All great innovators in art, literature, science, music, and business have practiced design thinking. Design is the product of innovation which is the key to progress and success. But innovation doesn't come that easily. That's exactly where design thinking comes in. Learning from the design thinking examples mentioned in this article, you can create a powerful framework that can revolutionize your approach to anything.

What Is Design Thinking? 

Design thinking is a non-linear and iterative process used to solve problems innovatively and creatively. It was originally used to teach engineers how to approach problems creatively. It aims to achieve practical solutions and results that are:

  • Technically feasible
  • Economically viable 
  • Desirable for the user

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What Are the Key Principles of Design Thinking? 

The key principles of design thinking can be listed as follows:

  • User centricity
  • Collaboration
  • Ideation
  • Experimentation
  • Implementation

Design Thinking Methodology

Before moving on to some of the best design thinking examples, let us learn about the fundamental principles of design thinking

  • Empathize: To find solutions that respond to user needs and feedback, one needs to step into the user's shoes. 
  • Define: This phase requires observing and analyzing a situation without bias. Then create a problem statement or create a question to define the core problems you have identified that drive the rest of the process. 
  • Ideate: Here is where you make use of diverse perspectives and ideas. The aim is to develop as many ideas and solutions as possible. 
  • Prototype: This is the experimental phase. The aim here is to identify the best solution for each problem. 
  • Test: This is the final stage. Evaluators test the prototypes. However, as you will see in the design thinking process examples, it is an iterative process. 

Design Thinking Framework

As you will see in the design thinking examples, the design thinking framework is divided into three phases: immersion, ideation, and implementation. 

The stages mentioned above are not always sequential. Your team can run them in parallel, out of order, and also repeat them. You might focus on just one aspect of the design thinking process, such as making a conscious effort to be empathy-driven. You can conduct user interviews to find out what the customers are missing.

Design Thinking Examples

Design thinking has inspired many human-centered products, from health to technology. Every business, be it startups, large corporations, or nonprofit organizations, is trying to understand its users' needs and come up with innovative ideas. Here are some of the best design thinking examples of products and services that lead to success. 

Airbnb

  • Overview: Airbnb is a multi-billion dollar online platform right now. But it went close to bankruptcy in its early days. It is one of the best design thinking examples. Like with many startups, they were barely noticed by anyone at their launch. A small change in the design thinking principle made it a multi-billion dollar business. 
  • Challenge: Diverse listings in different categories and cities brought traffic to their site. The company still wasn't making any revenue. 
  • Realization: They found that there was a repeated pattern in the pictures of their advertisements. The pictures weren't very appealing, as the owners took them with smartphones. Moreover, not all the rooms were shown. They didn't get many bookings because people weren't sure what they would be paying for.
  • Solution: As a result, Airbnb associates traveled to New York to meet the hosts and help them take high-quality pictures. This non-scalable and non-technical solution doubled their revenue within a week. Airbnb continues to test ideas and understand the needs of the people who use their platform.
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Uber Eats

  • Overview: To understand the different markets and how their products fit into the physical conditions of various cities, UberEats constantly research the places where their customers live, work, and eat. This is one of the best design thinking examples that led to success. 
  • Challenge: The problem was how to connect people to restaurants in different cities.  
  • Realization: UberEats realized that to serve its customers, it needed to immerse and learn about the experiences of restaurant workers, delivery partners, and customers. And the food culture and ecosystem of each city.
  • Solution: While developing UberEats, the designers constantly traveled to different markets to interview users. From following delivery drivers to paying a visit to local restaurant owners, they did it all. The team, based on the insights, then ran experiments and built prototypes. They created features like the "Most Popular Items'' category. Through research and iteration, it has continued to transform the experience of food delivery.

Oral B Electric Toothbrush

  • Overview: The electric toothbrush was modified to cater better to the customers' needs. This is one of the design thinking examples that can teach designers a lot about the process.
  • Challenge: The designers originally wanted to make a high-tech device that provided in-depth data on their customer's brushing performance. 
  • Realization: researching and interviewing the users allowed them to discover that people were already nervous about not brushing. Therefore, providing detailed data on their hygiene habits would increase anxiety. The key insight was found. People were looking to make brushing less stressful.
  • Solution: The design team decided to make brushing simple by adding features such as chargeable batteries and brush head replacements. This is one of the classic design thinking examples. 

Burberry

  • Overview: This is again one of the best design thinking examples. The onset of the digital era disrupted Burberry’s business. But if you observe the design thinking problem statement example Burberry has to offer, you will see how its approach led to its success.
  • Challenge: Burberry was being written off as the fashion brand of olden times.
  • Realization: Instead of being intimidated by the challenge, it tried to appeal to Gen X users. They studied the sentiments and behavior of their target audience.
  • Solution: The company invested in its social media strategy. By doing this, it increased its appeal and connected with the audience. This is one of the classic digital thinking problem statement examples. 

Pillpack

  • Overview: Pillpack is one of the best design thinking process examples. It is an online pharmacy that delivers medicine and prescription drugs.
  • Challenge: How to make it easy for people to order medicines online and be a trustworthy platform.
  • Realization: Pillpack chose to work with designers and used a human-centered approach to refine its brand vision and strategy.
  • Solution: The company followed a design thinking process while making its brand strategy and overall design. In 2014, Time Magazine labeled Pillpack the year's best invention. Moreover, it was acquired by Amazon for $1 billion in 2018.

Netflix

  • Overview: Netflix is one of the prime design thinking examples. It used the approach to determine what its customers wanted and needed and later changed its business model to meet those needs. 
  • Challenge: Customers were looking for more interesting content. It was faced with competition as movies and sitcoms were easily available on other platforms as well. 
  • Realization: Netflix used the design thinking approach to develop new ideas. It kept testing and experimenting. Netflix knew they needed more to lure customers.
  • Solution: Netflix started giving DVD subscriptions. It was tested and experimented on for ten years. People were made comfortable with streaming videos. It took over the market as broadband and internet services began to grow. 

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Nike

  • Overview: Nike combined sports and design when it launched the first sneaker with technology in it. 
  • Challenge: The challenge NIKE faced most was how to avoid going out of trend. Even though it had loyal customers, it knew it had to offer something unique. 
  • Realization: Nike kept looking for partners to gain insights from their customers. This, in turn, inspired the company's designers. Thus Nike focuses on the need and better service to its loyal customers.
  • Solution: Nike is one of the best design thinking process examples. The designers redesigned the shoes with a transparent panel. This allowed the wearer to show the socks they chose to wear underneath. It also developed pressurized air technology to help athletes perform their best. Apart from that, it quickly became a fashion statement. 

Project Bloks

  • Overview: Project Bloks provides an interactive learning experience. It teaches coding to children.
  • Challenge: The main challenge was making coding interesting for young brains. 
  • Realization: They realized they had to make computer science educational, fun, and tangible for kids.
  • Solution: Project Blocks is a prime design thinking process example. To find out how kids play and learn, they made use of materials like foam, paper, and Play-Doh. They found what made children engaged and curious. Then incorporating a kid-centered approach led them to help kids learn through physical building.

Life-saving Dot

  • Overview: Millions of women in rural areas suffer from iodine deficiency which may lead to breast cancer and several complications in pregnancy
  • Challenge: While many supplements were available, rural women were not inclined towards taking them.
  • Realization: The design had to be made more familiar and trustworthy to make these women less apprehensive about the supplements. 
  • Solution: The Life Saving Dot came up with iodine patches that looked like bindis. These bindis dispensed the required amount of iodine to the wearer daily. 

Embrace Incubator

  • Overview: Every year, more than 1 million babies that are born premature die due to Hypothermia.
  • Challenge: to provide incubators in rural areas at a low cost that would help save the lives of these premature babies. 
  • Realization: the team had to find a way to make these rural hospitals have access to incubators to provide better facilities.
  • Solution: Embrace Incubator invented an incubator that wasn’t expensive and came with a built in sleeping bag that can be warmed.

Aarambh Help Desk

  • Overview: Students in rural areas cannot access proper amenities like study tables or comfortable chairs. This caused a high dropout rate. 
  • Challenge: to build a product that is economically viable & easy to produce on a large scale.
  • Realization: They needed to provide every student with these amenities at a very low budget.
  • Solution: Aarambh desk provides a portable study table cum school bag economically and efficiently. They collected discarded cartons from retailers and corporate houses. The cartons were then folded using stencils to form a portable writing desk and double up as a school bag.
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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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  • *According to Simplilearn survey conducted and subject to terms & conditions with Ernst & Young LLP (EY) as Process Advisors