In the product design and development field, everyone has a distinct role to play. Some focus on product functionality, some on the user interface, and yet others on how to continually improve on future iterations. But in today’s dynamic business environment, the more you know about multiple steps in the process, the more valuable your contribution will be. That’s where design thinking principles are playing a growing role as design professionals seek to maximize their career development opportunities. 

Put simply, design thinking is a process for solving problems by prioritizing customer needs above all else, relying on observation of user behavior and employing an iterative approach to creating solutions. It spans multiple steps in the design and development process, all of which can serve to build cross-functional skill sets that are in high demand in the hiring marketplace. 

Becoming More Customer-centric 

Design thinking principles put the customer at the center of the conversation. By listening attentively and playing the role of both technologist and psychologist, design thinking practitioners dig deep into what motivates and frustrates users to find solutions that are both viable and desirable. By seeking out the tough questions, design thinking gets to the heart of business problems and helps drive more customer-oriented solutions.   

To that end, the design thinking framework focuses on five key modes, all of which play a vital role in helping designers and developers become more in tune with their customers. The modes include:

1. Empathize:

Designers must learn people’s physical and emotional needs in the context of a design challenge — observing behavior, engaging and interviewing users, and listening intently to their responses.

2. Define:

They must then create a definitive and meaningful problem statement that helps bring clarity and focus to the design discussion.

3. Ideate:

Ideation concentrates on generating ideas, brainstorming concepts, and coming up with desired outcomes by creating the broadest range of possible solutions. 

4. Prototype:

Creating prototypes, or actual working models, is an iterative process that helps answer the questions designers have posed. 

5. Test:

Designers finally test and solicit feedback about the prototypes so the next iterations will be more refined. 

With 89 percent of companies competing mainly on the customer experience, becoming customer-oriented has never been more important. Customers evaluate products and business models with intense scrutiny, and they compare their experiences with your brand to the very best of personalized experiences provided by market leaders.  

Examples of Design Thinking Principles in Action

Design thinking can help developers and designers become more open-minded with creating products that consumers respond to, making a huge difference in the company’s success and an individual’s upward career trajectory. 

Take the great example of design thinking principles from UberEATS, which operates in more than 80 cities around the world, each having its own food culture and logistical challenges. The service connects restaurants, delivery partners, and everyday people looking for a bite to eat. The challenge was to dig into the daily activities from each of these groups to see how to improve the overall digital and physical experience. The design thinking teams engaged with users in the following areas: 

  1. A walkabout program helped immerse designers with the user experience. In every city, they learn the city’s food and culture; study transportation and logistical infrastructure; interview restaurants, deliverers, and consumers; and, of course, eat the food themselves. Their learnings help develop a complete understanding of each market.
  2. Order shadowing helped observe designs in use. They followed delivery people, visited restaurants during busy periods, and watched consumers in their own home when they ordered — all to see the needs of each group and improve designs to meet real-world requirements.
  3. Fireside chats were held with each group in the UberEATS offices to discuss the experiences in detail, empathize with users, and bridge the gap between walkabouts and order shadowing. 

Another design thinking example comes from Pepsi. The company’s management decided it needed to rethink its ability to innovate, going beyond just packaging to reimagining the entire user experience. They created the Pepsi Spire, a touch screen fountain machine that fundamentally changed the way consumers interact with the brand. While other companies focused on adding new beverage flavors or fancier buttons, Pepsi took a more holistic approach for the entire design process, from product creation to packaging, labeling, and how the product is presented to the customer.  

Enroll for the Design Thinking Certification Training Course and be able to clearly define market fit and growth of your product and business!

Taking the Next Step in a Design Thinking Career

Simplilearn’s newest design thinking master’s program is a vital first step in pursuing design thinking principles and applying them to new career opportunities. The curriculum illustrates the customer-centric design framework to develop products and services that are desirable, viable, and feasible. For those who want to develop innovative products or even bring dynamic new iterations of your products to life, design thinking will help create a disruptive mindset and generate the most imaginative solutions. 

Design thinking projects were estimated to have a 229 percent ROI by a Forrester Study, with 75 percent of them more than doubling their investment. And the final kicker: the US average for design thinking salaries is $96,193, and can run as high as $221,000, according to ZipRecruiter. The time has never been better to investigate this exciting career development opportunity. 

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