Design Thinking and Agile


IDC confirms that 30-35 percent of IT projects still fail.

The major reason behind the failure of software development projects is due to poor communication, poor management by senior authorities, employee resistance, and insufficient funding. 

To avoid these problems, businesses prefer customer-centric innovation techniques, such as Design Thinking and Agile Methodology. These concepts have similar techniques such as gathering user feedback, thus following an iterative approach of the model that results in better ideas. With such benefits, designers avoid errors and result in faster and more reliable output.

Note: However, these two concepts are not interchangeable.

Now, without further ado, let's get started with this article on Design Thinking and Agile.

What is Design Thinking?

  • Design Thinking is extremely helpful in solving problems that are ill-defined or unknown.
  • It is an iterative method that helps resolve user issues or redefines problems with the best solutions.

What is Agile?

  • Agile is a set of methods and practices that focuses on iterative development.
  • Also, requirements and solutions are obtained due to self-organizing cross-functional teams collaborating.

Moving forward, you will be looking at the five stages of Design Thinking in detail. 

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Design Thinking Explained

  • Design Thinking requires designers to step into the customer’s shoes and try to find a solution to their problem by empathy.
  • The process also helps resolve user issues by redefining problems and providing the best solutions.

Design Thinking Covers Five Stages, They Are: 

  • Empathy
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Testing


  1. The initial step to follow in the Design Thinking process is to pay attention to the client's requirements. A designer or its team should consider the user requirements in short—they should step into their shoes and try to find a solution to their problem in the best possible way.
  2. Without the empathy stage, the design process lacks all-important user-centricity quality, which helps a designer reach the success stage rather than failing.

Note: Every detail is collected from the research performed in the empathy stage. 


  1. The Define stage will encourage the team to gather useful techniques to solve challenges with the least difficulty. 
  2. An individual will start to progress to the third stage, i.e., the ideate stage, by asking relevant questions to encourage a person to develop ideas or solutions. 


  1. This phase gives priority to creativity and ideation. In this stage, the designers will be performing ideation sessions and searching for new ideas. 
  2. In simple words, the phase focuses on creative and curious activities such as a Brainstorming activity.


  1. In this phase, the designers can experiment and modify the errors found in the product. This phase is a mini version of the product; it validates solutions and tries to resolve obstacles. 
  2. This stage has two types of prototypes. One is Low Fidelity, and the other one is Medium fidelity.


  1. This stage gives importance to user feedback based on the prototypes that were created. 
  2. Basically, in this stage, the user's feedback on the prototype stage is considered, and improvements are made.

Those were the five phases of Design Thinking, Now, you will be looking at how the two techniques differ from each other.

Design Thinking vs. Agile

Below are the differences between Design Thinking and Agile methodology:

Design Thinking



Study of human behavior

Begins with a hypothesis


Uncovers latent unmet needs of the user

Focuses on iteration and validates learning


Suitable when the problem is unknown

Suitable when the problem is known

Moving forward, you will explore how Design thinking Agile can be used together.

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Design Thinking Agile: Better Together

While Design Thinking and Agile are applied separately, the two strategies can be implemented together as well.

A majority of IT companies have begun to utilize Agile in conjunction with Design Thinking. Where Agile methodology is a practice of solving problems and Design Thinking is an approach to find user problems. 

For teams looking to leverage Agile and Design Thinking for the first time, here are a few recommendations to focus on: 

  • Begin At A Small Level 

  1. Focus on high-value, low-risk opportunities to earn better solutions using Design Thinking and Agile together
  2. Then, with better results, take on more challenging initiatives
  • Invest In User Research

  1. Ensure that the entire design team understands the end-user 
  2. Suppose there is any existing data, start by testing some ideas
  3. Start the design thinking process by building a map of the user's journey
  4. As a result, it encourages team members to focus on empathize phase and discover new solutions
  • Focus On A Clearly Defined Problem Statement With Sprint 

  1. Start Design Thinking in Sprint 0
  2. Encourage the entire team to understand the problem statement and build a useful design framework 
  • Build A Productive Team Culture

  1. Form a core design and development team. Teams such as decision-makers, UX researcher, designer, visual designer, scrum master, developers, and QA
  2. Do not exceed the team to more than 10 members and make sure every professional has an equal say
  3. Create an environment that supports collaboration across departments, like a successful design solution
  • Optimal Use Of Design Thinking

  1. Use Design Thinking during the first stage of project development and then apply it whenever an important feature has to be developed 
  2. You can also use Design Thinking during the sprint when a problem arises
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  • Design Patterns And Maintain A Good User Experience

  1. This stage helps in minimizing design and development time 
  2. Design patterns work as building blocks encouraging team members to remove lower-level design decisions
  3. The patterns created should be accepted by the entire team and should be easily implemented
  • Periodic Testing

  1. Based on the characteristics of the project, set up a testing schedule
  2. The time can be scheduled once in 4 days or once during the sprint 

 Note: Setting up the schedule is your choice but ensure to test before the design is mature and coding is finished. 

      3. Test simple prototypes to eliminate errors and understand the viability of ideas during the early stages 

      4. Test the working software and evaluate the result for a better output 

Note: The testing is done by B2B and B2C users.

That was all about Design Thinking and Agile.

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In this write-up regarding Design Thinking and Agile we learned what Design Thinking is, what Agile is, Design Thinking explained, and finally, we also saw how to implement Design Thinking and Agile together. 

If you are aspiring to break into this exciting industry of Design Thinking, enrolling in our Design Thinking Master's program will help you become a pro.

And, if you have any doubts about the article ‘Design Thinking and Agile’, please feel free to drop a message in the comments section of this article; our experts will get back to you as soon as possible. 

To learn more, watch the following tutorial video Design Thinking:

About the Author

Sana AfreenSana Afreen

Sana Afreen is a Senior Research Analyst at Simplilearn and works on several latest technologies. She holds a degree in B. Tech Computer Science. She has also achieved certification in Advanced SEO. Sana likes to explore new places for their cultures, traditions, and cuisines.

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