take a week's trip when they are just starting work. On this trip, they are asked to produce solutions for some problems. The aim here is to be able to evaluate events from different eyes. One of the designers is expected to work on the 5 stars awarded during the evaluation. In his evaluations, he realizes that the star is cold to people and changes the star with the heart. Even this simple realization provides 30% efficiency in the business area. 


In short, we can say that start-up companies such as Airbnb apply the design thinking process very well. Positive results will emerge, especially with the training provided by the mentors in the incubation centers.