Design Thinking - Attributes


Design thinking is an extensive study of various attributes, like principles, methods and processes, challenges etc. Let’s have a look at the attributes of design thinking.

The Principles of Design Thinking

According to Christoph Meinel and Larry Leifer, there are four principles to design thinking.

  • The Human Rule − This rule states that all kinds of design activity are ultimately social in nature.

  • The Ambiguity Rule − This rule requires all design thinkers to preserve ambiguity in the process design thinking.

  • The Re-design Rule − The re-design rule states that all designs are basically examples of re-design.

  • The Tangibility Rule − The tangibility rule states that making ideas tangible always facilitates communication between design thinkers.

Principles Of Design Thinking

These four principles form the foundation of the design thinking process. A design thinker needs to form his ideas and put them forward based on these principles.

The Challenges

The next attribute is called as the ‘wicked problems’. These are the challenges that are faced by the design thinkers. Design thinking helps the designers in almost all professions to tackle these wicked problems. These challenges are supposed to be ill-defined or tricky.

Horst Rittel was the first person to refer to such problems with the word ‘wicked problems’. In the case of ill-defined problems, the problem statement and the solution are both unknown at the beginning of the design thinking exercise. In well-defined problems, at least the problem statement is clear and the solution is available through technical knowledge.

In wicked problems, the design thinker may have a general idea of the problem, but significant amount of time and effort goes into requirement analysis. Requirement gathering, problem definition, and problem shaping are major parts of this aspect of design thinking.

The Aha-Moment

Once the design thinker has spent considerable amount of time in finding a solution, there occurs a moment when the thinker suddenly finds his way clear of all obstructions. This is the moment when the solution or a bright idea strikes the thinker’s mind. The aha-moment is the time when the results of convergent thinking and divergent thinking, analysis, problem definition and shaping, requirements analysis and the nature of the problem all come together and the best resolution is captured.

At the aha-moment, the process of design thinking begins to appear clear, which actually appears hazy and unidirectional before the moment. The focus on the solution grows clear after this moment and the final product or the final solution is constructed hereafter.

Design Methods

Every design discipline makes use of a set of specific techniques, rules, and ways of doing things. These are called design methods. The methods include tasks like interviewing, creating user profiles, searching for other available solutions in the world, creating mind maps, creating prototypes for solving a problem and asking for answers to questions like five whys.

The ‘five whys’ is an iterative interrogative technique, which is used to explore the causeand-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The technique helps to determine the root cause of any problem by repeating the question ‘Why?’ Each question forms the basis of the next question. This technique is developed by Sakichi Toyoda. This helps to find the root cause of many problems faced by designers. Five whys technique is used for root cause analysis.

The Five-step Process of Design Thinking

The design thinking process or method has five steps in all to be followed. The process starts with empathizing with the problem of the customer or the end-user. The process then moves to ideate on solutions using divergent thinking. The prototype is developed after convergent thinking and then the design thinkers resort to testing the prototype. We will learn more about each of these steps in the subsequent chapters of this tutorial.

Five Step Process

Use of Analogies

It is imperative for a design thinker to find logic even in ill-defined problems that contain obscure relationships. This issue can be addressed using analogies. Visual thinking can help by correlating different internal representations, such as images, to develop an understanding of ill-defined elements of a situation.