What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a process that helps to create new Products by studying the Behavior and Motivations of Clients.


It is Similar to the Scientific Method but, focused on Designing new Products or Services.


It consists on 5 steps or stages:

  1. Empathize.
  2. Define.
  3. Idea.
  4. Prototype.
  5. Test.

“Design Thinking” guideline.


* Check our “Entrepreneurship Templates” Page.

  • There is an open Excel sheet with a basic “Design Thinking” process Template.

Design Thinking Process with Examples

We’ll now explain each Design Thinking Process in detail.

  • With lots of Useful Examples.


Let’s begin:


Empathizing is knowing what the Motivations (Insights) and Needs of your Clients are.


Let’s see what is the difference between an Insight and a Need:

Customer Insight

 The Deep and true Motivation that drives a Customer to choose a certain Product.

  • As we explain in our “Customer Insights” Page.


This Motivation refers to a Reason based on Feelings.

  • Instead of the fulfillment of a Technical Need (as we’ll explain below).


Customers are often unaware of what Motivates them to buy certain products.

  • They purchase certain products for psychological reasons that are not obvious.


That is Why Customer Insights are Important and difficult to identify.

Customer Needs

The Lack of something Measurable and Objective.

  • An Practical and Identifiable Need.


Customer Needs are well known by Clients.

  • They are the “obvious” Reason why they buy a Product.
    • “My computer crashed”.
    • “The camera of my cell phone is broken.”
    • “My pants don’t fit anymore”.
    • etc.


However, even if Customer Needs are easier to Identify, there is the possibility of receiving aFalse Positive.

  • Which is a very Common mistake when analyzing Customer Needs.


We’ll give you an example so you understand what a “False Positive” is:

Supermarket Wrong analysis example


Imagine that you are designing a Customer Service Robot that suggests the healthiest items.

  • In Supermarkets.


You then move to a “Test supermarket” and ask its customers:

  • – “Would you like to have a customer service robot that suggests the best items for you?


Everybody answers, “yes” to that question.

But… what a surprise when once installed it, nobody uses that robot.


How is it possible?

  • Because you did the wrong analysis.

If you had analyzed Behaviors you would have realized how useless this Robot would be.


Why? Because it doesn’t fulfill a Real Customer Need.

A Proper Analysis should be as follows:

Supermarket Right analysis example


You analyze how customers decide what to buy and conclude that:

  • 75% have a closed list.
  • They are not willing to buy un-usual things.


Then, you start asking the customers:

  • How many times have you wondered what to buy at the supermarket?
    • – If I doubt, I just check the food Composition list on the package.


  • Are you usually willing to modify your shopping list?
    • – No at all… Just for certain little whims.


  • Would you pay for suggestions?
    • No. I’d use my cell phone, but i would’t pay a penny.


Therefore, you conclude that:

  • People never have any “nutritional” doubt that can’t be solved by checking the package.
  • They are not willing to modify their shopping list.
  • They are not willing to pay for suggestions.

This would have been the perfect Market need analysis:

  • Analyzing Facts.
  • Not Skewing your study.
  • Focusing on Behavior.
  • Not doing badly conducted yes/no questions.



This Product Definition is a “List” of Characteristics that can meet the Needs you discovered in the previous step.


It is important that you don’t apply filters in this Stage since you don’t know where you are going.

  • Or What your final product will look like.


Let us explain what happens if you don’t Empathize and Define properly:

Juicero - Design Thinking example


On 2013, Dough Evans created a company called Juicero.

It was supposed to be “the Nespresso of juices”.


They offered a special machine that squeezed fruit-filled-bags at very high pressures giving “fresh” juice as result.

The point is:

  • Supposedly, these bags could only be squeezed with this special press.
  • Each bag cost over 5 dollars.
  • The machine was wifi-connected in order to automatically buy new bags.
  • The machine cost was 700 dollars.


One day, customers discovered that these bags could be easily squeezed by hand.

  • The machine was completely useless.

And $5 for a juice… was too much.


The main mistake they made was not properly Identifying and Defining the needs of the Customers:

  • Who needs a $700 wi-fi connected squeezer with $5 refillable bags, when you can buy a ton of fresh fruit with that amount of money?


5 moths after the product release, the company went bankrupt.

This example shows that not all that “smells of innovation” is good “per se”.


You have to be sure that you Understand your Customers and What they need.


In this stage you must figure out how to Satisfy your customers.


Everyone loves the Idea stage, but there are 3 things you need to make sure to do properly:

1. Be Realistic.

  • Be prudent. Interpreting the Market is very difficult.
  • You must take into account the current Technology.
    • Don’t rely on future innovations.


2. Don’t innovate just for innovating.

  • Sometimes you just have to improve an existing Product.
    • Think about the example above explained.
  • Innovation means taking risks so, rank your ideas by their feasibility.


3. Don’t lose the Focus.

  • You should never forget that it is not about you, it is about the Customers.
    • Do not get attached to your Ideas and keep your “ego” away.


At this stage, you have picked one or two final Ideas.

Now, it is time to start building them up.


In this Stage, it is important to guarantee 2 things:

1. The prototype must meet the requirements of your Customers.

  • Never forget about the Customer Experience.
  • The prototype must Solve something to your Customers.


2. The prototype must work.

  • It must be a Solid and Reliable Product.
  • Customers should be able to Trust this Product.


Let’s see a useful example to understand these 2 points:

PDA vs iPhone - Design Thinking example


The Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) was the first touchable computer device.

  • There were PDAs with Internet access and different Microsoft packages (Excel, Word, etc).


However, as soon as Apple released its iPhone, PDAs immediately died.



The iPhone:

  • Was Touchable.
  • Had Internet access.
  • Was a phone (obvious).
  • Had different apps.

Apparently, there was “nothing” new a good PDA didn’t have.


What happened then?


Once you had a PDA an iPhone in hand, there was no comparison possible:

  • The iPhone response was immediate, while PDAs were much slower.
  • The screen was not plastic but hard glass.
  • It was not necessary to use a “pencil”.
  • The Internet access was fluid and the interface smooth.
  • There were lots of easy-to-install apps, while in PDAs you almost needed computing skills.
  • …. And it was stylish; with just one button. Nothing else.


The iPhone met the Customer’s Needs with a Solid Product.

This is the perfect example for understanding why is so important to have a Strong Product that meets the expectations of your customers:

  • You may have identified the correct Insights, you may have the best idea… but if you fail in the final product, you have just wasted a lot of work and effort.


Once you have your prototype you have offer it to your Customers for their Feedback.

  • You can offer them a good discount, or a promotion.


But never offer it completely “for free”.

  • Which is a common mistake in food products.



  • Because if you don’t pay for something you won’t be as critical as you would have been if you paid for it.

With this feedback you have to go back to the Prototype, Idea, Define or even Empathize stage, and make some modifications.


The better you have done, the fewer stages you will have to go back.

When should you use Design Thinking?

Whenever you have to Create a New Product or Improve an Existing one.


Approaching a Client and guessing their preferences is a difficult task:

  • You never know how the client will behave.
  • Your cultural background may be different from that of your client.
  • Customer experience can rarely be extrapolated.
  • etc.


Traditionally, companies have been doing try-and-error based on their previous experience without any guidance, but with this Method there is a path they can follow.


So, if you are creating a New Product or you would like to improve an existing one, you should give this Method a try.


Design Thinking is a process that helps to create new Products by studying the Behavior and Motivations of Clients.


It consists of 5 stages:

  1. Empathize.
  • In this stage, you should identify:
    • Customers’ Insights:
      • The deep Motivations that make them to behave or act as they do.
    • Customers’ Needs:
      • Their Objective and Measurable Needs.


  1. Define.
  • In this stage you should:
    • List all the Conclusions reached in the previous stage.
    • Defining potential solutions for them.


  1. Idea.
  • In this stage you should:
    • Start figuring out different product approaches that could meet the requirements of your customers.
  • You should also ensure:
    • Being Realistic.
    • Not innovate just for innovating.
    • Don’t lose the Focus on the customer.


  1. Prototype.
  • In this stage you should:
    • Build feasible final products for your customers.
  • You also must ensure:
    • Fulfill the customers’ requirements.
    • Guarantee a solid working final prototype.


  1. Test.
  • In this stage you should:
    • Distribute your final prototype among potential customers and receive feedback.
    • Improve the final product.

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