A lot of work goes into the design of the products we use every day. From simple logos that speak for our brands to complex architectural designs and software applications, the design process is intricate. It aims to solve problems, create products that customers will love, and get to market faster than the competition.
Whether you manage a design team, work as a designer, or are part of a team of designers, improving your creation process is key. A well-developed design process helps boost collaboration and reduce workload and resource issues.
But figuring out how to establish or improve a design thinking process can be tricky. First off, the concept may seem vague or complex. Perhaps you’ve never seen a real-life example showing how it’s done.
Whatever the hang-up, this guide will walk you through improving your design process. We’ll start by clarifying what the process is and then share detailed examples.
Next, you’ll find a breakdown of the design process steps so you can build one that works best for your company. 🙌
What Is the Design Process?
The design process is a creative method that takes complex problems or ideas and breaks them down into manageable steps by working backward from a desired outcome. This is different from problem-solving approaches where you consider a problem and create a solution. 💪
Instead, the design thinking process encourages creativity and innovation. It’s well-suited for projects and problems that don’t have a single proven solution. It isn’t a linear process. Instead, it’s an iterative approach designed to allow you to move forward and backward between steps as needed.
There’s also not a specific set of steps that works for every industry or every situation. The process is customizable to give your team better control over the creative process and empower you to find the best solutions possible.
While the design thinkingprocess is common in health care and manufacturing, it’s useful in a huge range of sectors from startups to multinational companies. Businesses use it to understand user needs to launch new products and improve existing products.
Helpful Design Process Examples to Improve Your Workflows
For many design teams, common concerns include workload and resource issues, collaboration challenges, and bad processes. Adding a tailored design thinking process to your workflows can address these issues.
What that process looks like will be different for every company. In some cases, the planning stage of the process will take the most work. In others, mock-up or measuring will be where you focus most of your efforts. 👀
For example, a UX design process will work backward from the user experience. It’ll aim to address where users encounter problems with your products and what you can do to make them better.
That means you’ll spend most of your time gathering insights—like doing user research to understand personas—and planning your potential solutions.
In contrast, an architecture firm will spend more time in the ideation and building stages of the design thinking process. They’ll focus less on what users need and more on aesthetics, cutting-edge design, and meeting building code requirements.
Want a more in-depth look at the design thinking process in action? Read on for two examples where we break down how the design thinking process works for different businesses.
Design thinking in banking: Capital One case study
When you think of design, you probably don’t think of banking. But in recent years, banks have spent millions of dollars and allocated hundreds of hours to design better consumer experiences and products.
One example is Capital One. They surprised the market in 2014 when they bought the web design firm Adaptive Path and mobile development company Monsoon. The goal behind the acquisitions was to create a better user experience through an improved banking app. 💰
Their design thinking approach involved gathering user insights and assessing the existing state of the app. What they found was that users wanted more functionality, improved connections, and simpler access to services.
In particular, young consumers wanted more from the bank in terms of consumer-friendliness and not having to visit brick-and-mortar locations.
With a deep design team in place, Capital One started generating innovative ideas and rolling them out to market. This included a chatbot that offered friendly assistance by using emojis.
Plus, they opened several cafes in major cities like San Francisco to build rapport with consumers.
Another user-centric solution was GPS-enabled transaction history, which allowed users to better see where and how they spend their money when budgeting.
Their iterative process wasn’t limited to actual consumer products. They also invested heavily in design by building an Innovation Center and strengthening their internal team of developers and designers through their Capital One Lab.
When they want to gather information on products users want or test new products, they send that information to the design lab. There, the team shares storyboards and infographics with real customers to generate feedback and improve the ideas or offerings.
One of the biggest problems for banks was acquiring new customers. The process often was off-putting to potential customers and involved a lot of work to sign up. Most traditional banking outreach involved sending envelopes with dozens of pages of information that had to be filled out by hand and mailed back.
Capital One used design thinking to streamline this process and make it more user-friendly. They did that by getting feedback from consumers and then setting up a SaaS solution called OneView.
It helped them manage their content and create a digital packet that lets users join online, without the hassles of the old onboarding method.
Design thinking in meal delivery: Uber Eats case study
When it comes to food delivery apps, the design thinking process isn’t just about the app. As Uber Eats demonstrates, design thinking applies to all aspects of the business.
That means thinking about making a user-friendly application, providing products users want, and building a brand relationship that makes the customer feel appreciated and understood.
Operating in thousands of cities across the globe means the company has to pay close attention to its different target markets. What customers in Bangkok want is different from what New Yorkers are looking for.
They didn’t want to just reach out to customers from behind their computers to see what they wanted. Instead, the team designed The Walkabout Program where employees immerse themselves in these cities.
That way, they get on-the-ground insights from real locals and community members. They also get to experience the place for themselves and watch how people use their designs in the real world.
Under the program, designers visit a new city each quarter. They take a look at logistics like transportation and infrastructure. They meet with delivery partners, customers, and restaurant employees to understand each aspect of their offerings and how they fit into the local space.
Uber Eats also gathers insights from consumers and delivery agents via fireside chats where users are encouraged to visit the offices and share their experiences.
Order shadowing lets designers follow drivers, visit restaurants, and watch customers place orders.
With all of these valuable insights, the company focuses on iterating quickly. They ideate and start testing prototypes and mockups in restaurants, customers’ homes, and delivery vehicles. They run A/B tests on all app design features and run operations experiments to test features before they launch.
Regular innovation meetups, workshops, and conferences are scheduled to keep the spirit of design thinking alive.
These are worked into every aspect of the business from the design team to operations and management to generate and work off user-testing data and fresh ideas.
Design Thinking Process Steps
With those examples in mind, it’s time to think about how the design thinking process fits into your design teams’ workflows. Keep in mind, that the design thinking process is a series of customizable steps. It’s also nonlinear so you can move between stages as needed.
Depending on your industry and company needs, you may want to add in extra steps or skip a few. Perhaps part of the design team doesn’t need to be involved early on but will play a key role in later steps of the design process. Maybe you need more stages for user research, building, or testing.
Whatever your business needs, be sure to build your design process to fit that mold for all complex projects. In general, here are the most common design process steps. Use them as a launch point to craft your procedure to meet team goals.
Before you even think about creating possible solutions for your design project, you need to identify the problem and empathize with your target audience. This stage is all about gathering information and laying the groundwork for the process. ✍️
Start by taking a user-centric approach. Get feedback from customers to see what types of products they’re looking for and any pain points they have with your existing offerings. Write a problem statement to hone in on the root of the issue. Ask questions like:
- Who is the problem affecting?
- What is the problem?
- Where is the problem happening?
- Why is the problem occurring?
Use a design brief to organize your thoughts and keep this vital information in an easy-to-access space. Create a product roadmap to lay the groundwork for tasks and projects the team or project managers will work on.
A project management software tool like ClickUp can help creatives keep track of different stages in the process and assign tasks to relevant team members along the way.
Dive into user testing and usability testing to highlight issues with apps and see what real users are saying about your products. Be sure to take time to identify key stakeholders and create silos to address each of their needs.
Once you have a basic plan in place, it’s time to start ideating. Focus on human-centered design and brainstorm ways you can target the root cause of the problem. Now’s the time to be creative, think outside of the box, and leverage unique ideation techniques. 💡
Create an interactive environment where the team can throw innovative ideas around without any judgment. Encourage imagination and let the team come up with wild ideas, even if they aren’t feasible in the real world.
The goal here is to generate ideas, no matter how unconventional they may be. Part of the process is simply being creative. That crazy idea may just spark a realistic approach or unique take from a different team member that results in a promising solution creating more opportunities for collaboration.
Now that you have tons of ideas floating around, it’s time to create mockups. This stage is the part where you create layouts, experimental product design, prototype testing, and dive into product development (whether it’s a new or existing product).
Now is the time to take your creative solutions and put them on paper. 👨🏽💻
Software teams might build apps or websites while healthcare tech companies might work on the schematics of a medical product.
This phase of the design process brings your creations to life in a real-world context. Up until now, everything you’ve worked on is theoretical. You’ve done sketches, created mockups, and generated ideas.
Now it’s time to build your vision of the finished product. 🛠️
Depending on resources, funding, and your industry, this stage may involve scoping out the final product or creating a scaled-down prototype. In health care and manufacturing, you’ll probably create a model version of your final product.
In sales and marketing, you may create the first draft of a branding tool or campaign.
Of the stages of the design thinking process, this one can be the most intimidating. That’s because it’s testing time. Now is when you find out what functions well in your design work and what needs to be fixed.
In the testing phase, you’ll look for flaws in the design, gather user feedback, and get input from other stakeholders. Some companies may want to break out the testing part into separate stages.
This is especially true if you’re developing complex solutions that need multiple versions before launch. 💻
The final step of the design thinking framework is to measure your results and reflect. This step is about measuring results from your proposed solution and reviewing how well the process itself worked. 🧪
Here, you’ll review design decisions to see how well you evaluated the end user’s needs and how effective your final design was. Look at metrics and user feedback to see how they feel about the finished product.
Record these insights for future design thinking workshops.
Schedule a meeting with the team to go over how they feel the design process went. Highlight things that worked well in the process and discuss areas for improvement. T
hese can include things like shorter or longer timelines, broken-out stages for more detailed work, and more frequent check-ins throughout.
Streamline the Design Process With ClickUp
The design process is an iterative method that can help you empathize with customers and come up with better products. From ideation sessions to testing and launch, ClickUp can make your design process easier.
ClickUp’s Design team feature lets you manage the entire design process in one convenient space. Use templates to create problem statements and project plans or hop into Whiteboard view to brainstorm solutions during the ideation phase.
Create timelines, visualize team capacity, and automatically assign tasks to the relevant team members.
Sign up for ClickUp today to get started managing a better design process. With customizable notifications, you’ll always know what stage the project is in and who’s working on what.
Thanks to hundreds of features, you can personalize workflows so they work for your team and industry. 🤩