Design thinking is an idea whose time has come
There has been a lot of talk about design thinking lately. As firm believers in user-centric design, we’re happy to see it catching on.
At its core, design thinking is a framework for problem-solving which encourages empathy and exploration.
We’re also firm believers in strategy before tactics and we’ve found design thinking to be a great framework to facilitate the formation of a thorough marketing strategy.
A strategy is just a plan for achieving a goal.
A business strategy combines policies and tactics to form a set of guiding principles for decision making.
A design strategy is the planning process in which a good design partner will align their design to your business strategy.
Most design agencies will ask you a lot of quantitative questions about your project. Questions like “What is your timeline?” and “What is your budget?” are common.
A great agency will ask qualitative questions. “What are you trying to accomplish?” “What is getting in the way of achieving your goal?” “Why do you think this is the case?”
These questions encourage you to go beyond your assertion that you need any particular marketing tactic and reflect on the reasons why.
“All the cool kids have one,” isn’t a reason but it might start there.
What is it that the cool kids have that you want? More likes, follows, and shares? More customers? More people buying your sandwiches?
Whatever it is, you should focus on it. Make it into a goal. Preferably a goal that can be measured.
Digital marketing allows for faster analytics
One of the best things about online marketing and social media marketing is that we can measure results quickly.
We can show beautiful numbers which track the increase in viewers and reactions. We can chart them and graph them and present them to our stakeholders as concrete proof that we’re either doing our job well or we’re missing the mark.
We’re lucky to live in an age where we don’t have to wait for the yearly financial statements to determine whether our advertising efforts paid off.
How to use design thinking to create your online strategy
There are five steps to facilitating the design thinking process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.
Let’s walk through the steps using definitions from the D. school at Stanford and examples of how to approach each stage.
Step 1: Empathize
“Work to fully understand the experience of the user for whom you are designing. Do this through observation, interaction, and immersing yourself in their experiences.”
Years before the phrase “user-centric design” was coined, famous product designer Dieter Rams said, “In my eyes, indifference towards people and the lives they lead is the only sin a designer can commit.”
In this stage of the strategy process, you ask questions about your customers.
Do you know who they are? Why do they buy? Why don’t they buy more? What customers would you like more of? What objections or challenges do they have?
You create profiles around these customers and refer back to them during the rest of the design process.
At Resolution, we also gather brand attributes across six categories. We categorize and prioritize revenue, awareness, and efficiency. Our goal is to know as much about your business and project as possible so that we can craft an honest and lasting message.
Step 2: Define
“Process and synthesize the findings from your empathy work in order to form a user point of view that you will address with your design.”
Here you take all of the information we’ve gathered and define the problem you’re solving. More often than not, the problem defined in this stage is that of achieving a particular mission or business objective.
Step 3: Ideate
“Explore a wide variety of possible solutions through generating a large quantity of diverse possible solutions, allowing you to step beyond the obvious and explore a range of ideas.”
This is your brainstorming stage. In this stage, you would rather have 1,000 bad ideas than 1 good one. While facilitating this stage, stay positive. Don’t use this time to point out problems with potential solutions. Instead, take a page from improvisational comedy and “Yes, and…” each suggestion.
Step 4: Prototype
“Transform your ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn and develop more empathy.”
Prototyping is a time for experimenting with solutions. Sketch scaled-down versions and share them, investigate them, improve them and re-examine them. By the end of this stage, you should have an informed perspective on how your customers will think, feel and behave with your solution.
Step 5: Test
“Try out high-resolution products and use observations and feedback to refine prototypes, learn more about the user, and refine your original point of view.”
This is the execution stage where you put your high-resolution solution into the wild and observe how your audience interacts with it.
Unofficial Step 6: Repeat
Design thinking is a non-linear process. You will often find that the discoveries made in one stage compel you to return to a previous stage. This is to be expected and means the process is working.
By tracking your goals and measuring them using the analytics of your campaign, you can iterate quickly.
Ian has worked in design and development for twenty years and has formed opinions about both. When he isn’t obsessing and ranting about strategy, design, and development, he’s juggling four kids, teaching programming for a local STEAM school, and working on AthFest 2017. His strategy is to share what he’s learned and hope you will hire him. He likes parties with snacks.