Does design thinking works?

Here’s come to another week. Last week, we have talked the role of audiences and designers have changed. Let’s discuss more detailly of the role of designers this week.

Most of the people think that designer is kind of gracful career with freedom of creativity, and this might also be one of the reason explaining why I chose the field. In fact, is the field allows creativity?

I used to do design following my own thought, when I think it is a good idea, then I will make it real. Obvously, this is not working when you are doing design for commerical purpose. In the commerical world, every moves and lines the designers must be explaned to who you are doing for, and therefore, understanding what the user’s needs are of vital importance for product service design.

Designers nowaday may easily get turned down by the client if they don’t empathy their needs. I guess this is the reason why companies like Apple, Nike and Goodle are shifting the role of designer from craft to design thinking.

Design thinking is somehow a controversial issue, as some says design thinking is a strategy for Innovation while some says it kills creativity. Design thinking is all about human-centered and empathic. Design thinking is a science-based approach which changed the way you tackle problems.

In design thinking, it develops into five stage:
1. Empathy – to empathy the needs of user
2. Define – define a problem and turn it into design challenge
3. Ideal – brainstorm idea to tackle the problem
4. Prototype – try to make some mock up
5. Test – use the mock up for experiment and see if the idea is works

Even though design thinking takes time to research, and the steps may need to repeat and repeat until the best solution come up, but it allows failure. In the article written by Kolko,J., he talks about the principles of design thinking:

A set of principles collectively known as design thinking—empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them—is the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture. (-Kolko, J., 2015. Design Thinking Comes of Age.)


As spoken, it is a controversial method, to whom said that design thinking is not working, might think that a big chunk design thinking is actually about social science thinking, and in fact, designers are remarkably solipsistic, and not caring if the users are using what they created.

Design thinking is no doubt killing designer’s creativity. Take functional shoe as an example. Functional shoes are usually not fashionable, but it does fulfill the needs of user. What I mean is that in this commercial society, what designers can do maybe is to look for extraordinary in ordinary.

Recently, I have read an article on how AirBnB succeed by using design thinking.(check out the article here:

How AirBnB started (Photo via Pinterest)

The AirBnB user base is quite diverse, therefore AirBnB cares about user’s experiences and insight. AirBnB research team gathered date from 100 quantitative surveys and one-to-one interview, ending up with a tree structure-like taxonomy of reasons why hosts say no, in order to match certain user profiles to prevent conflicts. Imagine what if a group of party animals are trying to book the quiet apartment of an elderly couple?

Important elements that makes AirBnB (photo via Google)

Design thinking helps AirBnB to communicate to a large users, like providing hosts with more detailed information about the guest to make them comfort, this is why AirBnB succeed.

I am not saying design thinking is the only way in the future, but in the commerical world, it always works. Simply because it allows more  understanding of the problem, so that the solution will be way more straightforward. Innovation is not sitting there and waiting for an apple to fall, but to climb up the tree and get the apple, thus, I would say the sooner we all learn design thinking, the better.

1.Kolko, J., 2015. Design Thinking Comes of Age. at
2.What is Design Thinking? at
3.Kimbell, L., 2015. Rethinking Design Thinking: Part 1. design and culture at