Skip to main content

Design Thinking 101

What is Design Thinking, and why do we use it at SEI?


Design Thinking is a process born from the discipline of Graphic Design.  The process puts a square focus on the user in an effort to obtain the best results for them.  There are several variations to the process, one of which is shown above, and that's how we use and teach Design Thinking at SEI. In this article, we'll quickly break down each step.


Our first step is empathy research, sometimes called user research.  At this stage we are working to understand what the user is experiencing. Normally this is done with user interviews, observation and surveys.


After we hear from the users, it's time to refine the challenge.  At SEI we frame these into 'How might we...' statements. This stage sometimes reminds us that the challenge might be different than initially described.


Everyone's favorite step in the process, ideation is most commonly seen in brainstorm sessions.  The mistake many groups make is by trying to start with ideation; we are a culture of solving, and we all love to start working to fix an issue when we hear it.  While that is a great mindset, it creates an opportunity to miss the real challenge.


In contrast to ideation, prototyping is probably the step most often skipped, bungled or missed. The goal of this step is to quickly (ie cheaply) try out your suggested solutions and get feedback from the user group you are designing for. We talk here about high and low fidelity prototypes, how to get meaningful feedback and what to do with that. This stage is about getting feedback, lots of it and quickly; we aren't trying to finalize an actual product at this point.


Testing at this stage involves the end result of prototyping.  This may also be called MVP, or minimum viable product.  Now that you have a solution that fits, what can you make/build with the least amount of features, that a user will still buy (or use).  The idea should be well rounded at this stage, with small tweaks to define the final product.


Also called launch or 'shipped', this stage is the release of your product to the users.