What is Design Thinking: Definition, Career & Scope

Design Thinking is essential for projects of all nature. Before developing a project, companies consult talented minds to take a human-centered approach towards designing or improving their processes and services. For instance, before developing a software product, companies try to understand how the software will help users and address their pain points.

In UX or User Experience, how the user feels is extremely important. This is true for large MNCs and startups, as offering an incredible user journey is crucial for retaining users. Design thinking is not just for product development but can also help set up the infrastructure of buildings, businesses, hospitals, and even internal processes.

Building the experience of using machines and driving vehicles has become one of the essential components of developing these products. Design thinking brings down production costs and saves a lot of time needed to build the initial design. It also reduces the time required to prepare the marketing strategy for the product as a lot of human-centered research is already completed.

IBM heavily relies on its Design Thinking Division (IBM Design Thinking) to improve customer relations and boost revenue. Just by using design thinking, IBM’s ROI (Return on Investment) was 301%, which helped the company increase its revenue by millions. Similarly, design thinking has had a vital role in improving the product portfolios of multiple other large corporations and even many smaller organizations.

Meeting the needs of the users or even clients is necessary for a business to succeed. Airbnb was almost close to failing in 2009, but with the help of design thinking, they experimented with fresh strategies and became a billion-dollar empire. Pillpack, now acquired by Amazon, is another great example of a company that utilized design thinking to its full extent to create the perfect product experience for customers who needed to purchase medication.

Getting ahead of the curve and innovating is crucial to be ahead of the competition, and thus, companies do everything in their power to do better than their competitors. Design thinking will become even more important as we as the human race are being presented with more options every day, urging companies to keep experimenting.

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What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking can be explained as understanding, designing, and testing in an iterative manner. It is a nonlinear system where various strategic, cognitive, and technical approaches are taken to build the best possible product through understanding users. Identifying challenges along the way and problems the product might face in the future is also essential in design thinking.

Design thinking helps companies solve these problems to improve their products and incorporate innovative features. For example, a company might be losing users for some reason. With the help of research (customer sentiment analysis) and design thinking, the company finds out that their user base is decreasing due to a feature that another similar application provides. Thus, once the company incorporates this new feature and improves the new product-build a bit further, users will return again.

The domain of design and innovation is highly human-focused. All kinds of corporations want to find out how they can better satisfy their users, customers, or clients. This is especially important for companies when they have competitors who have similar products.

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There are five pivotal stages in design thinking:

  • Empathizing with users and conducting research: It is essential to understand the users’ needs, clients, students, agencies, etc. In this stage, you must first understand the problem you are trying to solve or frame the questions to initiate the design process. Empathizing with users is essential as depending on your assumptions is not enough to gain real insights. This is why research is vital to understanding users and their needs.
  • Defining the problems and the needs of users: In this stage, you will be expected to identify the problems the product will face in the future and determine the user requirements. This reduces the risk associated with developing new services or products as well. However, before doing that, the data or information gathered from research is analyzed to locate the main problems.
  • Creating ideas and challenging assumptions: Here, you start generating strategies and ideas for solving the problems you identified. Ideating a solid plan allows companies to prepare for assumed issues in the future by creating contingency plans or by altogether avoiding the problem.
  • Prototyping: During prototyping, these solutions or design models are created and then experimented with. Prototypes are generally small-scale versions of the future product and only serve as representations of the products’ features. Prototyping can involve both digital prototypes and physical models.
  • Testing: This is the last stage of the design thinking process and involves testing the final prototypes in various environments and under different conditions. This helps companies make the final alterations and iterations to create a more refined prototype version. After that, it is finally tested if the refined version of the prototype meets performance benchmarks to finalize deployment.

Essential Components of Design Thinking

Design thinking mainly deals with resolving problems and incorporating solutions into product strategies. However, many issues, such as wicked problems and ill-defined problems, are hard to solve without advanced design strategies. Thus, generating innovative ideas and solutions is crucial for companies to handle these challenges.

Design thinking involves these processes:

  • Problem finding – Problem finding helps in identifying and then understanding problems.
  • Question framing – Question framing helps frame the questions that will allow further research.
  • Ideation – Ideation is planning strategies based on search.
  • Solution generation – Solution generation helps in generating solutions for the problems that have been identified.
  • Modeling – Modeling consists of building the solutions on paper or through digital mediums.
  • Context Analysis – Context Analysis helps understand the relevance of other factors that might affect the product or the product experience.
  • Behavioral Analytics – Behavioral Analytics allows designers to understand customer or user behavior to suggest design strategies.
  • Sentiment Analysis – Sentiment Analysis helps companies predict trends by understanding the sentiment of the target audience.
  • Evaluating Performance Metrics – Evaluating Performance Metrics helps understand the performance of prototypes.
  • Testing – Testing is essential for finalizing the product or service.
  • Drawing – Drawing products or concepts is essential for bringing the product to life and implementing modifications or improvements.
  • Sketching – Sketching (especially rough sketches) is the first phase of designing the features of the future product.

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Design Thinking Careers and Scope

Design thinking has an incredible scope and offers incredible job satisfaction. Design thinking professionals get the opportunity to help companies or their products find success. That is a great feeling on its own. Also, the job roles make work interesting and allow you to work on new technologies, innovations, and experiences.

It is always fun to be involved with things, and design thinking enables you to stay ahead of the curve by taming future trends and satisfying customers better. Consultants working in this sector focus on targeting individual groups (users or customers) to evaluate their behavior and translate this information into insights that can help improve programs or build new products from scratch.

By tapping into the needs of the people, one can help make the product become the best version of itself. Here are the job roles of design thinking professionals:

  • Defining questions and structuring research strategy
  • Conducting human-focused research (both in-person and remotely)
  • Using metrics to evaluate customer behavior and analyzing research data
  • Visualizing desired or target experiences based on insights
  • Suggesting design innovations and prioritizing features
  • Communicating findings and collaborating with different development and design teams
  • Modeling, presenting, and explaining design strategy to stakeholders and management


To pursue a lucrative career in Project Management, Product Research & Development, you will need comprehensive knowledge about design thinking. upGrad has a premium Post Graduate Certificate in Product Management to help kickstart your career journey in this field.

As a student of Project Management or similar fields, it can be hard to determine the following step in your career. upGrad also has a top-tier mentorship program where you can get expert advice from some of the best mentors who have been in the industry for years.

What are the two approaches to design thinking?

The two approaches to design thinking are:- Problem-based approach Solution focussed approach

What are the two critical aspects of design thinking?

The two essential aspects of design thinking are the design process and innovation.

Can design thinking be implemented in all domains?

Design thinking can be applied in all domains for developing products, services, and processes. For instance, design thinking can be used in computer science for building software and engineering for developing machines.

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