There are tons of instruments for increasing the effectiveness of business. People use so many different strategies to make their products recognizable and memorable that one could easily lose count of them. However, there’s one strategy that always remains in high demand and will not go anywhere anytime soon – using visual imagery. This one’s part of many other tips associated with design thinking strategies.

People tend to remember visuals much better than anything they can hear, read, or sense because replicating the image in your head is the easiest way to pull something out from your memory. Parents use visual associations to teach kids numbers and letters, students use the same connections to get prepared for the exam, articles and project presentations often include charts and graphs to explain their ideas better to the audience.

Ultimately, when we look at things from the perspective of design thinking logic, most people watch movies and TV more often than they read books – visual information is simply much easier to comprehend, and that’s a fact. That is why an understanding of the design process is extremely important.

Table of Contents:

Design Thinking Is A Blessing

Design Is A Problem

Phase One: Understand

Phase Two: Explore

Phase Three: Materialize

Conclusion | Design Thinking Is Critical

Design Thinking Is A Blessing

No wonder that the same concept applies to the marketing industry. We can often hear the word “design” in business-related conversations. Logos, packages, posters, book cover, comics, costumes, interiors, websites, and programs – everything that we see surrounding us is designed by someone.

It sometimes catches me off-guard when I realize that even the tiniest bottle with my nasal spray was, in fact, designed by someone. And I use it quite often not even thinking about it! This is just hilarious how ubiquitous graphic design is. Visuals rule the world, but we tend not to think about it from that perspective.

And why would it be necessary?

Naturally, to promote your business. With such a powerful tool as graphics taking so much control over what surrounds us, it is unwise to neglect it. This is why, except for hiring a designer or working together with a design agency, you might want to acquire a wee bit of this so-called design thinking. I will divide a whole process into phases so that it’s easier to comprehend: there are three major ones with some smaller steps within each. It would be a different approach compared to the one non-designers are used to, but it is worth learning.

But let’s talk about problems first.

Design Is A Problem

The fact that design is everywhere is both a blessing and a problem. On one hand, anyone who wants to promote their brand knows that it’s an instrument they should not neglect in their marketing campaign (provided they want it to be successful). On the other one, though, there is a big issue: how to create this design?

Many managers are very unwilling to ask themselves this question, thinking that the designer will understand them from half a word or guess at least the way they are willing to follow. Ouchie number 1.

That creates a problem of miscommunication – no wonder that there are tons of misunderstandings if you don’t want to know anything about the design process but want to lead it. There are tons of such customer experiences which irritated designers colorfully describe to each other over a beer or two in their favorite bars.

And they have a right to do this – some clients seem to think that there’s some magic button hidden somewhere and that the designer simply has to press it to create something genius. And no one seems to think that maybe – just maybe – there isn’t. Ouchie number 2.

I am exaggerating a bit, of course. Or am I?

Regardless of the answer, the main idea is to cooperate with designers if you want your marketing strategy to be efficient. Therefore, you will have to become a bit of a design thinker yourself, if you aren’t the one already. Let’s see if there’s a new way you can do it and finally turn to our phases.

Phase One: Understand

how design thinking affects creativity

Weird enough (or no), the very first step of our creative process is not about business at all. You actually need to step into a psychologist’s shoes and learn to understand how your target audience feels about your product, what it needs and wants.

The audience lives according to the Jobs To Be Done concept – it’s an idea that society adopts innovative solutions whenever they correspond with their needs and improve their life situation. Thus, your task is to understand what these “jobs” are and provide your product as the solution, as a new idea that would help solve complex problems.

Here’s a good example: Apple’s target audience needs a new phone that is supposedly better than the previous one. Apple releases a new model, and people buy it – not always for communication and its functions but for having the device as an image item. And one of many things that influences this image is the product design and Apple brand as a whole.

Getting their customers this new image item is a way to complete the job and to satisfy a human need to get it. A curious remark: the cases with such giants as Apple are absolutely peculiar because they’ve created the job they constantly fulfill themselves. Not exactly a user-centric way, but it works!

Understanding the client means to empathize with them, especially at the very beginning of your communication. You should know the client like yourself. Among all other professions, designers are one of those that require developing empathy for their customers the most. It helps to see the problem, the “jobs” that are to be done according to the client, and might give you a hint or two how to do them.

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Gaining creative ideas is not a simple task, and they might be a thousand times brilliant, but what’s the point if your audience doesn’t care? Empathizing, you become closer to your target audience, gaining its trust. It will be easier to find a solution if you know how people think and what they want. Empathy is equally vital in long-term cooperation since you have to.

The ultimate result of understanding the problem is the definition. Using your empathy, you might understand how a client feels, but it might not give you a precise picture of the whole problem since clients often do not see it themselves – no one knew they needed a new iPhone before Apple started creating new products every year.

Defining the real issues helps you with analyzing and finding the ways that can be used for resolving the problem. Generally speaking, defining means narrowing down the issue and turning it into a task – something that designers do constantly to make their designs perform their functions.

Phase Two: Explore

This phase is all about your work with ideas and different perspectives. If we had to become psychologists for the first phase, our main focus here will be on problem-solving skills, which should be exceptional in designers.

The first thing to do after you’ve understood and defined the problem is to brainstorm all possible solutions. This is a complex process that means widening the spectrum of your ideas just right after you’ve narrowed down the problem itself. You create several test ideas and solutions, starting from simple to complex, check how well they perform their functions, and correspond with the client’s demands.

For designers, it usually involves a lot of rapid prototyping – integrating theory into reality. In simpler words, it is sketching. Sketching allows you to see your concepts and ideas implemented to some degree, and it makes it easier to judge how successful they are and choose the best one.

Mind you, even after you’ve chosen the best variant, it doesn’t mean that it will be perfect at once – it’s only a concept yet, with less detalization and input than it should have.

The whole “explore” thing is about creating these little case studies and checking how well your visual thinking serves you. You might want to check some general statistics that are more specific – which colors people love better, which shape your logo/artwork/device/package/bottle/label/whatever has to be to catch an eye of the potential customer, how your competitors work, and what guiding principles you have to work out to differ from them qualitatively.

Yes, all these things and even more are used in the design industry actively – you might want to check out the great logo design battle between Pepsi and Coca-Cola and how it influenced they’re more than 100-year-long history.

Phase Three: Materialize

design thinking explained in simple steps

It begins with tons of testing to check if the fully implemented concept you’ve chosen to work on performs its function. However, it doesn’t always happen that one specific solution wins – eventually, you still might need to look a different way. Usually, the more detailed your idea is, the more slight variations it might have.

In other words, after narrowing everything down to a single solution, you might have to widen your choice again. As you can see, this process repeats constantly in a designer’s workflow, and each time when you end the circle, the details you pay attention to become tinier but not less important. It’s a usual iterative process.

During the phase of materialization, designers try to improve their artwork using whatever design methods they have at hand. Communication with the client plays a crucial role here as well since it helps to clarify what works for them and what doesn’t.

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In order to keep the workflow concentrated on design instead of spending hours to find the right email address for feedback, many designers, among dozens of other creative tools, use proofing and review software such as Approval Studio to keep everything in one place.

After you went through all the tests and a massive amount of communication, you need to do your best to implement your draft and make it perform. It fully turns your artwork into a product of design discipline and complete business solution, making it fulfill its ultimate function – to market whatever your product is.

Conclusion | Design Thinking Is Critical…

Design thinking involves many different aspects starting with tons of client communication and ending with constant widening and narrowing of your ideas at different phases of the whole workflow. Even if you are not a designer, modifying your approach with design-thinking phases will bring you benefits in terms of your business.

All in all, the design is not just about drawing something pretty – it is a considerably more influential process that has to implement its function and resolve this wicked problem that people want to be resolved.

Remember, that all great products made in the world were designed by someone, and someday you might need to hire a design team and exploit the same strategies to achieve your business goals. It would be much better to understand how everything works and remember that any magic buttons are even more non-existent than unicorns.

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