Product design is more than just a single process. It is a flow of processes starting from the identification of the market opportunity to a clear definition of the problem and the design of possible solutions to address identified problems.

However, for product designers, it is essential to understand that the concept of design thinking forms the very basis of the design process. It encapsulates all the methods and ideas used in human-centered design in just one concept. Fundamentally, design thinking aims to optimize the available resources from the designer’s toolkit to address the existing need.

One of the things that have helped great product designers is their ability to apply design thinking in the product design process. Design thinking helps focus on end-to-end product development rather than just the design phase.

In thinking about products or solutions, product designers must understand the objectives of the business and consider three primary factors;

  • The problem you are trying to solve.
  • The people directly affected by the problem.
  • Your specific goals.

5 Stages of Design Thinking

1. Define Objectives

Before setting out on a project, it is crucial that you clearly outline the objectives of the design project. Outlining the goals of your project would help you throughout the design process. Once the overall aim of the project is known, you and your team can begin to set smaller goals and put necessary metrics in place to help you monitor your progress through the project.

Once you have a user persona of your potential users, try to concisely create a point of view based on the needs and insights of these potential users.

2. Research and Empathize

Try to get more information about the people you are designing for. If possible, carry out extensive studies to design a user persona for your proposed product. By understanding the users of the product, you can get a clearer perspective on the solutions that your design should provide. This ultimately would help your product be valuable.

In this research process, one common way that is often suggested for use is ‘working backward’. Working backward helps you see things from the point of view of the user right from the beginning of the project. The process involves working with target users from the beginning of the project backward till you get all the information you need.

Use this approach when coming up with new products or adding new features to an already existing product. However, it is vital to be careful when using the approach, so you don’t miss out on some basic things in the design process.

3. Ideate

Once you have gotten all necessary background information, the next step is to come up with as many creative solutions to address in line with the needs and objectives of the project. By generating a lot of potential solutions, you have a lot of options to choose from when streamlining these options later on.

Also, in the event that you have to present this idea to a client before going on, having many ideas can help you impress the client and give them multiple options to choose from.

4. Prototype

Once you have come up with ideas for your design, you can then create prototypes for these ideas. These prototypes allow you to fully assess the workability of your idea and any possible adjustments. Also, the product is not yet final. This phase is another opportunity to look out for any existing flaws in your design. This is why you should pay close attention to this stage.

If you can come with a successful prototype of your design, then you are ready to go to the next stage.

5. Test and Validation

This is where you finally validate your design based on the prototype produced. With a successful prototype, you can go on to assess the product in line with the stated objectives and the problem it solves.
Always ensure that you get the necessary feedback from users of your product. This would help you input essential improvements in your product from time to time.

Advantage of Design Thinking

The major advantage of using the design thinking approach to problem-solving is that it increases the chances of success. This is because design thinking helps focus more on understanding your user’s needs and the most efficient ways to meet these needs.

The Design Process‍

After fully understanding design thinking, the next step is to fully explore the process. The design process is the series of steps involved that product designers and their teams follow in coming up with a new product from start to finish.

Defining the process also helps you properly plan timelines and stay on schedule. However, just as mentioned earlier, the necessary steps involve: Defining the product vision, carrying out essential research and analysis, coming up with ideas, going into the design proper, and lastly, the testing and validation stage.

In all, while there are tools like Plant, that make the process of product design easier, design thinking remains a vital skill for product designers. Beyond just being able to use the tools, you must understand the basis of each action and how to come up with efficient solutions. This is what truly helps you stand out as a product designer.