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Successful Design Thinking Case Study

Dive into the realm of Successful Design Thinking Case Studies to explore the power of this innovative problem-solving approach. Begin by understanding What is Design Thinking? and then embark on a journey through real-world success stories. Discover valuable lessons learned from these case studies and gain insights into how Design Thinking can transform your approach.


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Companies that prioritise design often have structured approaches to involve customers. According to a n Adobe study, 78 per cent of these companies have established processes for generating new digital Customer Experience (CX) concepts, and 83 per cent have implemented formal mechanisms to test these ideas with their customers. Giant companies like IBM, Netflix, Apple, and Nike have leveraged Design Thinking principles to achieve remarkable success.  

Read this blog to gain insights into the Design Thinking Case Studies and explore how creative Design Thinking helped many companies achieve successful outcomes. 

Table of Contents    

1)  What is Design Thinking?   

2)  Successful Design Thinking Case Studies 

      a)  Airbnb 

      b)  Apple 

      c)  Netflix 

      d)  UberEats 

      e)   IBM 

      f)  OralB’s electric toothbrush 

      g)  IDEO 

      h)  Tesla 

       i)  GE Healthcare 

        j)   Nike 

3)  Lessons learned from Design Thinking Case Studies 

4)  Conclusion    

What is Design Thinking ?

What is Design Thinking

Design Thinking typically involves the following stages:   

1)  Empathise: Understanding the needs and perspectives of the end-users through interviews, observations, and immersion in their experiences .   

2)  Define: Clearly define the problem by synthesising the gathered insights and identifying key issues that need to be addressed.   

3)  Ideate: Generating a wide range of creative ideas without judgment. Brainstorming sessions often play a crucial role in this stage .   

4)  P rototype: Creating low-fidelity prototypes or representations of potential solutions to gather feedback and refine ideas .   

5)  T est: Testing the prototypes with users to gather feedback and iterate on the solutions until the best possible outcome is achieved .   

Design Thinking revolves around maintaining a user-centric focus throughout the entire process. By prioritising the user at every stage, Designers can navigate through these five Design Thinking phases, ultimately creating innovative solutions that have the capacity to redefine industry norms and positively impact lives.   

Unlock the power of Design Thinking – Sign up for our comprehensive Design Thinking for R&D Engineers Training Today!"  

Successful Design Thinking Case Stud ies    

Now that we have a foundational understanding of Design Thinking let's explore how some of the world's most successful companies have leveraged this methodology to drive innovation and success: 

Case Study 1: Airbnb  


Airbnb is one of the popular Design Thinking Case Studies that explains the principles clearly. Airbnb disrupted the traditional hotel industry by applying Design Thinking principles to create a platform that connects travellers with unique accommodations worldwide. The founders of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk, started by identifying a problem: the cost and lack of personalisation in traditional lodging. 

They conducted in-depth user research by staying in their own listings and collecting feedback from both hosts and guests. This empathetic approach allowed them to design a platform that not only met the needs of travellers but also empowered h osts to provide personalised experiences.  

Airbnb's intuitive website and mobile app interface, along with its robust review and rating system, instil trust and transparency, making users feel comfortable choosing from a vast array of properties. Furthermore, the "Experiences" feature reflects Airbnb's commitment to immersive travel, allowing users to book unique activities hosted by locals.   

Case Study 2. Apple    

Apple Inc. has consistently been a pioneer in Design Thinking, which is evident in its products, such as the iPhone. One of the best Design Thinking examples from Apple is the development of the iPhone's User Interface (UI). The team at Apple identified the need for a more intuitive and user-friendly smartphone experience. They conducted extensive research and usability testing to understand user behaviours, pain points, and desires.   

The result? A revolutionary touch interface that forever changed the smartphone industry. Apple's relentless focus on the user experience, combined with iterative prototyping and user feedback, exemplifies the power of Design Thinking in creating groundbreaking products.    

Apple invests heavily in user research to anticipate what customers want before they even realise it themselves. This empathetic approach to design has led to groundbreaking innovations like the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, which have redefined the entire industry.  

Case Study 3. Netflix  

Netflix : Design Thinking Case Study

Netflix, the global streaming giant, has revolutionised the way we consume entertainment content. A major part of their success can be attributed to their effective use of Design Thinking principles. What sets Netflix apart is its commitment to understanding its audience on a profound level.  

Netflix recognised that its success hinged on offering a personalised, enjoyable viewing experience. Through meticulous user research, data analysis, and a culture of innovation, Netflix constantly evolves its platform. By gathering insights on viewing habits, content preferences, and even UI, the company tailors its recommendations, search algorithms, and original content to captivate viewers worldwide. 

Furthermore, Netflix's iterative approach to Design Thinking allows it to adapt quickly to shifting market dynamics. This agility was crucial when transitioning from a DVD rental service to a streaming platform. Netflix didn't just lead this revolution; it shaped it by keeping users' desires and behaviours front and centre. Netflix's commitment to Design Thinking has resulted in a highly user-centric platform that keeps subscribers engaged and satisfied, ultimately contributing to its global success.   

Case Study 4. Uber Eats     

Uber Eats, a subsidiary of Uber, has disrupted the food delivery industry by applying Design Thinking principles to enhance user experiences and create a seamless platform for food lovers and restaurants alike.  

One of UberEats' key innovations lies in its user-centric approach. By conducting in-depth research and understanding the pain points of both consumers and restaurant partners, they crafted a solution that addresses real-world challenges. The user-friendly app offers a wide variety of cuisines, personalised recommendations, and real-time tracking, catering to the diverse preferences of customers.  

Moreover, UberEats leverages technology and data-driven insights to optimise delivery routes and times, ensuring that hot and fresh food reaches customers promptly. The platform also empowers restaurant owners with tools to efficiently manage orders, track performance, and expand their customer base. 

Case Study 5 . IBM    

IBM is a prime example of a large corporation successfully adopting Design Thinking to drive innovation and transform its business. Historically known for its hardware and software innovations, IBM recognised the need to evolve its approach to remain competitive in the fast-paced technology landscape.   

IBM's Design Thinking journey began with a mission to reinvent its enterprise software solutions. The company transitioned from a product-centric focus to a user-centric one. Instead of solely relying on technical specifications, IBM started by empathising with its customers, understanding their pain points, and envisioning solutions that genuinely addressed their needs.   

One of the key elements of IBM's Design Thinking success is its multidisciplinary teams. The company brought together designers, engineers, marketers, and end-users to collaborate throughout the product development cycle. This cross-functional approach encouraged diverse perspectives, fostering creativity and innovation.   

IBM's commitment to Design Thinking is evident in its flagship projects such as Watson, a cognitive computing system, and IBM Design Studios, where Design Thinking principles are deeply embedded into the company's culture.  

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Case Study 6 . Oral - B’s electric toothbrush  

Oral-B, a prominent brand under the Procter & Gamble umbrella, stands out as a remarkable example of how Design Thinking can be executed in a seemingly everyday product—Electric toothbrushes. By applying Design Thinking principles, Oral-B has transformed the world of oral hygiene with its electric toothbrushes.   

Oral-B's journey with Design Thinking began by placing the user firmly at the centre of their product development process. Through extensive research and user feedback, the company gained invaluable insights into oral care habits, preferences, and pain points. This user-centric approach guided Oral-B in designing electric toothbrushes that not only cleaned teeth more effectively but also made the entire oral care routine more engaging and enjoyable .   

Another of Oral-B's crucial innovations is the integration of innovative technology into their toothbrushes. These devices now come equipped with features like real-time feedback, brushing timers, and even Bluetooth connectivity to sync with mobile apps. By embracing technology and user-centric design, Oral-B effectively transformed the act of brushing teeth into an interactive and informative experience, helping users maintain better oral hygiene.   

Oral-B's success story showcases how Design Thinking, combined with a deep understanding of user needs, can lead to significant advancements in even the most traditional industries, ultimately improving both the product and user satisfaction. 

Case Study 7 . IDEO    

IDEO, a global design consultancy, has been at the forefront of Design Thinking for decades. They have worked on diverse projects, from creating innovative medical devices to redesigning public services. One of their most notable Design Thinking examples is the development of the " DeepDive" shopping cart for a major retailer.    

IDEO's team spent weeks observing shoppers, talking to store employees, and prototyping various cart designs. The result was a cart that not only improved the shopping experience but also increased sales. IDEO's human-centred approach, emphasis on empathy, and rapid prototyping techniques demonstrate how Design Thinking can drive innovation and solve real-world problems.    

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Case Study 8 . Tesla  

Tesla: Design Thinking Case Study

Tesla, led by Elon Musk, has redefined the automotive industry by applying Design Thinking to Electric Vehicles (EVs). Musk and his team identified the need for EVs to be not just eco-friendly but also desirable. They focused on designing EVs that are stylish, high-performing, and technologically advanced. Tesla's iterative approach, rapid prototyping, and constant refinement have resulted in groundbreaking EVs like the Model S, Model 3, and Model X.    

From the minimalist interior of their Model S to the autopilot self-driving system, every aspect is meticulously crafted with the end user in mind. The company actively seeks feedback from its user community, often implementing software updates based on customer suggestions. This iterative approach ensures that Tesla vehicles continually evolve to meet and exceed customer expectations .   

Moreover, Tesla's bold vision extends to sustainable energy solutions, exemplified by products like the Powerwall and solar roof tiles. These innovations showcase Tesla's holistic approach to Design Thinking, addressing not only the automotive industry's challenges but also contributing to a greener, more sustainable future.   

Case Study 9 . GE Healthcare   

GE Healthcare is a prominent player in the healthcare industry, renowned for its relentless commitment to innovation and design excellence. Leveraging Design Thinking principles, GE Healthcare has consistently pushed the boundaries of medical technology, making a significant impact on patient care worldwide .   

One of the key areas where GE Healthcare has excelled is in the development of cutting-edge medical devices and diagnostic solutions. Their dedication to user-centred design has resulted in devices that are not only highly functional but also incredibly intuitive for healthcare professionals to operate. For example, their advanced medical imaging equipment, such as MRI and CT scanners, are designed with a focus on patient comfort, safety, and accurate diagnostics, reflecting the company's dedication to improving healthcare outcomes.   

Moreover, GE Healthcare's commitment to design extends beyond the physical product. They have also ventured into software solutions that facilitate data analysis and patient management. Their user-friendly software interfaces and data visualisation tools have empowered healthcare providers to make more informed decisions, enhancing overall patient care and treatment planning. 

Case Study 10 . Nike   

Nike is a global powerhouse in the athletic apparel and footwear industry. Nike's journey began with a simple running shoe, but its design-thinking approach transformed it into an iconic brand. Nike's Design Thinking journey started with a deep understanding of athletes' needs and desires. They engage in extensive user research, often collaborating with top athletes to gain insights that inform their product innovations .   

This customer-centric approach has allowed Nike to develop groundbreaking technologies, such as Nike Air and Flyknit , setting new standards in comfort, performance, and style. Beyond product innovation, Nike's brand identity itself is a testament to Design Thinking. The iconic Swoosh logo, created by Graphic Designer Carolyn Davidson, epitomises simplicity and timelessness, reflecting the brand's ethos.   

Nike also excels in creating immersive retail experiences, using Design Thinking to craft spaces that engage and inspire customers. Their flagship stores around the world are showcases of innovative design, enhancing the overall brand perception.  

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Lessons learned from Design Thinking Case Studies  

The Design Thinking process, as exemplified by the success stories of IBM, Netflix, Apple, and Nike, offers valuable takeaways for businesses of all sizes and industries. Here are three key lessons to learn from these case studies:  

Key takeaways from Design Thinking Case Studies

1)   Consider the b ig p icture   

Design Thinking encourages organisations to zoom out and view the big picture. It's not just about solving a specific problem but understanding how that problem fits into the broader context of user needs and market dynamics. By taking a holistic approach, you can identify opportunities for innovation that extend beyond immediate challenges. IBM's example, for instance, involved a comprehensive evaluation of their clients' journeys, leading to more impactful solutions.  

2)  Think t hrough a lternative s olutions   

One of the basic principles of Design Thinking is ideation, which emphasises generating a wide range of creative solutions. Netflix's success in content recommendation, for instance, came from exploring multiple strategies to enhance user experience. When brainstorming ideas and solutions, don't limit yourself to the obvious choices. Encourage diverse perspectives and consider unconventional approaches that may lead to breakthrough innovations.  

3)  Research e ach c ompany’s c ompetitors   

Lastly, researching competitors is essential for staying competitive. Analyse what other companies in your industry are doing, both inside and outside the realm of Design Thinking. Learn from their successes and failures. GE Healthcare, for example, leveraged Design Thinking to improve medical equipment usability, giving them a competitive edge. By researching competitors, you can gain insights that inform your own Design Thinking initiatives and help you stand out in the market.  

Incorporating these takeaways into your approach to Design Thinking can enhance your problem-solving capabilities, foster innovation, and ultimately lead to more successful results.  


Design Thinking is not limited to a specific industry or problem domain; it is a versatile approach that promotes innovation and problem-solving in various contexts. In this blog, we've examined successful Design Thinking Case Studies from industry giants like IBM, Netflix, Apple, Airbnb, Uber Eats, and Nike. These companies have demonstrated that Design Thinking is a powerful methodology that can drive innovation, enhance user experiences, and lead to exceptional business success.   

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Header Explore Section: Case Studies Page

50+ Design Thinking Case Study Examples

Design Thinking Case Studies demonstrate the value of the Design Thinking methodology. They show how this Design Thinking methodology helps creatively solve problems and improve the success rate of innovation and increase collaboration in corporations, education, social impact work and the public sector by focusing on the needs of humans.

There are many Design Thinking Case Study examples on the web, but few meet the criteria for a robust case study: a clear description of the methodology, steps undertaken, experimentation through rapid prototypes and testing with people and finally documented results from the process. In this section, we have been selective about the design thinking case study examples that we highlight. We look for Design Thinking Case Studies that demonstrate how a problem was tackled and wherever possible the results or effect that the project produced. Our goal in curating this section of Design Thinking Case Study examples is quality over quantity.

Browse this page to view all Design Thinking Case Study examples, or if you are looking for Design Thinking Case Studies in a specific industry or marketing vertical, then rather start with the Design Thinking Case Studies Index .

If you have an interesting application of Design Thinking that you have a case study for, we would be happy to publish it.

Submit your Design Thinking Case Study for publication here.

Design Thinking Case Study Index

Design Thinking Case Study Index

Welcome to the Design Thinking Case Study Index. There are many Design Thinking Case Studies on the internet. Many are retrofitted descriptions of what occurred, rather than evidence of the Design Thinking process in action. In order to bring a higher standard to the practice of Design Thinking, we require stronger evidence and rigor. Only members can post and must provide strong evidence in the Design Thinking Case Study that the Design Thinking process was used to create the original idea for the product or service solution. The criteria that needs to be proved to make your project a Design Thinking Case Study are:

The Guardian: Benefits of Design Thinking

The Guardian: Benefits of Design Thinking

Design thinking helped The Guardian newspaper and publishing group change their funding model, boost revenue and adapt their culture and engage on an emotional level with their readers. In this case study, Alex Breuer, Executive Creative Director and Tara Herman, Executive Editor, Design explain how design thinking was able to achieve these goals for The Guardian.


Tackling the Opioid Crisis at the Human and Systems Levels

Tackling the Opioid Crisis at the Human and Systems Levels

How the Lummi Tribal clinic used design to address opioid overdoses

Applying Design Thinking Internally

Applying Design Thinking Internally

Applying Design Thinking internally, within a group, community or to ourselves. This is a new application of the Design Thinking Methodology.

An internal application in this sense can have two meanings. First, the internal application of design thinking tactics within a group, organization or community, and second, the internal application of design thinking to one’s own self and life.

Can Design Thinking help you solve your own problems?

The Use of Design Thinking in MNCH Programs, Ghana

The Use of Design Thinking in MNCH Programs, Ghana

Responding to growing interest among designers, global health practitioners, and funders in understanding the potential benefits of applying design thinking methods and tools to solving complex social problems, the Innovations for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Initiative (Innovations) developed and piloted innovative interventions to address common barriers to improving the effectiveness of basic MNCH health services in low-resource settings.

Société Générale's Time Tracking Nightmare Solved

Société Générale's Time Tracking Nightmare Solved

In 2017, employees, managers, and partners of Société Générale Global Solution Centre agreed that invoices based on time tracking and project allocation were a chronic and painful challenge.

At SG-GSC, customers were billed for the time each assigned employee worked. The process of collecting the time worked by those employees (HCC) was a complicated and difficult ordeal. It consumed 21 days per month for senior employees. These employees had to navigate different systems, many types of contracts, high staff mobility, and a variety of processes between business lines.

How to Stimulate Innovation in Your Organization With Design Thinking

How to Stimulate Innovation in Your Organization With Design Thinking

In this use case the cities of Aalborg and Rotterdam share their findings obtained from design thinking initiatives. This is based on empirical research as part of an evaluation. The use case is written for other professionals in the field of design in public organizations.

One of the main targets of the Interreg NSR project Like! is to create a digital innovative culture in which citizens are engaged, and more inclusive services are build. To reach this the municipalities started several initiatives with design thinking. In these initiatives one of the objectives was to find out how design thinking can help us to develop innovative and inclusive services. To research what design thinking contributed, we evaluated the pilots with participants.

The Impact of Design Thinking on Innovation: A Case Study at Scania IT

The Impact of Design Thinking on Innovation: A Case Study at Scania IT

Organizational culture represents a crucial factor for the introduction of innovation throughout the organization via Design Thinking and agile way of working. Thus, the organization must establish a culture that encompasses a shared vision with values that create a commitment to learn, experiment and accept failure.

Oral B - Putting the User At the Center of Innovation

Oral B - Putting the User At the Center of Innovation

Oral B wanted to integrate digital technology into their electric toothbrush. The Brands first thoughts were to help users to track how well they were brushing their teeth. Future Facility, a product design firm in the UK suggested a different approach. Focus on the pain points of electric toothbrush users.

This case study discusses the importance of placing the user at the center of your innovation activities.

eCarSharing: Design Thinking At Innogy

Design Thinking at Innogy

eCarSharing:   Energy Solutions for the New Generation

In 2015, Itai Ben-Jacob pitched his own ideas for a viable business model and developed the idea for innogy’s eCarSharing project in a design thinking workshop. His goal was to explore one of innogy’s innovation focus areas, ‘urban mobility.’

Together with fellow innovation hub members he organized a series of design thinking workshops to wade through the expansive topic of urban concepts – one of them focusing on mobility: “ We wanted to understand urban mobility – what does it actually entail? What type of business should we start? “

Building Cape Town’s Resilience Qualities Through Design Thinking.

Building Cape Town’s Resilience Qualities Through Design Thinking.

This case study focuses on a Design Thinking Workshop for primary school learners. The aim of the workshops was to provide learners with a new set of skills which they can employ when problem solving for real world challenges.

Building resilience is essential for cities that face increasing uncertainty and new challenges that threaten the well-being of its citizens. This is especially important when looking at the diversity and complexity of potential shocks and stresses. 

Cape Town’s efforts to build skills in design thinking supports the creation of locally-relevant and innovative solutions that contribute to building resilient individuals and communities in Cape Town.

A Design Thinking Case Study byIDEO: Designing Waste Out of the Food System

Designing Waste Out of the Food System

The average American  wastes  enough food each month to feed another person for 19 days. Through a number of projects with The Rockefeller Foundation and other organizations, IDEO designers from across the U.S. devised novel ways to tackle food waste.

B2B Design Thinking: Product Innovation when the User is a Network

B2B Design Thinking: Product Innovation when the User is a Network

When B2B companies talk about user experience, they are really considering the aggregated needs of multiple people and roles in a large ecosystem. But what happens when those objectives are vastly different for every individual?

“Humans don’t stop being humans just because they entered an office building.”

Self-Checkout: Improving Scan Accuracy Through Design

Self-Checkout: Improving Scan Accuracy Through Design

In this unique applied research study, academics and designers partnered with four of ECR’s Retailer members to immerse themselves in the self-checkout experience, understanding from the perspectives of the shopper and self-checkout supervisors, their journey from entry to exit, and their design challenges and frustrations.

Co-designing OTP Bank’s Strategic Plan for Growth, The Design Thinking Society

Co-designing OTP Bank’s Strategic Plan for Growth

This is an example of accelerating a transformation through co-design. Eighty-two professionals gathered, representing OTP’s whole organization. Together, they were able to achieve months of work in just three days.

OTP Bank Romania (OTP) was at a key turning point in late 2018. The organization was undergoing changes in its leadership team. This new team helped them develop an ambitious goal:

OTP Bank will double its market share in 5 years.

They gathered for two Discovery sessions in December 2018. In these sessions, a carefully selected senior team chose three market segments to focus on. Then they built these segments into Personas.

IDEO: Journey to Mastery

IDEO: Journey to Mastery

While this is not a case study as such, it sits in our case study section as it is an important piece of information from a consultancy that played a large part in popularizing Design Thinking. In their Journey to Mastery section, IDEO discuss and shine a light on the shortcomings of the design thinking term and how it has been applied. I.e that it is not designing and that just knowing and using the practice does not in itself produce amazing solutions to problems.

It is worth a read to understand some of the nuance that is important to successful design thinking work.

Singapore Government: Building Service Platforms Around Moments in Life

Singapore Government: Building Service Platforms Around Moments in Life

In 2017, the product development team at Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) was tasked to develop a tool to consolidate citizen-facing services previously delivered by different government agencies onto a single platform. The initiative, Moments of Life, sought to make it easier for citizens to discover and access relevant services during important changes in their lives by reducing fragmentation and being more anticipatory in the delivery of those services.

Organizing the delivery of services around a citizen’s journey, rather than fitting their delivery to existing processes, required extensive interagency collaboration beyond functional silos.

Mayo Clinic: Design Thinking in Health Care – Case Study

Mayo Clinic: Design Thinking in Health Care – Case Study

In the early 2000s, Mayo Clinic physician Nicholas LaRusso asked himself a question: if we can test new drugs in clinical trials, can we in a similarly rigorous way test new kinds of doctor-patient interactions?  

Consequently, the Mayo Clinic set up a skunkworks outpatient lab called SPARC. Within 6 years it had grown to an enterprise wide department called the Center for Innovation a dedicated research and design-oriented institute that studies the processes of health care provision, from the initial phone call, to the clinic visit, to the diagnosis and treatment of the problem, to follow-up and preventive care.

Design Thinking and Participation in Switzerland: Lessons Learned from Three Government Case Studies

Design Thinking and Participation in Switzerland: Lessons Learned from Three Government Case Studies

Olivier Glassey, Jean-Henry Morin, Patrick Genoud, Giorgio Pauletto

This paper examines how design thinking and serious game approaches can be used to support participation.

In these case studies the authors discovered the following results.

Perceived usefulness. Based on informal discussions and debriefing sessions following all workshops, it is clear that the vast majority of workshop participants explicitly stated that both the actual outcome of the workshop and the methods used would significantly contribute to enhancing their performance in their work. Some workshops have actually led to follow up workshops or concrete actions based on the outcome.

Asili: Addressing an Entire Ecosystem of Need in a Rural Community

Asili: Addressing an Entire Ecosystem of Need in a Rural Community

Design Thinking in HR at Deutche Telekom, presented by Reza Moussavian

Design Thinking in HR at Deutche Telekom

Reza Moussavian, a senior HR and IT executive at Deutsch Telekom explains the company's journey and how important Design Thinking is as a business strategy for HR. Reza Moussavian's presentation provides great examples of issues tackled in HR and the results achieved. The presenter claims that there is not a singe issue that Deutche Telekom tackles in HR now that does not start with a Design Thinking methodology.

"Design Thinking solves 5% of our problems." says Reza Moussavian, "What we found out was that the magic was really in the implementation phase. We had to learn how to keep the momentum, the spirit and the fire from the co-creation workshops alive through the long implementation phase. Success is really about technology, transformation and leadership skills."

Design Thinking in Education: Perspectives, Opportunities and Challenges

Design Thinking in Education: Perspectives, Opportunities and Challenges

This very informative article discusses design thinking as a process and mindset for collaboratively finding solutions for wicked problems in a variety of educational settings. Through a systematic literature review the article organizes case studies, reports, theoretical reflections, and other scholarly work to enhance our understanding of the purposes, contexts, benefits, limitations, affordances, constraints, effects and outcomes of design thinking in education.

Specifically, the review pursues four questions:

Design Thinking in the Classroom: What can we do about Bullying? By Dr. Maureen Carroll.

Design Thinking in the Classroom: What can we do about Bullying?

As children move from kindergarten, through middle school, and to high school, instruction shifts from stories to facts, from speculation to specifics, and imagination fades from focus. Design Thinking provides an alternative model to traditional ways of learning academic content by challenging students to find answers to complex, nuanced problems with multiple solutions and by fostering students’ ability to act as change agents.

Design Thinking is all about building creative confidence — a sense that “I can change the world.” In the Bullies & Bystanders Design Challenge, the students discovered that changing themselves might be even more important.

A Design Thinking Case Study in Education: Following One School District's Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century

Following One School District's Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century

In her doctoral paper Loraine Rossi de Campos explores the use of Design Thinking in a school district for a 4-5 grade school.

India: Using ‘Design Thinking’ to Enhance Urban Redevelopment.

India: Using ‘Design Thinking’ to Enhance Urban Redevelopment.

The discourse on urban planning and development has evolved over the last century with top-down methods of planning urban spaces giving way to bottom-up approaches that involve residents and other stakeholders in the design process. While the notion of participation and user involvement is considered critical to the design of appropriate and acceptable urban forms, there is no clear consensus in the literature on the methodology to be used to involve users and stakeholders in the design process. In this paper, we propose that the use of ‘Design-Thinking’ – a methodology for Human-Centred Design that is often used in product design and related industries – may be an effective methodology for engaging stakeholders in the urban design domain.

E*Trade: From Idea to Investment in 5 Minutes

E*Trade: From Idea to Investment in 5 Minutes

Why the Financial Services Sector Should Embrace Design Thinking. Financial institutions need to evolve rapidly or risk disruption at the hands of nimble Fintech start-up companies.

In this article Kunal Vaed, The Street, describes how E*Trade used design thinking to enable the company to help investors get smarter by going from the idea of investing to an investment in 5 minutes.

E*Trade's Adaptive Portfolio service offering provides a good example of the work and results that E*Trade achieved with Design Thinking.

Fidelity Labs: Optimizing near-term savings goals

Fidelity Labs: Optimizing near-term savings goals

Thanks to providers like Fidelity, people can rely on easy, convenient systems to stay on track with their retirement savings. But when it comes to saving for important near-term goals (think: vacation, house, or wedding), people tend to be less organized. 

Fidelity Labs tackled this problem and defined the challenge as: "How might we improve the experience of saving for near-term goals? How might we make it easier, faster, and better?"

Design for Action: MassMutual and Intercorp Group by Tim Brown and Roger L. Martin

Design for Action: MassMutual and Intercorp Group

How to use design thinking to make great things actually happen by Tim Brown and Roger L. Martin. In this great HBR article, the authors look at design thinking in Finance with two case studies, one from MassMutual and the other from Intercorp. Group of Peru.

In this article highlighting the development of the acceptance of Design Thinking, they discuss how Design Thinking helps to create the artifact that creates the new solution as well as the intervention/s that brings the artifact to life.

How to Use Design Thinking to Make Great Things Actually Happen by Tim Brown and Roger Martin

How to Use Design Thinking to Make Great Things Actually Happen

Ever since it became clear that smart design led to the success of many products, companies have been employing it in other areas, from customer experiences, to strategy, to business ecosystems. But as design is used in increasingly complex contexts, a new hurdle has emerged: gaining acceptance (for the new solutions).

4 Design Thinking Case Studies in Healthcare: Nursing by Penn Nursing

4 Design Thinking Case Studies in Healthcare: Nursing

The 4 case studies by Penn Nursing illustrate how nurses can be really powerful collaborators and generators of solutions within Healthcare. The videos describe the main attributes that nurses bring to the problem solving table

Philips Improving the Patient Experience

Philips: Improving the Patient Experience

Philips Ambient Experience service offers hospitals a way to radically improve the patient experience and results that they can achieve from their CT scanning suites. The best way to understand what it is is to watch this video  and this video  discussing the latest addition to the service. The white paper from Philips is also a good source of information on the Ambient Experience Service.

IBM: Design Thinking Adaptation and Adoption at Scale by Jan Schmiedgen and Ingo Rauth

IBM: Design Thinking Adaptation and Adoption at Scale

How IBM made sense of ‘generic design thinking’ for tens of thousands of people. 

Generic design thinking often faces heavy resistance from influential skeptics, gets misunderstood or not understood at all, or less dire, it gets picked up with an unreflected euphoria and is applied as a “silver bullet” to all kinds of problems and projects (the famous “methodology misfit” we also see with Scrum for example). The big hangover often comes after the first experimentation budgets are expended and at worst a blame game starts.

Design Thinking in Public Engagement: Two Case Studies

Design Thinking in Public Engagement: Two Case Studies

Dave Robertson presents two case studies with the British Columbia Government (Canada). One with the Ministry of Transportation discussing their (public servant centered website), the other solving the problem of finding a solution to where to place a power substation.

Dave shows how he was stuck working in the public sector as a consultant and how creativity expressed through the Design Thinking methodology helped him to see a different, more effective way of creating solutions.

Bank of America Helps Customers Keep the Change with IDEO

Bank of America Helps Customers Keep the Change

How do you encourage new customers to open bank accounts? In 2004, Bank of America used the Design Thinking methodology to look at the problem from a human centered perspective when they assigned design agency IDEO to boost their enrollment numbers: a problem that at the time, lacked any user perspective on why it was so hard for customers to save.

IDEO: Redesigning The Employment Pass Application in Singapore

Redesigning The Employment Pass Application in Singapore

The Ministry of Manpower’s Work Pass Division (WPD) used design thinking as a tool to develop better ways to support foreigners who choose Singapore as a destination to live, work and set up businesses. The case reveals: Design thinking can potentially transform the perception and meaning of public service.

The team found out that the service redesign process required a better understanding of the decision points of both users and non-users. This involved taking a closer look at the opportunities and difficulties facing users, including those who had succeeded and failed within it, or had encountered problems or avoided it.

The US Tax Forms Simplification Project

The US Tax Forms Simplification Project

This case concerns one of the earliest attempts by design thinkers at designing a large, complex system. It shows that design approaches in the public sector can look back at a long history. And it reveals how design thinking within the organization must include members of the whole organization in the design process.

Design has a long tradition and a rich history in the public sector. Nearly 40 years ago, when the US Congress passed the Paperwork Reduction Act into law, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) turned to designers in an effort to implement the new policy and to improve its relationship with taxpayers. 

A Tough Crowd: Using Design Thinking to Help Traditional German Butchers

A Tough Crowd: Using Design Thinking to Help Traditional German Butchers

Between 2004 and 2014, more than 4000 butcher shops were forced to shut down in Germany. When last was the butcher shop redesigned? The process started in the 1990s, as supermarkets became the favored spot for meat-shopping. As if a dramatic loss of market share was not enough, the industry as a whole started suffering from a serious image crisis. It was time to apply design Thinking to the traditional German Butcher Shop.

The initial problem statement read “Create the meat shop 2.0, an up-to-date version of the classic butcher business”. 

IDEO: Using Design Thinking to Create a Better Car

IDEO: Using Design Thinking to Create a Better Car

The challenge.

Remove roadblocks that can compromise the in-car experience for the Lincoln car company.

The final product, the Lincoln MKC luxury crossover, is credited with helping the Lincoln brand outpace growth in the luxury segment by more than two-to-one over competitors.


A pop-up studio where IDEO designers helped departments communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Transforming Constructivist Learning into Action: Design Thinking in Education, by

Transforming Constructivist Learning into Action: Design Thinking in Education

In an ever changing society of the 21st century, there is a demand to equip students with meta competences going beyond cognitive knowledge. Education, therefore, needs a transition from transferring knowledge to developing individual potentials with the help of constructivist learning. A Scheer, C Noweski,  C Meinel , University of Potsdam, Germany.

Design Thinking is the most effective method of teaching constructivist learning.

Scaling Design Thinking in the Enterprise, a 5 Year Study

Scaling Design Thinking in the Enterprise, a 5 Year Study

During Julie Baher's five years at  Citrix  between 2010 to 2015, she was fortunate to gain first-hand experience leading a transformation in product strategy to a customer-centered approach. It began when several senior executives attended the  design thinking boot camp  at Stanford’s d-school, returning with a new vision for the product development processes. Julie goes into detail about how they scaled up the customer centric methodology across the organizations 8,000 employees.

Developing Environmental Sustainability Strategies

Developing Environmental Sustainability Strategies

Developing environmental sustainability strategies, the Double Diamond method of LCA and design thinking: a case study from aged care. Journal of Cleaner Production, 85, 67-82. Stephen J. Clune*, Simon Lockrey.

Developing an App for Type II Diabetes using Design Thinking to ensure that the App is developed around the needs of the users

Developing an App for Type II Diabetes

Development and testing of a mobile application to support diabetes self-management for people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes: a design thinking case study. Numerous mobile applications have been developed to support diabetes-self-management. However, the majority of these applications lack a theoretical foundation and the involvement of people with diabetes during development. The aim of this study was to develop and test a mobile application (app) supporting diabetes self-management among people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes using design thinking. The article was written by Mira Petersen and Nana F. Hempler.

Design Thinking to Improve UX in Public Transportation

Improving UX in Public Transportation

In this case study the project leaders goal was to  improve the experience of bus users  on Madrid's EMT system by offering a technological solution to  increase the users’ satisfaction with regard to accessibility  during the bus trip as well as when waiting for the bus to arrive.

Transforming Life Insurance through design thinking - a McKinsey Case Study

Transforming Life Insurance through Design Thinking

To some fintechs, non-insurance incumbents, and venture capitalists, the industry’s challenges suggest opportunity. The life insurance value chain is increasingly losing share to these players, who are chipping away at the profit pool. 

How might incumbent life insurers keep pace in today’s fast-moving competitive environment and meet customers’ changing needs?

Deploying the Design Thinking methodology in the insurance sector could be the key to helping save insurance from itself. Here's what McKinsey has to say about design thinking in insurance in their article "Transforming Life Insurance through Design Thinking".

"Better addressing the evolving needs of consumers can help incumbents win their loyalty—and protect against new competitors. 

Bringing Design Thinking to the Insurance World by Pancentric

Bringing Design Thinking to the Insurance World

Pancentric helped  Jelf kick-off a several-year digital transformation journey by getting to know not just their customers better, but their own staff, too. Jelf has dozens of offices around the UK, all with specialties in insuring different kinds of commercial businesses. For our project team trying to determine a roadmap of new developments, there was no easy overview of how each office operated or what the entire customer experience looked like.

The Features of Design Thinking in Fast Moving Consumer Goods Brand Development

The Features of Design Thinking in Fast Moving Consumer Goods Brand Development

This paper investigates what features of design thinking are employed in FMCG brand development via stakeholder interviews in three domains: agencies, companies, and retailers. This paper concludes with suggestions of how design thinking can be embraced in FMCG brand development.

Swiffer Case Study by Harry West, Continuum

A Chain of Innovation The Creation of Swiffer

This is a great case study that underlines the complexity of bringing game changing products to market. It helps to provide an understanding of just how much more is needed that a simple five step process of idea generation.

Read more from Continuum , the Design Firm responsible for the Swiffer

The Guardian: Using Design to Reaffirm Values, a case study by the Design Council

The Guardian: Using Design to Reaffirm Values

The Guardian's redesign, which launched in January 2018, illustrated the business impact when design is valued. The Guardian has a strong culture of design and increasingly, how design thinking can contribute to organizational change and development.

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5 Examples of Design Thinking in Business

Business team engaging in design thinking

  • 22 Feb 2022

Design thinking has become a business buzzword that’s changed how companies approach problem-solving . Countless brands, including GE Healthcare, Netflix, and UberEats, have utilized design thinking to develop effective solutions to challenges.

What Is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a user-centric, solutions-based approach to problem-solving that can be described in four stages :

The four stages of the design thinking process: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement

  • Clarify: This phase involves observing a situation without bias. It leans into design thinking’s user-centric element and requires empathizing with those affected by a problem, asking them questions about their pain points, and identifying what they solved. You can then use what you learn to create a problem statement or question that drives the rest of the design thinking process.
  • Ideate: Begin brainstorming potential solutions. Take your problem statement or question and ideate based on patterns or observations collected in the clarify phase. This is the time to let your imagination and creativity run wild.
  • Develop: Develop potential solutions using the ideas you generate, then test, experiment with, and reiterate to determine which are successful and which aren’t. Be ready to return to the ideation or clarification stage based on your results. Stepping back in the process is common—and encouraged—in design thinking.
  • Implement: Finally, implement the solution you’ve developed. Again, it’s likely you’ll have to take a few steps back and reiterate your final solution, but that’s a central part of this phase. After several tests and edits, you’ll have a solution that can yield positive results.

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Examples of Design Thinking

What does a properly executed design thinking process look like? Examining real-world examples is an effective way to answer that question. Here are five examples of well-known brands that have leveraged design thinking to solve business problems.

1. GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare is an example of a company that focused on user-centricity to improve a product that seemingly had no problems.

Diagnostic imaging has revolutionized healthcare, yet GE Healthcare saw a problem in how pediatric patients reacted to procedures. Many children were observed crying during long procedures in cold, dark rooms with flickering fluorescent lights. Considering this, GE Healthcare’s team observed children in various environments, spoke to experts, and interviewed hospital staff to gain more insight into their experiences.

After extensive user research, hospital pilots, and reiteration, GE Healthcare launched the “Adventure Series.” This redesign initiative focused on making magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines more child-friendly.

For example, the “Pirate Adventure” transforms MRI machines from dark, black holes to pirate ships with scenery of beaches, sandcastles, and the ocean. By empathizing with children’s pain points, GE Healthcare was able to craft a creative solution that was not only fun but increased patient satisfaction scores by 90 percent. This also yielded unexpected successes, including improved scan quality of pediatric patients, and ultimately saved customers time and resources.

Design thinking not only succeeds at finding effective solutions for companies but also at putting initiatives to the test before implementation.

When Oral B wanted to upgrade its electric toothbrush, it enlisted designers Kim Colin and Sam Hecht to help. The company’s request was to add more functions for electric toothbrush users, such as tracking brushing frequency, observing gum sensitivity, and playing music.

While clarifying the problem, however, Colin and Hecht pointed out that brushing teeth was a neurotic act for many people. Users didn’t want additional functionality and, in many cases, thought it could potentially cause more stress. Instead, they recommended two solutions that could improve user experience without adding gimmicks.

Their first recommendation was to make the toothbrush easier to charge, especially while users were on the road. Another was making it more convenient for users to order replacement heads by allowing toothbrushes to connect to phones and send reminder notifications. Both proposals were successful because they focused on what users wanted rather than what the company wanted to roll out.

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Although many companies have successfully used design thinking, Netflix has repeatedly leveraged it to become an industry giant. During the company’s inception, its main competitor, Blockbuster, required customers to drive to brick-and-mortar stores to rent DVDs. The process was the same for returns, which was a major pain point for many. Netflix eliminated that inconvenience by delivering DVDs directly to customers’ homes with a subscription model.

While this revolutionized the movie industry, Netflix’s real success has been in its innovation over the years. For example, when the company realized DVDs were becoming outdated, it created an on-demand streaming service to stay ahead of the curve. This also inadvertently eliminated the inconvenience of having to wait for DVDs.

Subsequently, in 2011, Netflix took its design thinking one step further and responded to customers’ need for original, provocative content that wasn’t airing on traditional networks. Later, in 2016, it improved its user experience by adding short trailers to its interface. Each of Netflix’s major updates was in response to customers’ needs and driven by an effective design thinking process.

Another household name, Airbnb , started by only making around $200 a week. After some observation, its founders recognized that the advertising pictures hosts were posting online weren’t of a high enough quality, which often deterred customers from renting rooms.

To empathize with customers, the founders spent time traveling to each location, imagining what users look for in a temporary place to stay. Their solution? Invest in a high-quality camera and take pictures of what customers want to see, based on their travel observations. For example, showing every room rather than a select few, listing special features like a hot tub or pool in the description, and highlighting the neighborhood or areas in close proximity to the residence. The result? A week later, Airbnb’s revenue doubled.

Instead of focusing on reaching a bigger audience, Airbnb’s founders used design thinking to determine why their existing audience wasn’t utilizing their services. They realized that rather than focusing on traditional business values, like scalability, they needed to simply put themselves in users’ shoes to solve business problems.

5. UberEats

The go-to food delivery service app UberEats attributes its success to its ability to reiterate quickly and empathize with customers.

A prime example of this is UberEats’s Walkabout Program , where designers observe cities in which the company operates. Some elements they inspect are food culture, cuisine, infrastructure, delivery processes, and transportation. One of the innovations that came from their immersive research is the driver app, which focuses on delivery partners’ pain points around parking in highly populated urban areas. To address this, the driver app provides step-by-step directions from restaurant to customer to ensure smoother delivery processes.

Understanding that pain points vary between geographic locations helps UberEats implement effective upgrades to its service that solve problems in specific locations.

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Practice Design Thinking

While these examples illustrate the kind of success design thinking can yield, you need to learn how to practice and use it before implementing it into your business model. Here are several ways to do so:

  • Consider the Big Picture

In the examples above, it’s easy to say the solutions are obvious. Yet, try taking a step back to reflect on how each company thought about its customer base’s perspective and recognized where to employ empathy.

  • Think Through Alternative Solutions

This is a useful exercise you can do with the examples above. Consider the problem each company faced and think through alternative solutions each could have tried. This can enable you to practice both empathy and ideation.

  • Research Each Company’s Competitors

Another helpful exercise is to look at each company’s competitors. Did those competitors have similar problems? Did they find similar solutions? How would you compete? Remember to walk through the four design thinking phases.

Design thinking is a powerful tool you can use to solve difficult business problems. To use it successfully, however, you need to apply it to problems both big and small.

If you want to learn more about design thinking, explore our online course Design Thinking and Innovation —one of our online entrepreneurship and innovation courses —for more real-world case studies and opportunities to practice innovative problem-solving in your career.

case study in design thinking

About the Author

Saving Product X: A Design Thinking Case Study

Have you ever wondered if you can apply design thinking principles with a limited time and budget? If so, check out this in-depth Design Thinking use case, which details how Design Thinking helped a company to save its product.

Saving Product X: A Design Thinking Case Study

By Luciano Castro

Luciano is a business-driven manager with over 15 years of experience as a CTO and CEO in multinational companies and startups.

What is Design Thinking?

Imagine that you have an idea. You come up with an ingenious application which you think will solve your business problems. There are currently no identical solutions on the market and the one which is most similar is not really working in the way that customers expect it to.

While your vision is still fresh, you start thinking about the first fundamental question that comes to mind: “How long will it take to get it done?”

And since we rarely find ourselves with unlimited budget and time, the second consequent question comes quickly: “How much will it cost me to do it?”

Both of these are fundamental and crucial questions in the making of a product, but often they are precisely the wrong questions to start with.

Instead, the most important question to ask first is: “What value can I create for my users?”

To better understand the scope of a project, requirements, and timing we can use a methodology called “ Design Thinking ,” which helps us during the “Discovery Phase” of a product. This is exactly the time when we need to understand not only what will make a great product, but also how and if we should do it. This creative and experimental approach helps us to better understand how to create things that are not only usable but above all, useful.

The Design Thinking process is particularly useful because it generates a unique and specific outcome: knowledge.

This methodology has a wider scope of use , but for the purpose of this case study on Design Thinking, we will focus only on one specific field - Software Product Development.

The Theory of Design Thinking

Before we delve into the practical applications of this Design Thinking example and my experience applying it, let’s take a deeper look at the Design Thinking process.

Design Thinking is a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solve problems. It focuses on understanding the user perspective, with a human-centered point of view. The power of this methodology is the possibility to test quickly if an idea, solution or enhancement can bring real results to our customers. Integrating different methodologies, tools, and techniques coming from different fields (marketing, psychology, design, business), the purpose of Design Thinking is to put the user on the very center of the problem we have to solve.

The goal of the methodology is to “find the user itself and define its needs” and by finding those needs, create a solution or a product that can be really useful. To achieve this goal, the whole concept is split into six design thinking phases .

Diagram of Design Thinking phases.

  • Empathize: The goal of this phase is to understand your customer, by searching and gathering information about their business. During this phase, we can use several different tools, such as interviews, focus groups, observations, and surveys.
  • Define: In this phase, we collect and categorize information from the Empathize phase . It’s here where we define User Personas and User Journeys.
  • Ideate: Using the above information, here the team ideates solutions. There are no silly or wrong ideas! Everything must be expressed and documented.
  • Prototype: During this phase, something tangible is created, that will allow you to verify your idea in real life. Don’t overcomplicate and create this MVP as quickly as possible.
  • Test: Verify your idea in real life with actual users. Get feedback. Ask questions on how to improve it.
  • Implement: This is the phase where all the collected knowledge gets translated into a final product.

If after reading this you may be thinking: “This is great but how is this going to help to quickly make my app a reality.” In order to make this more tangible, I will go over a case study for design thinking from my personal experience.

Design Thinking Project: A Real-life Case Study

Intro: project x.

Some time ago, I found myself at a meeting with an entrepreneur, a few managers , and many ideas flying around the room. Their direct competitor had recently released a new application and the tension was palpable. The company wanted to go out with something new on the market, to avoid losing ground to their competitor.

They prepared a document with some requirements, a vague idea of what the product should look like, and how much should it cost.

“We have to follow what others have done, with a lower price,” the Marketing Director said. “We have to create a more usable system, which simplifies the user journey,” added another manager. “We have to change the way we collect information, simplify it and integrate our processes with third parties,” said another. “It will take us months,” the technical manager shook his head, who mentally translated all those requests into hundreds of hours of code to be implemented.

While I can’t disclose all of the project details, I can disclose that the product was hub communication software . This piece of software managed different channels (email to SMS, fax to VoIP) and it was created for the web and mobile platforms. The product was originally created a few years before, but its usability was poor. At the time of the launch, the competitor was far ahead in terms of user experience. Moreover, they had an excellent mobile app, which was gaining ground in the mobile app store.

Company X was a traditional process driven company, familiar with traditional projects. It had run a few Agile projects in the past, but it was new to the idea of creating an MVP and testing it on the market. More notably, they feared the unknown. What if the new MVP would have an undesirable or unpredictable effect on their customer user base? This lack of control didn’t inspire confidence.

The meeting described above and the following ones did not lead to a clear definition of what the product to be achieved actually was. We only knew that we had to hit the target as soon as possible.

However as the project progressed and a competitor was beginning to gain traction, consent from the company was solidifying. Most agreed with the idea that: “We cannot afford to launch a half-finished product, we need a product that is working from the start.”

Despite some initial perplexity and fear, this was an opportunity to learn what would bring real value to their user base and potentially attract more users by making a streamlined lightweight product.

This prompted the company to look for approaches that they haven’t tried before, in order to have a complete product built on time even if it’s going to have only essential features at its launch. We decided to use the Design Thinking process and focus on the things that would really bring value to the end user and thus, beat the competition by bringing only what’s necessary to the customer.

Stage 1 - Empathize

Empathizing Phase: The goal of this phase is to understand your customer, by searching and gathering information about their business. During this phase, we can use several different tools, such as interviews, focus groups, observations, and surveys.

Image of sample graphs utilized during the Empathizing Phase.

In the most literal sense, empathy is the ability to understand and share the emotions of others. In design thinking, empathy is a “ deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for.”

Our first step was to ensure that the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (otherwise known as HiPPO) was not ruling over everyone else’s. Therefore, together with managers and the founder, we have compiled a list of possible stakeholders to be involved in the decision-making process.

In a day-long meeting, we compiled the first list of 30 names (between employees, functional managers, and customers) that could be contacted directly and then we also picked a target audience of 4000 customers (about 10% of their recurring customer user base).

We tried to “normalize” our target customer base as much as possible, by including diversity in terms of gender distribution, industry, and other data points. To add an additional level of complexity, the physical location of the sample to be interviewed were all divided into different cities and in some cases countries. We now had points of contacts to carry out interviews and questionnaires.

The group was organized to carry out the interviews remotely, following a scripted set of questions and some basic rules:

  • During the interview, try to use the “ 5 Whys ” technique.
  • Try to understand the main “What, How, Why” behind every behavior.
  • Make sure the interviewee used a webcam and that there was sufficient distance from the camera to be able to at least partially include the body language.
  • Record all interviews, in case they need to be seen in the future.

We prepared our interview questions with the intention of understanding which main features should be enhanced or eliminated, such that we could quickly build a new version that responded to the needs of our users.

For the second group of users, we prepared a series of questions in a Google form . We opted for multiple-choice questions, with some formulated open-ended questions to facilitate more interaction from the users, including a question requiring the user to try the new version of the product just available in closed beta.

To organize the entire information gathering process, we used remote tools that allowed the team to collect information more easily, including Skype, Zoom, Google Forms, and a digital Kanban Board where we put all of our activities and tracked their status.

Sample diagram of information gathering.

The first results of the interviews were encouraging, as the interviewees were open to providing feedback on the weaknesses and the strengths of the system.

However, the first batch of questionnaire answers was much less exciting: out of all 300 emails sent, only 5 people completed their questionnaires.

Disappointed by this result, we were ready to try new ways to involve the user base, when one of the sales managers came to us with an idea:

“I do not think they will answer any emails, they are not used to interacting with us. But, if we communicate with all those who have an expiring renewal and give them a small incentive, I am sure they will give us a hand.”

The idea was simple but exceptional. In a few hours, we had a new list of users (3800), which maintained the same division between the mainstream and extremes. However, these users would be “forced” to interact with the system, due to the proximity of their renewal.

This time around, they were asked to answer a series of questions, participate in the beta and in return, get a discount on renewal. The adhesion was complete and at the first delivery of this new model, over 70% of users replied and completed the questionnaire.

After iterating and changing some of the questions, and thanks to some users willing to interview more than once, we were ready to define our user base more clearly.

Stage 2 - Define

Defining Stage: In this phase, we collect and categorize information from the Empathize phase. It’s here where we define User Personas and User Journeys.

Sample user persona.

The dictionary meaning of define is to determine the identity and the essential qualities of a notion . In our case we wanted to define the following:

  • our ideal customers
  • their problems
  • the solutions to their problems
  • the needs and fears of our customers that we had to address

In the design thinking terms, the define phase is where you analyze your observations and synthesize them into core problems that you have identified.

We had a sufficient database to understand what the real problems were. In addition to the feedback received in the Empathize phase, it contained points that were highlighted by Company X employees but had never been pointed out to management, as well as strengths, weaknesses, and other problems that have never been taken into account.

The next action was to create our User Personas. During this brainstorming phase, we involved the entire extended team. The brainstorming phase was always performed remotely, using video-conferencing systems and tools to track the personas and their creation in real time.

For each Persona, we identified their biography, their approach to technology, their use of social media, preferred brands, their needs, and ideas and speculated on what would have been their Customer Journey.

After this, we had selected the common client User Personas and had a finished set of data coming from interviews and surveys. This was the right time to get our hands dirty.

During the definition phase, we tried to transform a generic definition of a problem like, “We need a product that will increase our sales by 10%,” into a more specific solution like: “Men and adult women, between 35 and 45 years that are working in an office need to receive communications that have a legal validity to be sure that the sender is actually who they say they are.”

At this point in the project process, we had completed brainstorming sessions around our users, hypothesized solutions, and kept an open mind to every possible innovation. “The only stupid idea is the one never expressed” was the mantra.

In a short time, bearing in mind who our subjects were, we had a clear view of what was useful to our users, along with what needs and fears we should address along the customer journey.

We then engaged in building a “User Story Map,” which allowed us to categorize the process of users, mapping up to themes. For each of the personas, we defined the set of activities, stories, and tasks that we assumed they must complete during the journey. In doing so, we could quickly test our idea and understand if it met the core needs. If it did, we could bring it into the market faster than everyone else which was essential as our competitor was becoming more successful every day.

Stage 3 - Ideate

Ideation Phase: Using the above information, here the team ideates solutions. There are no silly or wrong ideas! Everything must be expressed and documented.

One step further from the definition is the Ideation phase, where the key is forming real concepts and solution, not just abstract definitions.

In design thinking terms, ideation is “the process where you generate ideas and solutions through sessions such as Sketching, Prototyping, Brainstorming, Brainwriting, Worst Possible Idea, and a wealth of other ideation techniques.”

Our team was completely remote so we decided to proceed to work in a Lean way when producing materials and reviewing them. For example, designers and other members of the team have agreed that to be as fast as possible, the best solution would be to start with drawings on paper and to share photos of them in the group. Only then we would produce the most interesting designs in Balsamiq or Axure.

Sample wireframe.

For each sketch that was produced, we gathered information from users, we defined a set of solutions and we came back to those users (whenever it was possible and as often as it was possible) to test with them the process and the result.

Stage 4 - Prototype

Prototyping Phase: _ During this phase, something tangible is created, that will allow you to verify your idea in real life. Don’t overcomplicate and create this MVP as quickly as possible. _

Sample wireframe.

During the prototype phase, it was finally time to make our definitions and ideas come to life. A prototype is the first, original model of a proposed product, and this is exactly what we set out to build. By design thinking standards, the prototype stage is where you create an inexpensive, scaled down versions of the real product to investigate solutions from the previous stages.

After almost 10 days from the beginning of our journey, we arrived at the crucial moment, a meeting with a developer team where we had a chance to check our assumptions and estimations. After a session of consultation and definition with the team of developers, we weighed the stories and understood that the major effort of the development work will be in the development of the back-end system and interfacing with the legacy systems currently in place. Alongside this, we also realized that creating the front-end systems will be a much shorter exercise. Thus, we decided to create a front-end prototype using the components which already existed in the system to save time.

We had a time limit of 3 days to have a first version of the prototype ready. This prototype had to reflect the product as much as possible and maintain the necessary functionality.

After 3 days we had our first version of the prototype ready. It had “fake” data which reflected the behavior of the software we were aiming to create. Some accessory elements were missing, but the software in that state visually represented a good percentage of total content planned.

At the end of two weeks of work, we had software that we could try and test with actual users. We used user experience monitoring software to analyze heat maps and user attention, while they were navigating our prototype.

Stage 5 - Test

Testing Phase - Verify your idea in real life with actual users. Get feedback. Ask questions on how to improve it.

After a definition, ideation and a prototype phases it was finally time to see if our product actually worked in real life. In design thinking terms, testing means putting the complete product to trial using the best solutions created in the prototyping phase.

In our case, the testing phase did not only take place at the end, but it was a constant loop of feedback and iteration whenever it was possible. At the end of each accomplished step, we tried to get feedback from users or customers, before convincing ourselves to move on to the next phase.

Once the prototype was completed, it was time to test it with the widest possible audience and check with them how effectively it met their needs, understand their perception, and understand if it accomplished their goals.

The testing phase specifically included a walkthrough prototype where users were able to see the new workflow and perform actions, along with a few sessions where the team directly observed users, while tracking their responses. A simple questionnaire was used to collect conversion rates across specific features in the platform, where users were asked to score the process from 1-10.

The testing phase was later extended to the whole team and even to some individuals outside the organization (customers and users) who during the earlier sessions, had willingly consented to give their feedback on the implementation of the system.

The results of this testing were encouraging. The stakeholders of the Company X were able not only to see the mockups but to try out and “touch” the product for the very first time. The extended team had the opportunity to test and verify their assumptions and correct them over time within the period of two weeks.

Now the final test was waiting: opening it to users and understanding what would happen next.

Stage 6 - Implement

Implementation Phase: This is the phase where all the collected knowledge gets translated into a final product.

We had data, ideas, personas, and our first tangible prototype. It was time to roll up our sleeves and start developing. We had a month and a half to implement our new system.

We defined a set of rules to get our MVP implemented in a short period of time:

  • We will build only what we had defined, without adding new features.
  • We will keep ourselves focus on the main business goal.
  • We will use agile methodologies within teams to manage the workload.

To complete the project in time we have brought on a few new team members who had not been involved in the project since the very early stages of the discovery phase.

We added frontend developers, backend developers, and designers. The new members of the team were working remotely and it was not possible to bring them all in the same room for the period of the project, so we made sure that we have the right tools for keeping the communication going.

The process put in place to manage the work was an Agile one. We divided the remaining time into several short sprints, with remote meetings every day and updates via Slack during the day to exchange the ideas and to help each other to solve problems.

We didn’t have a full documentation stored somewhere, but mentally we all had a comprehensive set of actions, a common shared vision, and goals amongst the team. We all started to perceive the User Personas to be a real user, with his own needs and problems. Once our team started to have an aligned vision, we moved onto defining what needed to be done and when in order to finish the project on time.

The activities were outlined within a User Story Map, to maintain the original evidence of the personas and the flow we want to give to the product.

The User Story maps were created via three clear steps: identifying the activities, identifying the steps required to complete the activity, and the list of stories/tasks associated with each. We sorted the stories according to priority (Must, Should, Could), which dictated what components made it into the product.

The team was able to proceed in a fast pace since the very beginning of the implementation, thanks to a clear vision shared by the team, and by the method we employed which enabled the team to stay on track without direct steering from the management above. Everyone working in the project had questions from the Design Thinking stages in mind:

  • What action each user inside our platform should perform and what were they trying to achieve?
  • Which steps those users should take to reach the final goal?
  • Which pain points they had before and how should we avoid them?

This allowed our team to make their own micro-decisions, and steer the product towards its final goal.

We made two reviews of the work in progress at the end of each sprint and one final release review at the end of the path, before the product was finally put into production. We used the last sprint to prepare the infrastructure needed to run and launch the product.

Finally, the users who have used our old product were invited again to try out the new version. Our product was released into production two months after the meeting in which the idea to make it was expressed. The product worked, users started using it, and we progressively sent more new users to this tool instead of the old one. A/B testing showed us that they preferred the new product, and the project was accepted in the company as a great success.

More importantly, a Design Thinking methodology was finally accepted. We believe this will have a good and long-lasting impact and will allow them to build better products in the future.

Design Thinking Graph

Throughout this case study, we have shown how Design Thinking methodology can be applied to a real-life problem with a limited time and budget.

Instead of using more traditional approaches and producing things in sequential steps, we have chosen to iterate through the six design thinking stages. Empathize. Define. Ideate. Prototype. Test. Implement. This became our mantra and allowed us to produce a very well received product.

Using Design Thinking has lead so to save time, and in turn, save costs spend on the project. We were not working on millions of different features, but only on few, well thought through actions that were clear to everybody in the team. Most importantly, we were able to deliver the product and value that users needed.

Using Design Thinking process helped us in many different areas:

  • From the project management perspective, it enabled us to clearly define the scope of the project and prevent scope creep.
  • From the business perspective, it allowed us to pick the features which bring the real value to the business.
  • From the development perspective, it helped us see the clear goal of what we have to build before we even started building it.
  • From the team perspective, it involved all team members and allowed them to effectively work together and have their opinion heard in every part of the process.

When we started Design Thinking process was met with skepticism by the client, but when we finished and got the feedback from our customers, it was immediately clear that the steps we have laid out have helped us to achieve something that would have been very hard or impossible otherwise. This was valued by the client and became their internal a flagship project for the future challenges ahead.

Understanding the basics

Design Thinking is a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solve problems, focusing on understanding the user perspective, with a human-centered point of view.

Why is Design Thinking useful?

Design Thinking is particularly useful because it generates a unique and specific outcome: knowledge.

What phases does the Design Thinking process have?

  • Empathize. 2. Define. 3. Ideate. 4. Prototype. 5. Test. 6. Implement.
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Case studies of projects designed using AI-generated solutions

case study in design thinking

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made significant inroads into revolutionizing the construction and design industry by rapidly optimizing designs, predicting project risks, streamlining project management, and enhancing supply chain efficiency. It monitors construction quality, improves worker safety, and optimizes energy use. In architecture, AI personalizes designs, while in sustainability, it simulates environmental impacts for eco-friendly choices. AI’s data processing and automation empower professionals to make informed decisions, driving efficiency, cost-effectiveness, safety, and sustainability in the industry.

Case studies of projects designed using AI-generated solutions - Sheet1

Here are noteworthy building projects that have utilized AI in various ways:

Autodesk’s Generative Design for AEC Projects

case study in design thinking

Autodesk’s Generative Design for AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) Projects is a cutting-edge software that transforms the design process. Using AI and algorithms, it rapidly generates multiple design options based on user-defined parameters, such as materials and budget. This innovation allows architects and engineers to explore a multitude of design possibilities, optimizing structures for factors like strength, sustainability, and aesthetics. It fosters collaboration by presenting data-backed design alternatives, streamlining decision-making, and ultimately revolutionizing how buildings are designed, making them more efficient and sustainable.

The Shanghai Tower

Image 3 _©

The Shanghai Tower, completed in 2015, stands as an architectural marvel and a prime example of how AI can significantly influence the design and construction of skyscrapers. Its innovative design process incorporated AI in several key aspects:

  • Energy Efficiency : AI algorithms were employed to optimize the tower’s energy efficiency . It used weather data and building occupancy patterns to adjust heating, cooling, and lighting in real time. This reduced energy consumption and operating costs.
  • Wind Resistance : Due to its height and location, wind resistance was a critical factor. AI simulations were used to analyze wind patterns and create a unique, twisting form that reduced wind loads, ensuring structural stability.
  • Material Selection : AI helped in selecting materials based on their environmental impact and structural properties. This decision-making process led to the use of sustainable and strong materials, aligning with the tower’s green design principles.
  • Construction Management : AI-based project management tools were used to schedule construction activities, allocate resources efficiently, and monitor progress. This minimized delays and budget overruns.
  • Safety : AI-powered sensors and cameras monitor safety conditions in real-time, ensuring worker safety and allowing for immediate responses to potential hazards.
  • Customization : AI was used in tailoring the tower’s interior spaces to tenants’ preferences, enhancing the overall user experience.

The Shanghai Tower’s integration of AI in design, construction, and operation showcases how technology can create an iconic skyscraper that’s energy-efficient, structurally sound, and responsive to occupants’ needs. It sets a remarkable precedent for the future of sustainable and innovative architectural endeavors.

Project HALO (High-rise Automation, Labor-Saving, and Optimization)

Image 4 _©

Project HALO, short for High-rise Automation, Labor-Saving, and Optimization, is a pioneering initiative by Skanska that leverages AI-powered construction robotics. These advanced robots are designed to perform labor-intensive tasks such as bricklaying and concrete pouring with precision and speed. By automating these processes, HALO significantly boosts construction efficiency, reducing project timelines and costs. Moreover, it enhances worker safety by taking on physically demanding tasks and reducing the risk of on-site accidents. Project HALO exemplifies the transformative potential of AI in the construction industry, making it a trailblazing endeavor in the pursuit of more efficient and safer high-rise construction.

AI-designed 3D-printed House in France

Image 5 _©

In France, the innovative startup XtreeE harnessed AI algorithms to craft a remarkable 3D-printed house. AI played a pivotal role in shaping a design that seamlessly blends aesthetics with structural strength. This project exemplifies AI’s potential to revolutionize customized and sustainable housing solutions. By optimizing the design process, AI not only ensured a visually stunning home but also improved its structural integrity. XtreeE’s AI-designed 3D-printed house represents a groundbreaking step towards the future of architecture and construction, where technology and creativity converge to redefine how we approach housing needs, emphasizing both individuality and sustainability.

The Edge, Amsterdam 

Image 6 _©

The Edge, located in Amsterdam, stands as a pioneering exemplar of sustainable architecture and smart building management. Widely hailed as the world’s most sustainable office building, it is a testament to the innovative use of AI in construction.

AI is at the core of The Edge’s sustainability. The building employs an array of sensors and data analytics tools to optimize energy consumption. For instance, it uses natural light sensors to adjust the brightness of LED lighting, ensuring energy is used only when necessary. 

Furthermore, the building’s climate control system adapts based on occupancy and external weather conditions, ensuring a comfortable and efficient working environment while minimizing energy waste.

Space utilization is another area where AI shines at The Edge. The building employs a smart desk-booking system that allows employees to reserve workspaces as needed, promoting flexible work arrangements and efficient use of space.

The Edge demonstrates how AI-driven data analysis and automation can create sustainable, comfortable, and highly efficient workplaces, setting a remarkable precedent for future office buildings worldwide.

In conclusion, AI is transforming the construction industry by enhancing design, project management, safety, and sustainability.As AI continues to evolve, we can expect even more innovation and efficiency in the construction of buildings and infrastructure.

Lita LūseI’ve always had an interest in design and all things beauty. I get inspired by innovative products (2023) Is ai bound to change how we design and create? , DesignWanted . Available at:

Saudatu Bah |24 July 2023 Leave a comment (2023) Seven AI-designed architecture projects from Dezeen’s Pinterest , Dezeen . Available at:

Architechtures (2023) AI-Powered Building Design , Architechtures . Available at: 

Case studies of projects designed using AI-generated solutions - Sheet1

Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

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  • Volume 7, Issue 2
  • Design thinking as an approach for innovation in healthcare: systematic review and research avenues
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  • Mariana Oliveira ,
  • Eduardo Zancul ,
  • André Leme Fleury
  • School of Engineering, Industrial Engineering Department , Universidade de São Paulo (USP) , Sao Paulo , Brazil
  • Correspondence to Dr Eduardo Zancul, School of Engineering, Industrial Engineering Department, Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Sao Paulo, Brazil; ezancul{at}

Design thinking has been increasingly adopted as an approach to support innovation in healthcare. Recent publications report design thinking application to various innovation projects, across medical specialties, including paediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, gastroenterology, oncology, orthopaedics and surgery, as well as to innovation in hospital operations and healthcare management. Current literature in the area typically focuses on single case descriptions. With the recent increase in the number of cases, there is an opportunity to assess multiple cases to identify patterns and avenues for further research. This study provides a systematic review of published design thinking projects in healthcare. The aim of the study is to provide an overview of how design thinking has been applied in the healthcare sector. Data collection was based on Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus databases. The systematic review followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. A total of 32 original pieces of research was selected for analysis, being classified and assessed. The paper presents current status of research and practice from various perspectives, including the design thinking progression phase—inspiration, ideation, implementation—and the prevalence of design thinking tools. Avenues for further research include the need to increase focus on the inspiration phase, the opportunity for platforms for leveraging the integration of individuals in innovation projects, and the opportunity to enhance the role of lead users in healthcare innovation.

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Summary box

What is already known.

Design thinking has been adopted in healthcare innovation projects in several domains, with reports of positive outcomes.

What are the new findings?

The research details the design thinking processes and tools applied in healthcare based on multiple case reports.

Design thinking provides a frame for addressing the development of healthcare innovation by balancing contextual factors (eg, users, stakeholders, resources) and clinical evidence.

Design thinking is an ally for democratising access to healthcare through innovative solutions in low-resource settings.

Opportunities for further research include: (a) increased focus on the inspiration stage, (b) creation of platforms for leveraging the integration of individuals in health innovation projects, (c) e-health focused user research and (d) lead user involvement.


Healthcare is increasingly applying design knowledge and competence to deal with challenges, 1 as design provides a frame for understanding and developing a subject or business and its related policies, products, resources and services. 2 As a matter of fact, innovation is required to address the changing environments (eg, ageing of the population) and guarantee the financial sustainability of health services; 3 this may be achieved by improving health outcomes at a good value, reducing cost for care or tracking health outcomes. 4 In this scenario, design thinking emerges as an approach for incorporating innovation in medical practice in public and private sectors. 5 Clinical outcomes of healthcare interventions that claim to have employed design thinking have proven to be positive. 6 Design thinking application may potentially benefit the design of new health devices, products and processes, and the implementation of evidence-based practices. 7

Brown 8 popularised the term design thinking and promoted a significant increase in its published research literature. Despite the increase in research, there is still a lack of standardisation regarding the definition and understanding of what is design thinking. 9–11 In convergence with trends in the literature, we define design thinking as a human-centred approach for solving complex problems employing attributes such as creativity, user involvement, multidisciplinary teamwork, iteration, prototyping and user centredness. 9–11 Many toolkits 12 13 and practical guides 14 presenting design thinking processes have been published; despite of using different terms to refer to the design thinking phases, they follow the same overall logic for problem-solving. 9–11 15 16 Practically, design thinking may be portrayed in three iterative phases: inspiration, ideation and implementation.

Inspiration is the first phase and it is based on need-finding: understanding the core issue of the problem by empathising with the user and discovering their explicit and non-explicit needs. Users and stakeholders identification is critical for innovation success; 17 18 in healthcare, this task has an increased complexity due to the various paying systems structures. 4 Ethnographic research techniques, such as observation and interviewing, are recommended at the inspiration phase. 16 After the need is defined, data analysis and solution conceptualisation start at the second phase, ideation; many strategies may be used to foster concept generation and free-of-judgement creativity at this second phase. 10 Studies acknowledge the positive effects of a visually stimulating environment on problem-solving; 19 low-fidelity prototyping is used as a source of ideas and a tool for concept validation; 15 sensemaking tools, like mind-mapping, are used to support brainstorming. 16 The aims of the third and final phase, implementation, are to refine and build the concept validated during the second phase and draw a marketing strategy for the final product. Prototyping is again required at this phase, but with higher fidelity as testing will also be required. 16

Previous works have analysed the impacts of solutions developed using a design thinking approach on health outcomes both in broad 1 and deep 6 accounts. However, rigorous evaluations on how design thinking is operationalised in the health sector from a process perspective remain an opportunity for further integrating design knowledge into health research. 1 This article aims to appraise the final results of solutions developed using design thinking in healthcare and the course of actions and tools that took place throughout development. As the enactment of the design thinking approach is context-dependent, 10 20 the format of a systematic literature search and review are aligned with the aim of this research; 21 22 an exhaustive search allows for an aggregate appreciation of the literature, and capturing several configurations in which design thinking is adopted.

We contribute to the literature by consolidating previous reports on how design thinking has been applied in the healthcare sector and drawing conclusions from these reports. This article is also directed to practitioners as it presents tools used when applying design thinking. We will analyse articles reporting solutions ranging from the early stages of their development to solutions that are available to the market. By reviewing articles that report developing solutions, we aim to capture perspectives on every phase in the development process and avoid publication bias. We will review and tabulate aspects of each study, such as the nature of the innovation intervention, which design thinking tools were employed, team multidisciplinarity and stakeholder involvement. Finally, we will discuss the contents of the studies analysed and possible avenues for research. We aim to provide an overview of the best practices on design thinking in healthcare.

Data collection began with a search in Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus databases without start date constraint (ie, from their inception) until October 2019; the earliest publication record found dated from February 2003. The three databases were chosen to provide a comprehensive search on journals focused on the disciplines of interest of this paper (eg, design, business, engineering, health sciences). The search strings used were ‘“design think*” or “user-cent* design” or “user cent* design” or “human-cent* design” or “human cent* design”’ + ‘innovation’ + ‘“health*” or “medical”’ included on title, abstract or keywords. In spite of subtle differences among the terms user-centred design, human-centred design and design thinking, 1 there is a conceptual overlap between these terms. In accordance with previous works, we will use them as synonyms. 1 6

The systematic review followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines (see online supplemental file exhibit A1 ). 23 Only primary peer-reviewed studies were eligible for the study. Search was restricted to papers published in English. A total of 224 articles and reviews were identified in database search, of which 150 came to be non-duplicate documents. Scopus yielded 89 unique results to our search, the Web of Science (WoS) database yielded 32 non-duplicate results when compared with Scopus results, and the PubMed database yielded 29 non-duplicate results when compared with Scopus and WoS results.

Supplemental material

An initial selection process was conducted aiming to filter documents that were not aligned with the research scope through title and abstract analysis, followed by a full-text review of the selected articles. Our research targets articles describing experiences, perceptions and assessment on the development of innovative health-related solutions, specifically on medical devices, products and processes following a design thinking approach. In this review, medical devices refer to hardware solutions, medical products refer to innovative treatments or service offerings solutions (eg, mobile health (m-health) solutions), and processes refer to untangible routines, whether these routines are visible to the patients or not. 24 25 Articles unrelated were discarded. Most articles discarded in title and abstract review regarded pharmaceutical solutions and health aids to be used by the patients without an interface to a health professional. In full-text review, the articles discarded included theoretical reports without an associated solution development, literature reviews, event descriptions, and articles that were not focused on the solution development (eg, design theory, design teaching, testing routines).

After title and abstract review, 65 articles were selected for full-text review. This sample was submitted to bibliometric analysis to identify the main references in their cocitation network, which resulted in the addition of eight references. Finally, following a full-text review, 32 references were selected for analysis. Selection process is made available ( online supplemental file exhibit A2 ).

Literature review results

The final 32 studies were reviewed and summarised ( online supplemental file exhibits A3 and A4 ). As design thinking has no unique coded language, 9 some of the objects of interest in this review were coded for analysis and comparison purposes ( online supplemental file exhibit A5 presents our codes and their correspondance with each of the papers in our sample). A few codes (eg, prototyping) are present in more than one design thinking phase; when evaluating the papers, we took into consideration reports given by the authors to assess the maturity of the activities and whether these activities would fall into one phase or another (eg, cardboard prototypes were considered an ideation phase activity, while functional prototypes were considered implementation phase activities).

Solution status was classified according to what is reported in their studies; due to design thinking’s iterative nature, it is possible that one intervention has performed an ‘implementation’ phase activity, but its status is still at the ideation stage. At the time of publishing, five of the solutions were at the inspiration stage of design thinking and had finalised their need assessments, 26–29 or had study protocols established. 30 Eighteen of the 32 solutions were at the ideation stage, having either a visual prototype, 31 a design concept 32–35 or a functional prototype 36–48 finalised. Regarding the implementation stage, out of eight solutions, one had a final product developed but not implemented, 3 six were fully implemented, 49–54 and one had been implemented and failed. 55 One solution was discontinued due to resource limitations. 56

Regarding medical specialty, of the 32 studies, 10 discussed initiatives to manage chronic disease, 3 32 35 37 38 40 41 46 50 55 4 brought solutions for hospital management, 26 34 47 49 4 on paediatrics, 43 44 51 53 3 on psychiatry, 30 31 48 2 on radiology, 27 39 2 on geriatrics, 29 43 and single articles pulverised in multiple areas, such as addiction, 36 family health, 28 gastroenterology, 52 general practice, 42 oncology, 54 orthopaedics 33 and surgery. 45

A noteworthy theme across our sample is the creation and use of cloud-based multipurpose digital platforms. 35 38 41 43 46 This type of intervention aims to provide an actionable use of information by patients, health professionals and providers while optimising resource allocation (eg, one of the papers presents two solutions for medication management targetting two different populations using a shared architecture for personal health record systems). 43

Four of the papers in our sample provide solutions that aim to address more than one target condition; 28 31 50 51 these works elicited from both user and desk research that these conditions were intertwined and could benefit from being treated as a whole rather than as separate parts. For example, one of the solutions developed a clinical decision support for addressing tuberculosis prevention and treatment considering the high prevalence of HIV infection among the local population. 50

Another recurring theme is the systematisation of stakeholder involvement across various specialties and target conditions, such as orthopaedics, 33 surgical rounds 26 and pharmacy management. 34 One of the papers even reported an increase in its engagement metrics after the refinement of the intervention based on stakeholder feedback. 48

The vast majority of the papers in our sample report interventions in the form of software tools. Only six of the papers report the development of medical devices; we assume this happens due to resource constraints and a longer time to market of medical devices when compared with other types of interventions (eg, one of the papers reported a 48-month project duration). 39 Isolated papers report the creation of events (eg, creation of a seasonal community market to generate income aiming to address social determinants of health inequities), 53 timetables (eg, collaborative creation of a timetable balancing employees’ preferences and nursing home needs), 49 toolkits and decision support systems. The following sections present the main elucidations resulting from the systematic review.

Tools employed

Each phase of the design thinking approach and their objectives is presented in figure 1 ; for each phase, we listed the five most reported tools in our sample and their prevalence rate.

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Three phases of the design thinking approach, objectives for each phase and main tools employed.

As for the tools employed in the inspiration stage by the authors in our sample, they emphasise the bystander roles of the researchers or individuals when first starting a new project applying design thinking. At this stage, the designer—or any professional acting as a designer—must put aside his/her convictions about the problem addressed. Only then he/she is ready to effectively absorb relevant information regarding the context in which the solution is going to be developed. It is fundamental to consider this context as broadly as possible (considering time and resource limitations) to visualise the actors impacted, possible side problems that could interfere, previous documentation to improve the understanding of the situation, and any other relevant information.

Interview is the most employed tool in the inspiration stage. We assume this happens because an introductory interview is easy to perform, easy to gain access to, may have multiple formats (eg, by telephone, 33 semistructured, 27 28 30 34 39 40 unstructured 26 ) and are greatly clarifying. Observations 26 29 53 and reviews of various sorts (eg, clinical practice review, 28 32 54 literature review 30 51 ) are also clarifying and, after the initial contact is made, require little effort from the user involved in the research. Focus groups 31 36 56 and user empathy tools (eg, clinical immersion, 54 experience maps 31 ) could bring substantial information to the project but have the downside of requiring significant time and effort from both the research team and possible users or stakeholders of the intervention. Tools that do not rely solely on spoken accounts of the users or stakeholders, such as observations, do have the advantage of allowing the research team to uncover opportunities for innovation that the users or stakeholders do not perceive as valuable or achievable; we refer to these opportunities as the user’s unspoken needs.

The ideation phase gathers data collected at the immersion phase and makes sense of it by creating inputs and specifications for the solution. In other words, the users’ spoken and unspoken needs will be translated into the solution’s technical requirements. However, this ‘translation’ and data analysis is not always obvious. 34 39 50 To initialise the design of a solution, conceptualisation 40 43 45 and correlated tools such as brainstorming 27 33 49 are strongly recommended to keep the ideas as broad and fluid as possible. Other user empathy tools (eg, personas, 29 36 45 experience maps 33 47 ) may be used to support this stage. After this initial wave of ideas, the most promising ones are selected for prototyping, 36 37 40 48 which is used as a tool for concept visualisation. Design thinking postulates that prototyping helps the design team to perceive the strengths and weaknesses of their solution early in the design process and even get feedback 3 34 37 40 42 43 from the users. Anchoring the conceptualisation activities in low-fidelity prototypes promotes a quick escalation in the attributes of the concept and smart allocation of resources in ideas that are worth pursuing.

The implementation phase, which aims to refine the ideated concept into a viable solution, was the least reported among our sample, as a significant portion of the articles did not report reaching this phase. Some of those who had reached it focused their reports on assessing the intervention and not describing their development process, 51–53 and a couple of articles reported that they would not disclose these issues due to commercial confidentiality. 27 39 Among the references that did report tools employed in the implementation stage, testing was the most mentioned tool (eg, user testing, 37 42 44 requirements testing 34 45 ), followed by prototyping, 31 34 36 38 40 45 47 53 interviews, 33 36 42 50 54 55 solution evaluation, 36 44 46 50 and solution feedback. 3 34 38 44 It caught our attention that commercial analysis was reported by only three articles in our sample. 33 53 54 If the solution is meant to be commercially viable, this aspect must be addressed in a diligent manner.

Disciplines and stakeholders involved

Although combining different competences and backgrounds is a best practice for design thinking, 8 more than half of the articles in our sample did not report multidisciplinarity in their design thinking teams. This is problematic as diverse teams are more likely to promote relevant innovative solutions. 10 Among the literature that mentioned disciplines and areas involved in their teams, the most cited were health-related disciplines, 3 27 30 32 37 38 49 50 54 design, 30 33 38 49 53 54 Information Technology (IT), 38 50 55 56 Research and Development (R&D) 32 33 37 50 and engineering. 27 32 54

Besides congregating multiple areas of knowledge, it is necessary to gather different perspectives. Managing stakeholders in the healthcare sector is not trivial as healthcare users vary in their roles as device operators, patients or decision-makers. 29 Understanding who the stakeholders are and their roles is a key factor for achieving relevant results and requires an understanding of the business model around the product. 29 33 A solution development focused on technical issues and neglecting stakeholders' perspectives is susceptible to barriers in implementation. 39 55 Stakeholder participation assessment tools 57 and frameworks for listening to the voices of the customer, business and technology 33 are strategies to promote effective stakeholder involvement.

Developing medical devices and products must follow regulatory requirements. In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the main body of regulation for medical devices. 58

Even though regulatory issues are inherently critical to the implementation of medical devices and products, only 12% of the articles in our sample mention the FDA or another regulator, 27 33 54 56 with only one of them stating the class their devices were fitted in. 33 Our attempt to stratify the findings in our sample according to regulation status or classification was not successful, as we found that a number of our references did not address regulatory issues. This might indicate a lack of maturity of research—or even awareness—in this topic. Design thinking brings the possibility of everyone being a part of the design process on the table, but one individual must own the process and be accountable for design feasibility and regulatory issues. Additionally, two articles did not go into detail on their developments claiming commercial confidentiality. 27 39

Discussion and avenues for research

Drawing attention to the inspiration stage.

Regarding the reportings on the tools employed in the inspiration phase, it was noted that solutions that were in more advanced stages of development—ranging from having a functional prototype to being fully implemented and commercialised—often failed to report the tools employed in the inspiration stage (19% of the sample) or lacked detail about this stage. We believe that this bias is due to the fact that researchers often prioritise describing the intervention developed to the detriment of reporting the development process.

We perceive this ‘setting aside’ of the initial development stage as counterproductive for the replication of design thinking: the engagement and understanding of the final user which is acquired from the inspiration stage are essential for developing appropriate solutions, at the risk of developing solutions that relieve the symptoms of a problem without addressing its root causes. 59 In fact, it is more crucial for the direction of the intervention that users and stakeholders are involved in the early stages when compared with the late stages of the innovation process. 18 60 If the body of literature on design thinking does not consider the relevance of this stage, there is a tendency that individuals learning from this body of literature will have the same perception. This may incur professionals involved in projects employing the design thinking approach neglecting information collected in the inspiration stage, and realising that their solutions do not fulfil user needs. 39 55 Although exhibits from the literature present a systematisation of how to incorporate the results of the inspiration phase and user-centred research throughout the development process, 27 29 due to the variety of stakeholders, users and types of problems in healthcare, further studies seeking to formalise the incorporation of inspiration phase data throughout development would be beneficial to the theory and practice of health research involving design.

Research groups, networks and common platforms for healthcare innovation

One thing that caught our attention was the establishment of research groups and software platforms for improving synergy in the development of healthcare solutions. UK-based Multidisciplinary Assessment of Technology Centre for Healthcare—a publicly funded research group with close collaboration with medical device industries—presents substantial results on research regarding the role of the user in medical device development. 61 Project HealthDesign was a sponsored multiyear, multisite project that gathered design teams across the USA to develop e-health applications using a common back-end platform. 35 41 43 Tidepool is an open-access platform designed to host and integrate applications related to diabetes management, counting with open-source development to augment and sustain the platform. 38

How to make these fruitful connections happen? Norman et al 62 propose the Complex Network Electronic Knowledge Translation Research (CoNEKTR) model for integrating individuals from distinct backgrounds by their common interest in promoting innovation in healthcare; we could not find evidence of CoNEKTR’s applicability and performance outcomes. A proven effective model for leveraging the integration of individuals around healthcare innovation will certainly be a major contribution to this research field.

The future of e-health

Approximately 56% of the articles in our sample reported a healthcare solution using e-health, with the major amount of those discussing m-health. Regarding technology usage, a part of the papers in our sample reported the development of auxiliary technologies for telemedicine, 52 56 and data-gathering technologies, such as personal health records, 29 35 41 43 55 patient self-monitoring 3 40 46 and patient motivation trackers. 32 48

Developing functional and usable e-health applications is not trivial, as there is a need to create an in-depth understanding of the user’s needs, desires, limitations, preferences, attitudes and behaviours through a user model that will serve as a common point for the different individuals involved in the development process. 29 However, capturing these psychological and psychosocial nuances is not possible with the ‘traditional’ application of user-centred methods like user profiles and personas, as they tend to rely on demographic data and shallow caricatures of user groups. 29 Not employing the rigour, time and collective sense of the importance of user research may doom user research to become an unactionable or overlooked work. 39 55

In-depth user research is necessary to address users’ underlying cognitive and behavioural patterns, user subgroups and characteristics unique to different conditions (eg, knowledge about the disease, support network, comorbidities); capturing the amount of data necessary to build actionable user profiles and personas is resource consuming, but its benefits outweigh its costs. 29 Design thinking may provide a framework for aligning healthcare system needs, user needs and software requirements towards healthcare innovation. 34 There are numerous conceptual layers from which the development of successful e-health solutions can be studied: system integration, wearables, user heuristics and interface design are just a few of them.

User involvement

von Hippel 63 introduced the concept of lead users as composed of two main characteristics: the first is that lead users face needs that will be general in the market-place prior to the bulk of that market-place; the second is that they could benefit by obtaining a solution to their needs and thus are highly motivated to seek one. These users play an active role in the development process, beyond the passive role implied by expert-driven user-centred practices, such as interviews, personas and journey mapping. There is evidence of the potential benefits of involving lead users in the co-creation and development of solutions in healthcare. 18 Involving these users could potentially increase development rates and expertise in pioneer technologies and boost commercial performance. Consequently, it could increase manufacturers’ profits by reducing time to market and development costs. 18 Even though there are generic suggestions in the literature of how to retain these lead users, 64 further research on identifying and contacting lead users in the healthcare sector may benefit future development projects.

Another discussion regarding user involvement in the healthcare industry is motivated by understanding who is the user of interest. While there are more obvious contexts where we can identify the main user (eg, a mobile app for patient self-monitoring 3 29 30 46 ), in other cases, such as a medical imaging device, 27 39 it is not clear if the main user is the patient or the healthcare professional and it is not trivial to counterbalance their needs. On top of this, there is a third stakeholder—the payer—which could be either a provider or a healthcare organisation. Further discussion on whether and how design thinking is a suitable approach to manage these user layers would be a contribution to the literature.

Design thinking is a flexible approach for innovation which is being used to develop healthcare solutions. Considering healthcare, our research shows evidence that design thinking is an approach to innovation in clinical and managerial settings, across a wide range of medical specialties. Our research findings endorse that design thinking provides a frame for addressing the development of innovation in healthcare by balancing contextual factors (eg, users, stakeholders, resources) and clinical evidence. Additionally, our sample shows that design thinking is an ally for democratising access to healthcare through innovative solutions in low-resource settings. Design thinking provides an arsenal of tools for problem-solving across the phases of inspiration, ideation and implementation.

With this review, we aimed to present a selection of practical applications of design thinking in healthcare, highlighting the most common practices among them. We present this selection of practice and tools as a guide, rather than as a toolset. The selection of 32 papers shows that design thinking is not a one-size-fits-all approach and that it may be adapted to different circumstances. To further advance this field, future research should follow more rigorous procedures for reporting health research involving design; this could be achieved by following structured guidelines. 65 Additionally, future research on emerging technologies in service of health should address user-centred design, providing replicable procedures on how to identify and address user needs. Finally, once a more consistent body of literature is consolidated, with standardised report procedures, a research agenda for quantitatively assessing the relationship between design choices and clinical outcomes may provide more assertive recommendations for the incorporation of design knowledge into health innovation.

Strengths and limitations

Despite our efforts to establish clear selection criteria, sample selection and subsequent codification were subjected to the authors’ bias. The lack of standards in reporting health research involving design, and the variability of studies in our sample both in their objects of study and development stages refrained this review from assessing criteria such as design success rate, design success critical paths, optimal team composition for design success and types of intervention (eg, devices, products, processes) for which design thinking may be more suitable. This may be interpreted as a clash between design and health sciences underlying research traditions and epistemologies. To address this issue and enable further analysis in future literature reviews, we recommend future works that report interventions on the intersection of design and health to consider following of systematic guidelines. 65

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Supplementary materials

Supplementary data.

This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

  • Data supplement 1

Contributors ALF and MO planned the study. MO conducted the data gathering and literature review analysis. ALF and EZ guided the research method and revised the manuscript.

Funding This study was financed by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) – Finance Code 001 and by the Ocean R&D Programme.

Competing interests None declared.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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Municipality of Holstebro, Denmark > The Good Kitchen: How an Improved Food Service Creates a Better Life Quality for Elderly People

We differentiate between three editorial levels of stories:

1) Design thinking classics: Case studies that are well-documented and widely known, which we include in our collection for the sake of completeness. If not stated otherwise there are compiled by our editors via desk research.

2) Normal cases: Stories, which are less known and got collected and rewritten by our editors via desk research.

3) Stories with validated data: These cases are based on first-hand empirical information that our editors received during their research.

In autumn 2007 the Danish innovation and design agency Hatch & Bloom was assigned to design a new meal service for The Municipality of Holstebro. Six month later the idea for The Good Kitchen was created. Thus the way was cleared for a new type of meal service in Denmark, a meal service with more quality, more flexibility and more freedom of choice.

The Danes, like citizens in most developed countries, recognize that the aging of their population presents many challenges. One of these is serving the more than 125,000 senior citizens who rely on government-sponsored meals. Danish municipalities deliver subsidized meals to people who suffer from a reduced ability to function, due to illness, age, or other conditions. Many of the seniors have nutritional challenges and a poor quality of life because they simply do not eat enough. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of Denmark’s seniors in assisted living facilities or residential care units have poor nutrition, and 20% are actually malnourished. The result is both health problems and a low quality of life for the elderly and a greater economic burden on the government. The problem only looks to intensify as the number of senior citizens grows and future generations of seniors expect greater choice and better service.

In response to this growing social problem, the Municipality of Holstebro applied for an innovative program, offered through the Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority, that provides funding to municipalities and facilitates partnerships between those municipalities and Danish design firms. The firm Hatch & Bloom signed on to be part of the effort to improve meal service for seniors. Innovation director Lotte Lyngsted Jepsen led the effort over the next 6 months.

As Lotte recalled it, both Holstebro officials and the leaders of the Hospitable Food Service (Holstebro’s meal preparation and delivery organization) saw the project as straightforward at its outset: the current menu just needed some updating. In their view, they already offered high-quality food and service, so the Hatch & Bloom team’s role would be to ask elderly clients about their menu preferences. As the project progressed, however, this view shifted. The result was the design of a wholly new meal service that offered higher quality, more flexibility, and increased choice. This dramatic reframing of the opportunity emerged from the user-centered design approach that Hatch & Bloom brought to the process.

Design Tool : Ethnography in Social Services

We find the ethnographic focus of design thinking to be especially powerful in the social services sector. Despite the best intentions, when leaders of agencies that serve the indigent or the elderly base solutions on their own views of the needs and wants of those clients, the quality of the solutions suffers. We simply cannot be sure that we understand the details of their lives, when we don’t observe and ask .

Ethnographic Research: Learning to See What is?

The Hatch & Bloom team began by digging deep into seniors’ behaviors, needs and wishes, using a comprehensive ethnographic-based research process that focused on identifying their current situation and unarticulated needs. Team members rode with food service employees who delivered the meals to the elderly clients, accompanied them into the homes and watched as clients prepared the food, added ingredients, set the table, and ate the meal. In addition to observing current customers, they studied those who had discontinued the service as well as people close to retirement age who might soon qualify for the subsidized meals.

They also interviewed the supervisor of the food preparation process in her workplace. What they saw in the kitchen surprised them. “The people who worked in the kitchen were a major factor that needed to be addressed,” Lotte told us. “We realized only by being there that the atmosphere was not what we would expect to find if the food service was as good as they said it was. Instead of just asking the elderly clients what they would like, we would have to ask the people who worked with the food as well.”

Working in a public service kitchen was a low-status job in Denmark. In addition, there had recently been negative press about poor or even old food being served in such kitchens. “There was a general perception that the people who worked in these public kitchens didn’t know how to cook and were sloppy, and that the kitchens were dirty and so on,” Lotte explained. “We found that the kitchen staff was sick and tired of being told that they should do something differently. But nobody ever asked them how they would like to do things differently.”

It was not going to be enough to focus on the needs of the consumers, team members realized; they would need to address the problems of the employees producing the meals as well. The team decided to broaden the scope of the project beyond just improving menus, and helped the government clients to understand why this was necessary. As a result, the Hatch & Bloom researchers also conducted interviews with and observed the kitchen workers, outlining their needs and work processes. From this dual focus—on the people preparing the meals and on the seniors receiving them—a set of interesting findings began to emerge.

Design Challenge : Changing Scope

When we set out to explore an opportunity, we often find that our initial scoping of the issue was flawed. Here a problem that we thought had an obvious solution – whether that be an updated menu or a better search software – actually required the redesign of an entire experience. It’s not easy to reframe an issue or problem. But it can help to think of the initial scope of the project as a hypothesis that you must revisit and refine along the way. Keep in mind – this does not indicate a mistake in our early scoping; it is a sign of important learning .

Understanding Kitchen Employees

As the research team observed kitchen employees and interviewed them about their jobs, they were surprised to find that one of the workers’ major frustrations was that they were not empowered to do what they loved. They had chosen to work with food because they enjoyed creating things out of food, but they were forced to prepare the same food from the same menu month after month. The decision to use one menu for three months made sense from an operational logistics point of view, but it was terribly corrosive to the morale, motivation, and commitment of the kitchen employees, and, the team learned, it wasn’t good for customers, either.

During the interviews, another important thing happened: The kitchen employees realized that someone was listening and trying to help. Catering officer Birgit Jespersen noted that this generated tremendous goodwill for the project. “At first, we were a little skeptical, but the project was handled in a good way,” she said. “The designers and management listened to us, and everyone’s opinions and ideas carried equal weight.”

The more the team from Hatch & Bloom got to know the kitchen employees, the more it became apparent that this was a skilled workforce. Public perception and reality were quite different. The workers were making boring, low-cost meals because of perceived economic and logistical constraints, not because they faced a skills gap.

Understanding Seniors

The seniors receiving meals also suffered from feelings of disconnection and stigma, the Hatch & Bloom team learned in interviews with them. The social stigma of even having to receive such assistance weighed heavily: Help for cleaning was considered acceptable in Danish culture, but help for more personal needs was much less so. It also mattered who was providing the help. In Denmark a senior hoped to receive it from a relative or a friend. If that was not possible, one would perhaps hire someone. The last resort was to receive assistance from the government.

Also very painful to seniors was the loss of control over their food choices. “We discovered that deciding what kind of food they put in their mouths was the second most important thing for the elderly, after taking care of their personal hygiene,” Lotte explained. Furthermore, they often disliked eating alone because it reminded them that their families were no longer around. All these factors, Lotte pointed out, were linked to the underlying problem: “The less you enjoy the situation, the smaller your appetite.”

On a more positive note, the team also discovered that this generation of seniors was very responsible and capable in the kitchen and had a keen sense of the seasons and positive associations with seasonal food, such as apples in the fall and strawberries in summer. They also often tried to customize their meals by adding spices or using their own potatoes or vegetables.

As Hatch & Bloom began integrating what they had learned from both seniors and kitchen employees, the news was good. Lotte explained:

A lot of the findings in the kitchen actually worked very well with the findings from the users. So, for instance, the fact that it’s incredibly boring to choose from the same menu three months in a row: That’s a typical leader’s decision because it makes logistics easier. You can buy more of the same food at one time, and so forth. But it’s not a chef’s decision, and it’s not a user’s decision, either.

  Stakeholder Workshops: Hatching & Blooming

Once team members had finished their ethnographic research, they moved to enlist a broader group of stakeholders in understanding the nature of the challenges and participating in creating solutions. The goal was to solicit a wide range of ideas for developing a new and better meal service. To accomplish this, they held a series of three workshops.

  • Workshop #1
  • Workshop #2
  • Workshop #3

The first workshop brought together municipality officials, volunteers, experts in elderly issues, kitchen workers, and employees of residential care centers. This group of roughly 25 people gathered for the first daylong workshop to review the ethnographic research and develop insights that would later facilitate the creation of innovative ideas when they transitioned from What is? to What if? .

The Hatch & Bloom facilitators began by serving food from the actual kitchen to give participants an experience similar to that of the customers. As Lotte noted, “A lot of the politicians who talk about this food had never eaten it themselves.” The researchers also presented their findings. The purpose of the workshop was strategic: to build awareness of the issue and a shared vantage point as the group proceeded to address it. No solutions were discussed yet.

Design Tool : Co-Creation in Social Services

As with ethnography (and for many of the same reasons), co-creation is especially powerful in social service projects. This has to do in large part with the complexity of the stakeholder network. Unlike business, where we often find a single decision maker, social service projects generally involve multiple decision makers, each of whom must support a proposed solution. Enlisting them in the design of solutions is both more effective and even more efficient under these circumstances.

During the second workshop, facilitators and participants used a mind mapping approach, first grouping the key findings and observations gathered during the What is? process into categories—for instance, the delivery of the food or the composition of the menu. They then delved further, exploring what insights flowed from each of these clusters and what these might indicate were the design criteria to best describe what an ideal solution might look like. They then moved into What if? and began generating ideas. Facilitators used analogies as trigger questions to help shift participants’ mental models of food service. The facilitators asked participants to think of the kitchen as a restaurant, triggering a creative rush. “Just the fact that they had to relate to them first being a restaurant instead of being a public service kitchen, kind of changed their perception completely,” Lotte explained as she described her experience of the effect of introducing the analogy, “Because they said ‘okay, but then we must be chefs. And if we’re the chefs, who are the waiters?’”

Design Tool : Trigger Questions

Trigger questions provide structure and inspiration for the brainstorming process. The infamous “What are ten uses for a safety pin?” type of trigger question has done much to giving brainstorming a bad name among managers. Truly useful trigger questions help people think more creatively about future possibilities by giving them something specific to work with. Questions often involve the use of analogies, as with our example in this chapter: “What if this public-service food-delivery organization were a restaurant?”

The third workshop, which was much more hands-on, moved into the What wows? phase, involving prototyping their co-created solutions and began testing them. For example, Hatch & Bloom worked with participants on three different versions of the menu and asked them which they liked and how they felt about various aspects, such as which colors they favored and whether they preferred photos or illustrations.

Hatch & Bloom had invited a well-known chef to observe the kitchen in action and then to attend the workshop. He was surprised, he told the participants, by the kitchen workers’ skills: They were almost at the level of professional chefs. But they had different results he argued, which was because of their different focus, not a lack of skill. As they prepared meals, the kitchen employees concentrated on maximizing economy rather than food styling or seasoning or other aspects that professional chefs would focus on. Being compared with chefs shocked the people who worked in the kitchens. It also boosted their confidence and sparked an increased passion for the project because they were being told that they were actually good at something.

The workshop participants continued working with the restaurant analogy as they considered the menus. Until that point, the menus had been minimalist factual descriptions of the food, perhaps detailing how it was prepared. For example, one item read, “liver, potatoes, and sauce.” “That is not exactly a description that will make your mouth water, “ Lotte pointed out, “They just printed these menus out and never gave a thought to how they should look. But now they wondered, ‘maybe they should look like actual menus; maybe we should describe our meals in a completely different way.’”

The group also began to focus on the fact that many of the vehicles used for meal delivery were in poor condition. “Some customers asked drivers to go down the street a bit because they were so embarrassed by the car,” Lotte told us. “They really thought the neighbors would think ‘Oh, now she’s having a funeral’ or something like that because the vehicle was really, really sad.”

Prototyping with Customers

Hatch & Bloom took the results from the workshops and moved into What works? , testing prototypes with different combinations and ways of presenting the food with the customers they had been observing since the beginning of the project. As before during their initial exploratory research during What is? , they didn’t test the prototypes only with current customers, but also with people who had stopped using the service and with younger people who were nearing retirement age.

The learning from this initial set of experiments resulted in a second project with some quick packaging design changes that allowed for more modular meals where the components were separated, instead of being mixed together. Lotte explained:

“Instead of having a tray where there’s potatoes or rice or pasta, and then there is some meat and some sauce and then there’s some vegetables, we implemented a solution where you pack these things separately so you don’t have to order potatoes if you prefer to do your own potatoes or if you prefer some kind of specific pasta or if you have some of your vegetables. So you can order potatoes and vegetables on the side but then you can mix what you prefer yourself instead of someone already deciding that for you.”

From Public-Sector Food-Service Employees to Restaurant Chefs

In order to change the negative kitchen culture at Hospitable Food Service, Hatch & Bloom then brought in a gourmet chef to work with employees. This generated more than a little nervousness among them. “Here was this really competent chef, and we were concerned that he might criticize us,” catering officer Birgit Jespersen recounted, “but he praised our food and said that we had a very high technical level. That was a real boost, and today we feel like chefs ourselves.”

The chef inspired the kitchen employees to introduce more seasonal ingredients and offered ideas for improving presentation. This has made a real difference. “Now we take the time to make an appealing presentation,” Birgit said. “We also are thinking more about colors. For example, we toss carrots with parsley to add some color to the tray. And we are putting an emphasis on seasoning the food well.”

Kitchen employees also received new uniforms that were much more “chef-like.” This was a symbol of their dignity and status, and it signaled a sense of pride and care to their customers as well. “The old uniforms were like nightgowns,” Lotte recalled. “They were very sad to look at, not aesthetically pleasing. Just by having these new uniforms, we gave them a level of authority they were not used to.”

From Hospitable Food Service to the Good Kitchen

The process of ethnographic observation, mind mapping, co-creating with stakeholders, and iterative prototyping and experimentation yielded a host of dramatic changes: a new menu, new uniforms for staff, a new feedback mechanism (we’ll get to that in a bit)—an overall new experience for both customers and employees. Employees’ images of themselves and the services they provided changed, and this itself seemed to improve customer satisfaction levels.

The process also yielded a new name: Hospitable Food Service became The Good Kitchen. “We wanted a name that internally and externally showed that the employees were committed to their work,” Lotte explained. “They were doing exactly what you would in your own kitchen, just on a bigger scale. So we changed the name; we changed the identity.” As Paul Sangill, the head of office in Holstebro’s Department of Health and Social Services, observed, “It’s an ambitious name, which was exactly what we wanted, and we are working hard to live up to the expectations.”

The new menu looked like a real restaurant menu. Instead of a list of dishes, it presented categories such as entrees, desserts, and so on. Items were also explained in greater detail. Paul Sangill described the new experience:

“We write about the ingredients in a way that gives the senior citizens a sense of tasting the food. Before we would write ‘fried calf’s liver with gravy, potatoes, and vegetables.’ Now we write ‘pan-fried liver with onions and gravy, potatoes tossed with thyme, and butter-roasted vegetables.’ We now have about 80 people a week choosing liver, where we used to have ten.”

Good Kitchen employees also made changes to the menu based on what they heard from seniors. For example, they learned that a lot of their clients were still very social, so they added a two-course guest menu. They also introduced individual snacks, such as pastries and chocolate, to enable seniors to adapt their meals to their lifestyles and behaviours.

In addition, at the request of customers and with the assistance of a consulting chef, The Good Kitchen began to offer high-quality additions. Some of these were inspired by the finding that the elderly clients had positive associations with foods that had been available, in their past, only at certain times of the year. The menu emphasized traditional dishes with familiar taste experiences but now included dishes such as “lemon spaghetti with mushrooms and parsley” and “soup with Jerusalem artichokes and grilled cockerel.” There was also a “weekly surprise,” which allowed for more creativity by Good Kitchen employees and greater variety for customers.

The Good Kitchen Becomes Part of the Family

Employees in the kitchen had not been accustomed to communicating with the people they served (this goes back to the “Who are the waiters?” question). The drivers who delivered the meals, who were all kitchen employees, would enter the seniors’ homes and leave without reflecting on what they saw. So the team developed simple comment cards that drivers began to carry with them and hand to customers, who wrote reviews of their meals and suggestions for how to prepare them. This immediate feedback enabled the staff to gain insights into the seniors’ thoughts and reactions to their food. The comments were read aloud at staff meetings and pinned up in a central kitchen location. The cards motivated employees and gave seniors the ability to influence their meals. Both groups loved the new feedback cards.

This direct contact was reinforced with indirect contact. For example, large photos from home visits were hung on the walls of the kitchen, bringing employees closer to their customers. The Good Kitchen also began publishing a newsletter that included posts from kitchen employees, information about and pictures of new hires, and other important events such as employees’ birthdays and the birth of a grandchild. This gave the elderly a better understanding of what happened in the kitchen and communicated that there were real people standing in front of the stove who took pride in what they did.

Today, Holstebro’s seniors “know who is shaping the meatballs and preparing the gravy in the municipal kitchen,” as Lotte described it. The relationship between the kitchen staff and the customers, which is both personal and professional, has increased the satisfaction of both. Lotte explained the benefit of this improved communication:

“It’s great that we’re in touch with the customers every week through the drivers who deliver the food. Many private companies would pay good money for that degree of customer contact, because it offers a unique opportunity to keep tabs on what’s important.”

Results: The Proof Is in the Pudding

Once the transformation from Hospitable Food Services to The Good Kitchen was complete, the results spoke for themselves. Reorganizing the menu and improving the descriptions of the meals drove a 500% increase in meal orders in the first week alone . Within three months, the number of customers had increased from 650 to 700.

One of the most important elements of the transformation has been the shift in employees’ perception of themselves and their work . Kitchen workers are now much more satisfied and motivated. As a result, customers are happier with their food. “If you have professional pride, you’ll also cook good food,” Anne Marie Nielsen, the director of The Good Kitchen, told us. “Good food has to come from the heart! This experience generated so much positive energy. We have received positive reactions from everywhere—from users and partners and colleagues in other municipalities.” Moreover, The Good Kitchen now receives many more unsolicited job applications as word of the improved reputation has spread .

The changes in mind-set were the most significant indicators of success to Lotte, but difficult to pinpoint precisely: “When you do this kind of culture-changing redesign of services, it is very challenging—are the results about our solutions ? Or about me looking somebody in the eye and showing interest in their work?”

The Good Kitchen’s success was noticed outside of Holstebro as well. The Good Kitchen and Hatch & Bloom shared the Danish Design Prize for Service Design , as well as the Local Government Denmark Prize for Innovation in 2009.

What Do We Take Away from the Good Kitchen Story?

By identifying a public challenge to the health of seniors and a fiscal challenge to the state, and using an arsenal of design tools to address both, the Municipality of Holstebro dramatically improved the service experience and quality of life for both employees and customers. This project comes as close to providing a truly win-win solution as we are likely to find, transforming a vicious cycle of malnourished seniors, unhappy employees, and increased health care costs into a virtuous one with healthier, happier seniors (and employees) and improved costs to the state.

The learnings in this chapter are especially near and dear to us because they highlight design thinking’s ability to produce not just better business results but a better world for us all. So simple, so powerful, so inspiring—using design to change the world, not just make it pretty. But accomplishing this requires that we act in new ways:

Be willing to engage the entire system. It is worth noting that this chapter is as much about system design as it is about service design. It reminds us of a lesson that Peter Senge taught us long ago in The Fifth Discipline : Put the whole system in the room. In business, we have gotten much better about the customer part, but we still often neglect employees and communities. Design thinking gives us a detailed suggestion about what to do with the system once all parts of it are in the room: share the findings of the deep ethnographic exploration of the stakeholders we want to serve, build an aligned intent around making their lives better, and then invite everyone to derive insights, generate design criteria, and co-create solutions.

Be willing to redefine the problem. Even with the problem definition (much less the solution!), where you start is not where you should expect to end up. And that’s good news. You didn’t get it wrong– you learned . So many of our flawed solutions can be traced to having stuck with a limiting question. One of the most significant contributions of design is to help us live longer in the question. It is our willingness to revisit the question we asked at the outset that allows us to reframe the way we see the world and discover new possibilities. It allows us to end up in places that we never suspected at the beginning of the process. But doing this requires bravery, as Lotte reminded us:

If you use design thinking, you must realize that it might lead you to places you didn’t expect to end up. And if you have the courage to embrace that, you can go tremendously far and you can try out different methods and you can ask, ‘Do they work for me? Do they work for my organization?’ But that requires a certain level of courage and a willingness to change. If you’re not brave enough to face these consequences, and if you don’t have the mandate from your leaders, then it’s very difficult to do innovation. Innovation requires space—mental space and financial space and organizational space.

Design feedback into the solution so that you won’t have to fix big problems so often. Why do we spend so much time trying to create dramatic, wrenching change? Usually because we ignored the signals that would have allowed us to adapt more gradually.   If we build those signals into our design of the offering or service, the odds that we’ll see them before the crisis go way up. That is what those simple feedback cards do for The Good Kitchen. They create a seemingly mundane but very valuable ongoing conversation about daily hits and misses that helps employees get to know their stakeholders better along the way and greatly reduces the need for cataclysmic change later on.

Appreciate the awesome power of ethnography. We sound like a broken record by this point. But if you take only one thing from this book, this should be it. The story of The Good Kitchen reveals more powerfully than any other why this is true. Most of us reading this chapter are not now elderly (despite what our children think). Most of us can’t recall the sweet pleasure of having strawberries only in summer. We cannot really know what it means to lose, one by one, the freedoms the young and healthy take for granted: to choose our food, to control our personal hygiene, to be able to have dinner with those we care about. Without ethnography, we will not know these things until it is too late to improve the lives of the elderly. We’ll throw strawberries on everything all year long, wasting their ability to conjure up memories of summers past. We will dictate meal choices that are economical or that make sense to us, and package them in servings of one so that they can only be eaten alone. Without the deep insights produced by ethnography, how many opportunities to do something truly special for an elderly person—something that probably costs little or no additional money—will we fail to see?

We recall a Legal Aid attorney’s comments to us about the challenges that she and her colleagues faced in providing truly useful legal services to the poor: We are, and I will make a broad generalization here, ivory tower babies. We’re very privileged. We have telephones and good incomes. And we have transportation. We don’t face a lot of the problems that these clients are facing every day. And so we don’t understand what they go through. But at least design thinking gives us tools to help us try.

This case study is an adapted version of a book chapter that has originally been published as “Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works” . It is republished here by courtesy of the authors.

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Jeanne liedtka, please rate this.

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May 25, 2016

I really appreciate the initiatives taken by ‘Hatch and Bloom’ team to care about the elderly population in Denmark. A heart-felt thanks to ‘Hatch and Bloom’s team for their diligent approach in impacting the lives of senior citizens.

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May 29, 2019

Somehow over the years we as a people forgot how to communicate and talk to each other. “it takes a village” Same holds true for the workplace and successful business…It takes everyone on the team to contribute.

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August 21, 2023

really appreciate and would be a sufficient solution ..


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The Good Kitchen

Design thinking @ the good kitchen.

  • Post author: Irina Varbanova
  • Post published: 2021-04-09
  • Post category: How Companies Use Design Thinking
  • Post comments: 0 Comments

The Good Kitchen, former Hospitable Food Service, is Holstebro’s organization that prepares and delivers subsidized meals to people who suffer from a reduced ability to function due to illness, age, or other conditions. It is a new type of meal service in Denmark that stands for a modern and user-centered kitchen with a focus on quality and a high level of service. The meal service produces season-inspired traditional dishes, guest menus, as well as homemade pastry and chocolates. All these options allow seniors to choose freely and flexibly what to eat and gives them the possibility to invite guests.

case study in design thinking

For seniors, the loss of control over food choices was painful and they felt embarrassed of receiving such assistance. Also, eating alone reminded them that their families were no longer around. So, to address these problems, the Municipality of Holstebro conducted a Design Thinking project in cooperation with the Danish innovation and design agency Hatch & Bloom in 2007. The goal was to improve the nutrition of elderly people, so that they no longer receive the same kind of food, regardless of their health condition and choices, and suffer from diseases caused by malnutrition.

Before the project, 60% of the elderly in nursing homes or under supervision were getting the wrong diet and 20% suffered from malnutrition. Due to poor nutritional conditions, the risk of getting a disease is higher. It is also more difficult for seniors to take care of themselves and perform their daily tasks. Besides health problems and low quality of life for the elderly, the government faced a greater economic burden. Also, the problem could intensify as the number of senior citizens grows as well as their demand on food quality and menu variation.   

That the project “The Good Kitchen” succeeded can be seen in the increased meal orders and number of customers and the decrease of sickness absence. Since the reputation of the meal service improved, job applications tripled. The customers and the employees were much happier which improved the nutrition of the seniors, and the employees were more motivated and prouder of their work. 

How Design Thinking is used to improve the life quality of Denmark’s elderly  

Design Thinking is used through three conducted workshops and tools like ethnographic research, mind mapping, analogies, trigger questions, and co-creation. The goal of the workshops was to get a wide range of ideas by inviting representatives from all user groups and interested parties. The different design solutions were developed through systematic iterations between design and feedback studies. The user-friendliness was tested with prototypes and mock-ups. It helped the involved participants ask better questions to develop deep insights into both customers and employees and thus expanded the scope. At the beginning of the project, Holstebro officials and the leaders of the Hospitable Food Service saw the project as straightforward as in their view food and service were already at high quality and only small adjustments of the menu were needed.As the project progressed, the initial scope had to be changed. Through participants’ observation and interviewing (ethnographic research done in the first Design Thinking phase), it became clear that to increase customer satisfaction and to improve the nutrition of the elderly, the problems of the kitchen’s employees had to be considered as well.

case study in design thinking

Lessons Learned from the Good Kitchen Story  

The Good Kitchen Story is a good example of the power of Design Thinking not only in businesses but also in social service. There are several things that we can take away from this case: 

Consider and engage with the whole system  

When we conduct a Design Thinking project, it is important to engage with the whole system. The system includes everyone involved in the production of the product or the service, which has to be improved. In this case study, for example, the system includes the Danish elderly (current customers, people who had stopped using the service, and people nearing retirement age), the kitchen employees, and Holstebro’s municipal officials. The latter are important decision-makers and needed to be involved to understand the importance of the work and to see the work processes.

Once we’ve identified the system and gained deep stakeholder insights (e.g., by comprehensive ethnographic research), the next step is to invite everyone to derive insights, generate design criteria, and co-create solutions. Speaking of co-creation, a tool especially powerful in social service projects with more than one decision-maker, was very useful in the context of the Good Kitchen. The tool allowed many participants to come together and create the solution that best meets their needs.

Think of the scope as a hypotheses  

There is always a challenge when the initial scope of a project has to be changed. Usually, we perceive this change as if we made a mistake. Yet, it signalizes that we’ve learned something about the situation we are investigating. What we can take away from this story is, that if Hatch & Bloom hadn’t expanded the boundaries to include the employees as well, the idea for the Good Kitchen wouldn’t have come to live. The project wouldn’t have been as successful since the work ethic of the kitchen worker wouldn’t have changed.

In a Design Thinking project, where innovation is aimed at, it is important to allow space for changes – mental, financial, and organizational. Therefore, it is important not to get too involved with one solution and one idea, as it can change quickly.

Get feedback along the process  

The beginning of the project shouldn’t be the only time you engage closely with the stakeholder you design a solution for. As the project progresses, you should regularly ask for feedback from them so that you can integrate their comments into the solution and don’t have to fix big problems too often. In the case study, feedback cards were introduced, creating an ongoing conversation between employees of the kitchen and the elderly. With time, the employees got to know their customers better and could adapt to their needs and wishes. This caused not only higher customer satisfaction but also improved the self-esteem of the workers as they had the feeling of doing something helpful and meaningful for the seniors. 

Ethnography is a very powerful tool for Design Thinking  

By now, we know that Design Thinking is about creating meaningful solutions for the customer, yet, without ethnography, we wouldn’t know where to start. We wouldn’t be able to understand where the daily challenges are and which value something has for our stakeholders. We would look at the problem and the solution from our point of view. By observing and listening to the customers, we notice little things that can make a huge difference in our customer’s lives. The Good Kitchen story reveals that different seasonal ingredients can conjure up memories (e.g., the pleasure of having strawberries only in summer and not all year long). Another example is the packaging of the meals. It was first done so that it saved money, yet it then didn’t really allow to eat with someone else, which is a desire of the seniors.  

If we take this tool and use it not only in Design Thinking projects but in daily routines, together, we can make the world a better place. When we all start to ask about the feelings and problems of our friends and neighbors, little by little, we can create more caring communities where we can truly help each other and where we don’t only focus on ourselves.  

References: More information can be found here.

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Airbnb, a Design Thinking success story

The company has gone from making 200 euros a week to revolutionizing tourism.

case study in design thinking

Behomm, a creative alternative to Airbnb

Users of the Catalonia-based platform exchange their homes, a service they can access by invitation only, and in which money is not the important thing. The only requirement is to have a creative home.

2009. Airbnb is on the verge of bankruptcy. Like many of the startups that emerged in those days it was practically unknown. The company's revenue barely reached 200 dollars a week and losses were crippling its three founders. What was happening? The founders, along with the creator of the business incubator Y Combinator -who then took part in Airbnb's business-, Paul Graham, began to examine the behavior of their ads in New York to find out what was going on. They realized that there was a common pattern in the 40 ads published: the similarity was in the pictures. They weren't very good, since the owners took them with smartphones, not all the rooms of the homes were shown and those interested had no idea where they were going to live. People were not booking rooms because they couldn't even actually see what they were paying for.

After realizing what the problem was, they came up with  a solution that not scalable or very technical : to travel to New York, rent a camera and spend time with the customers in their homes to take good pictures of the houses. They did it with no preliminary study, guided by intuition. A creative solution that was born with the seal ‘design thinking’: one of the founders, Joe Gebbia, had given up computing to enroll in the Rhode Island School of Design. He there heard about design thinking and he thought that they had to put themselves in the shoes of their customers to find out what they needed. Following an unusual and more creative approach, the team tried to get into the heads of those who were going to use Airbnb and see what they were actually looking for.

A week after visiting the homes in New York and enhancing the pictures, Airbnb began to turn over twice as much a week, 400 dollars. The team realized that they were on the right track. Thanks to Gebbia, who chose a solution that was not scalable, the business was able to  avoid the crisis  that was on the verge of killing Airbnb. They skipped codes they had learned at school for a business to work and followed the rules of design thinking: empathize, define, design, prototype and test. Paul Graham told them that work could be done differently, that they could forget about computer codes, that they had to put themselves in the shoes of others to solve the problems. A visit to the homes solved what the three founders had been unable to solve in front of their computers for months. Meeting customers in the real world was the best way to deal with the problems and come up with smart solutions.

Gebbia believes that talking to the customers and putting oneself in their shoes is vital for ideas to be successful. This is why he asked his team to think the way customers did. All those joining the company have to make a trip the first week and document it. The idea is for them to make a number of questions, for the employees to see with their own eyes the problems that may arise, and then be creative. For example, one of its designers, according to an interview in  Firstround , was told to study the function of the stars given to the establishments. After spending a day, the designer decided to replace the star with a heart, thinking that users rewarded the service too coldly with the stars. The heart, however, went deeper. He got it right. The simple fact of replacing a star with a heart increased business by more than 30%.

Airbnb  has gone from making 200 euros a week to revolutionizing tourism : more than 1,500,000 ads in 192 countries and 34,000 cities with a total number of roomers in excess of 40 million in 2015.


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How to create a design thinking problem statement to keep your product on track

We’ve all had days when we can’t decide what music mood we’re in, so we repeatedly hit 'skip' until the car ride is over. When we don’t know what we want, we can’t make a decision. 

For product teams, writing a design thinking problem statement isn’t all that different. 

If you don’t set a direction early in the design thinking process, you and your team will work in circles without any satisfaction or progress. But when you set the tone of your process early on, your team gets into the groove to create a user-first product. 

Last updated

case study in design thinking

Your design thinking problem statement needs to strike the right balance between focused and flexible to be effective.

This chapter of the design thinking guide reviews design thinking problem statement examples and strategies that will help your team work effectively to create products your users will love. 

Seeing is understanding

Stop guessing: let users show and tell you what they need with insights from Heatmaps, Recordings, and Feedback.

What is a design thinking problem statement?

A design thinking problem statement is a concise and actionable sentence or question that defines your UX purpose and direction. Product teams using design thinking develop problem statements to simplify complex problems and identify the gap between what your product has and what your users need .

Since the design thinking process is non-linear, a consolidated problem statement is essential to improve team collaboration and stay on task. Your problem statement is also helpful in getting stakeholder buy-in for new initiatives or for planning human-centered design products. 

5 examples of design thinking problem statements

Finding design thinking problem statement examples can be tricky since they're not always made public—but that won’t stop us! Let’s review five product design examples and case studies to break down their hypothetical problem statements. 

The following examples will use this problem statement formula: (User) needs a way to (outcome) because (driver). Since UX opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, we have more problem statement formulas further down on the page. 

1. Audiense

#Audiense used Hotjar Recordings to pinpoint an issue in the sign-up process

Problem: the Audiense team noticed a sudden uptick in people exiting the sign-up process without completing it. 

Example problem statement: New customers need an easier way to complete the sign-up process because they’re getting frustrated during the account setup.  

Solution: Juan Fernandez, Head of Product, used Hotjar Session Recordings to review failed sign-ups and saw that the password validator feature was broken. After they fixed the validator, sign-up rates increased.

Read Audiense's full story here.

2. Zenprint

#Session Recordings showed exactly how users behaved on the Zenprint website, helping the team identify improvement areas

Problem: the Zenprint team used Google Analytics to compare bounce rates across pages to discover which steps in the ordering process were underperforming. 

Example problem statement: Potential customers need a clearer understanding of next steps because the current page has a high bounce rate.

Solution: the team used Hotjar Heatmaps to see where people spent most of their time on a page, and assessed whether they should spend time there or not. They witnessed users lingering on the pricing page, so they A/B tested the page's UX design. Ultimately, they chose a design that provides clear steps on how to proceed when users hover over a price. As a result, Zenprint's team decreased the drop-off rate of the problematic page by 7% and increased conversions by 2%.

Read Zenprint's full story here.

3. Razorpay

#Surveys and Recordings helped Razorpay learn directly from customers

Problem: Razorpay redesigned their dashboard and incrementally released it to small user segments. When users rated the design as 6.2/10, they knew they needed to improve it. 

Example problem statement: Users want an updated dashboard because they’re unhappy with the current version. 

Solution: traditional analytics showed the Razorpay team that engagement with the new dashboard was dropping, but they didn’t know why. They asked users who provided a low rating on the dashboard to explain their feelings in an open-ended survey. Based on user feedback, they improved the dashboard design, which resulted in a 40% increase in satisfaction.  

Read Razorpay's full story here.   

4. Spotahome

#Relevance scores help the Spotahome team sort through Recordings

Problem: Spotahome heard from a segment of users that updating the in-app calendar was difficult, but the team wasn’t sure what the problem was. 

Example problem statement: The landlord user segment needs a simpler way to use the calendar function, but the cause of frustration is unclear. 

Solution: the team watched Hotjar Recordings to spot the features users struggled with, which convinced the product team to rework a solution and make the calendar easier for landlords to use. 

Read Spotahome's full story here.

#Yatter reviewed Hotjar Recordings to find what caused leads to abandon a sales page

Problem: Yatter is a lead generation agency that wanted to increase conversions on a client’s stem cell therapy website. Recordings revealed that visitors would diligently read the text describing the therapy but then exit the page, leading the agency to believe visitors didn’t trust the company. 

Example problem statement: Users need to see social proof because they don’t believe our information is trustworthy. 

Solution: the team used Hotjar Heatmaps to identify their most popular case studies, and placed them at the top of the sales page. After adding the case studies, the page’s conversion rate increased by 10%. 

Read Yatter's full story here.

3 steps to create a design thinking problem statement

Writing an effective design thinking problem statement requires research and brainstorming before you begin. 

Let's go through the three steps to create a problem statement with a mock project management software company to make the process easier to grasp.

1. Identify

Ongoing product discovery is the basis for design thinking problem statements.  

Establishing a product experimentation culture or sending out surveys about a particular job-to-be-done (JTBD) gives you a starting point. Ask yourself: what problems are users facing, and which are most important to them? How can we create customer delight ?

For our mock project management company, identifying user problems could look like this:

A product manager (PM) regularly reviews recordings of new users going through product onboarding. The PM notices that a particular user segment drops off more than others at Step 3 of onboarding, which is to migrate tasks from their current project management software into the new dashboard. 

The product team sends a survey to this user segment with open-ended questions to learn about their goals and challenges. 

💡 Pro tip: use the JTBD framework to stop assuming and start asking.

Kyle Luther Anderson , a product management leader and coach, explained that product teams use the jobs-to-be-done framework to identify, then confirm or deny, user assumptions. He says:

“Your organization has assumptions about what the customer wants, about their unmet needs, and what your customer considers a successful outcome. Oftentimes an org doesn't state assumptions explicitly, and many companies are pretty bad about putting those assumptions to the test. The value of using the JTBD framework is what comes from those questions you ask, what you learn in unbiased research, and really focusing on the customer problem or opportunity.”

Learn more about the JTBD framework here.

After identifying an opportunity, you need to investigate further to understand potential causes or paths forward. Nasko Terziev, a Senior Product Designer at Hotjar, recommends teams think of the product narrative and end-to-end user journey to home in on critical moments.

Where are the moments we are doing well? Where are the moments we are not doing well? We can build those moments into a framework that the whole company can contribute to with this storytelling approach. Get the storyboards and feed data from analytics, sales, customer success, and support.

Here’s how our mock project management app could approach this step:

Reference their previous onboarding flow plans

Look for UX trends in session recordings

Gather user feedback on the frustrating points

✍️ Class is in session!

Hotjar has free courses for product managers and UX designers. 

Learn how to find insights in Recordings or reveal patterns in Heatmaps , then use what you’ve learned to conduct research for your design thinking problem statement.

Now it’s time to consolidate everything into a design thinking problem statement. Here are five formulas you can use as a starting point:

(User) needs a way to (outcome) because (driver). For example: new users need a way to quickly migrate tasks because they'll cancel their trial if onboarding takes too long.

(Audience) wants (outcome), so we will deliver (product) to achieve (result). For example: new users want to add existing projects to their new account quickly, so we’ll create a way to import data so they spend less time onboarding.

‘How might we’ statement. For example: how might we make adding existing project information faster?

Our users want to (task). How can our product achieve (result)? For example: new users want to add current projects to the app. How can our product make setup easy and enjoyable?

Who, what, where, why. For example: new users want to migrate projects, but they’re dropping off at the current step because input options are limited.

Be open to adjusting your problem statement as you learn

Before we send you off to write the next great design thinking problem statement, we leave you with a few words of advice: be flexible and stay curious—your problem statement should leave room for imagination, experimentation, and change.

FAQs about design thinking problem statements

A design thinking problem statement is a tool used in the design thinking process to help product teams and UX designers establish their focus and direction. A practical problem statement gives teams the opportunity to start brainstorming and testing solutions, and is also helpful for communicating ideas to get stakeholder buy-in.

What are some design thinking problem statements?

Design thinking problem statements can take multiple forms. For example:

(User) needs a way to (outcome) because (driver)

(Audience) wants (outcome), so we will deliver (product) to achieve (result)

‘How might we’ statements

Our users want to (task). How can our product achieve (result)?

Who, what, where, why statements

How do you write a design thinking problem statement?

Teams need to complete three steps to create a design thinking problem statement:

Identify user challenges or opportunities.

Investigate the drivers and hurdles for those goals.

Combine the information into a sentence or question that summarizes the situation and has a prompt for thinking of solutions.

Examples of design thinking

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  • Open access
  • Published: 24 November 2022

Applying design thinking for business model innovation

  • Xinya You   ORCID: 1  

Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship volume  11 , Article number:  59 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in using design thinking for business model innovation. However, few studies have explored the application, potential and challenges of design thinking from a comprehensive perspective. In order to better understand how design thinking can contribute to business model innovation, this paper regards business model innovation as a subject of design research and provides a critical review of researchers’ explorations of how to apply design thinking for business model innovation. In light of the literature review, this paper distils seven key design research themes: (1) design thinking as a mindset and a methodology; (2) designers of business models; (3) design activities for business model innovation; (4) design tools for business model innovation; (5) design approaches for business model innovation; (6) co-creation of new products, services and business models, and (7) evaluating and measuring the impact of design thinking. The themes not only highlight the potential of applying design thinking as a necessary mindset and methodology to business model innovation, but also emphasise the nature of designing as a social process.


Over the past two decades, researchers and managers have become increasingly aware of the importance of business models. In the management literature, the business model has become an increasingly important concept in technology and innovation management (Massa et al., 2017 ). The applicability of business models has expanded from focal companies to other types of companies in the ecosystem of the value network (Zott & Amit, 2013 ). The potential to analyse business models from the industry, sector, regional, national, cluster and company levels has been explored (Saebi et al., 2017 ; Zott & Amit, 2013 ). Moreover, researchers’ understanding of business models extends to their sustainability, i.e. their contribution to economic, cultural and social dimensions (Joyce & Paquin, 2016 ). Some researchers have identified the need to build business models for organisations in the non-profit sector, such as social businesses (Seelos & Mair, 2005 ; Yunus et al., 2010 ), and many researchers have collected empirical data to demonstrate the impact of business models on company performance (Morris et al., 2013 ; Saebi et al., 2017 ; Zott & Amit, 2007 ). Successful business practices suggest that continuing business model innovation can bring companies the ultimate competitive advantage (Mitchell & Coles, 2003 ).

Business model innovation requires design knowledge and skills that traditional business schools and management schools do not teach. As a strategic management researcher, McGrath ( 2010 ) pointed out, ‘unlike conventional strategies that [emphasise] analysis, strategies that aim to discover and exploit new models must engage in significant experimentation and learning—a [“discovery driven”], rather than analytical approach’ (p. 247). Some researchers (Amano, 2014 ; Simonse, 2014 ) believe that design thinking can provide managers with a discovery-driven design approach for business model innovation. In the past decade, researchers have explored the methodological value of design thinking for business model innovation from a variety of perspectives (Amano, 2014 ; Simonse & Badke-Schaub, 2014 ). Many business model design tools, such as the business model canvas, have been developed for entrepreneurs and managers to use (Bocken et al., 2013 ; Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010 ).

Although a number of studies have been carried out on exploring the potential of design thinking, few studies provide a comprehensive view on how to apply design thinking for business model innovation. In addition, the application of design thinking faces some challenges. For example, design thinking as a concept is under-theorised and is often over-simplified as a linear and clear process that can be easily followed (Kimbell, 2011 ; McCullagh, 2010 ). This paper aims to provide a comprehensive perspective to help unleash the potential of design thinking and resolve some of the challenges it faces in its application. It is divided into four sections. Section  2 gives a brief overview of business model innovation as a subject of design research. Section  3 discusses the application, potential and challenges of design thinking in business model innovation. Section  4 introduces the research methodology used in this study and presents the descriptive results of this paper. Section  5 identifies several key themes of applying design thinking to business model innovation. These themes point out some directions for future interdisciplinary research on design thinking and business model innovation.

Business model innovation: a subject of design research

Business model innovation is a popular topic in business model research. Researchers suggest that innovation must include business models because a business model describes the design of a company’s value creation and value capture mechanisms, which together generate profit (Chesbrough, 2007 ; Gay, 2014 ). In general, business model innovation describes the creation of a new business model or a process of transformation from one model to another (Chesbrough, 2010 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Mitchell & Coles, 2004 ). Recent research suggests that business model innovation ‘can comprise the development of entirely new business models, the diversification into additional business models, the acquisition of new business models, or the transformation from one business model to another’ (Geissdoerfer et al., 2018 , p. 406). Learning from a successful business model is also considered valuable for stimulating innovation. For instance, Giesen et al.’s ( 2007 ) research identified three main types of business model innovation based on 35 best practice cases: the innovations in industry model, the revenue model and the enterprise model.

Researchers have proposed many definitions for business model innovation (Geissdoerfer et al., 2018 ). These definitions have several focuses, including making better value configuration (Chesbrough, 2007 ), providing novel product or service offerings to customers and end-users (Mitchell & Coles, 2004 ), experimenting with new business model elements and building blocks (Osterwalder et al., 2005 ), and leveraging a company’s internal capabilities and resources (Amit & Zott, 2010 ). According to these definitions, business model innovations should include the design and implementation of new business models. However, researchers have yet to reach a consensus on the definition of business model innovation. In recent research, Foss and Saebi ( 2018 ) proposed a clear direction for defining business models and business model innovation from a theoretical construction perspective. As they put it: ‘the … [business model] … and … [business model innovation] … constructs are fundamentally about the architecture of the firm’s value creation, delivery and capture mechanism; theoretically the key aspects of … [business models] … is complementarity between activities underlying these mechanisms; … [business model innovation] means novel changes of such complementary relations’ (Foss & Saebi, 2018 , p. 9). Foss and Saebi’s intention is to establish a pre-existing agreement on the nature of the units of analysis (i.e. the business model and business model innovation).

In the business model innovation literature, business model design is described as a source of innovation as well as a key task for entrepreneurs and executives (Chesbrough, 2007 ; Zott & Amit, 2007 ). From this perspective, business model innovation is a design research topic. The literature shows some considerations for the design and implementation of new business models:

The tool attributes of the business model itself, e.g. as a tool for systemic analysis, planning and communication (Doganova & Eyquem-Renault, 2009 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2018 );

The interrelationship between the different components of the business model, e.g. the value proposition, the market segment, the offering and complementary assets of the cost structure, the revenue generation mechanism, the value chain structure and the value network (Chesbrough, 2010 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2018 );

The relationship between product market strategy, the business model and organisational design (DaSilva & Trkman, 2014 ; Osterwalder et al., 2005 ; Richardson, 2008 ; Zott & Amit, 2013 );

The design elements that describe the architecture of an activity system and the design themes that describe the sources of the system’s value creation (Amit & Zott, 2010 );

The relationship and conflicts between the new business model and the existing business model (Aspara et al., 2010 ; Massa et al., 2017 );

Business model innovation and sustainability (Carayannis et al., 2014 );

Managers as designers and executives of business models (Chesbrough, 2007 ; DaSilva & Trkman, 2014 ; Eckhardt, 2013 ; Massa et al., 2017 ; Zott & Amit, 2013 ; Zott et al., 2011 ).

Companies’ capability to create, implement, iterate and evolve business models to adapt to changing market conditions is critical to their business success (Geissdoerfer et al., 2018 ; Lindgardt et al., 2012 ; Romero & Molina, 2009 ; Wirtz et al., 2016 ). As Wirtz et al. ( 2016 ) pointed out, ‘… a current business model should always be critically regarded from a dynamic perspective, thus within the consciousness that there may be the need for business model evolution or business model innovation, due to internal or external changes over time’ (p. 41).

In this regard, many design approaches and tools have been created for managers to use. For example, Zott and Amit ( 2010 ) developed a conceptual toolkit for helping managers analyse and improve the current designs to adapt them to the future and to enable entrepreneurial managers to design future models. Similarly, after considering the components of the business model, the process of business model innovation, as well as the competitive strategy of the innovating company, Chesbrough and Rosenbloom ( 2002 ) and Chesbrough ( 2010 ) provide an integrated approach for business model innovation. There are also some researchers trying to design measurement models for business model innovation. One example is Chesbrough’s ( 2007 ) business model framework. It sequences possible business models from basic models to far more advanced models and can be used by companies to advance their business models. Attempts to develop a business model innovation typology through empirical studies have also been made (Cavalcante et al., 2011 ; Koen et al., 2011 ; Taran et al., 2015 ).

Application, potential and challenges of design thinking in business model innovation

Since business model innovation can be regarded as a design research topic, it has attracted the attention of many researchers in the design discipline. One of the reasons is Osterwalder and Pigneur’s ( 2010 ) Business model generation: a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers . This popular book introduces its readers to some design thinking methods (e.g. customer insights, ideation, visual thinking, prototyping and scenarios) and tools (e.g. empathy maps and brainstorming) created and used by design practitioners. It also mentions Roger Martin’s opinion on managers as designers, Fred Collopy and Richard Boland’s ( 2004 ) book Managing as Designing and Tom Kelly’s ( 2001 ) book The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, American’s Leading Design Firm . These scholars and design practitioners are famous ‘design thinking’ advocates in the management field. Their publications are frequently cited by management and design researchers who are interested in design thinking.

From the perspective of design researchers, the applicability of design thinking has expanded from product design to product-service systems and is now extended to business model design (Simonse & Badke-Schaub, 2014 ). Many researchers (Amano et al., 2017 ; Lehmann et al., 2015 ) have explored the value of design thinking to business model design and innovation. Some topics are frequently mentioned in research papers, such as ‘prototypes’, ‘visualisation’, ‘co-design’, ‘participatory design’, ‘value propositions’, ‘product and service innovations’, ‘problem solving’, ‘modelling and mapping process’, ‘iteration’ and ‘activity system architecture’ (Amano, 2014 ; Amano et al., 2017 ; Buur et al., 2013 ; Ceschin et al., 2014 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ; Gudiksen et al., 2014 ; Joyce & Paquin, 2016 ; Simonse et al., 2012 ).

It has been argued that design thinking can play a strategic role in business model innovation. For example, Gilbert et al. ( 2012 ) described design thinking as ‘an effective means in democratizing innovation’ and ‘a key catalyst in linking strategy to action’. They illustrated how design thinking tools and approaches could be used to drive product and service innovation from a business model innovation perspective. Another researcher, Amano ( 2014 ), described design thinking as ‘the strategic role of design’. He discussed five key elements of design thinking—human centredness/field research, collaboration, learning through iterative processes, visual storytelling and concurrency with business analysis—to illustrate its potential impact on business model innovation. Moreover, Simonse and Badke-Schaub ( 2014 ) proposed a concept of strategic design thinking from the perspective of business model innovation:

[Strategic design thinking is] a series of cognitive activities (such as reasoning, creative problem solving, decision-making), which are directed to the understanding of the business problems, its network structure and value exchange possibilities to co-create a design process and outcome which are meant to provide a strategic direction and communication of a shared vision and commitment.

Although researchers have a positive attitude towards the application of design thinking in business model innovation, some of them (Amano, 2014 ; Amano et al., 2017 ) pointed out that the lack of a general definition of design thinking may be a problem of applying it to business model innovation. Many definitions have been proposed to try to describe its nature and application potential, such as ‘a formal creative problem-solving method with the intent to foster innovation’ (Dell'Era et al., 2020 , p. 324), ‘a cognitive style’ (Kimbell, 2011 , p. 297) and ‘Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success’ (IDEO, 2021 ).

One of the reasons that so many definitions were created is that the term design thinking is derived from Herbert Simon’s thoughts on the cognitive way of problem-solving (Simon, 1969 ), but challenged by Nigel Cross’ ‘designerly ways of knowing’ (it focuses on design practitioners’ ways of problem-solving) (Cross, 1982 ), and used by a famous design consultancy IDEO to name its company methodology (it was frequently mentioned by popular business publications and taught at business schools) (Brown, 2009 ). In addition, in the early days when design thinking became popular, influenced by IDEO’s practice-based company methodology, ‘many disparate, vaguely creative activities are combined under the label of [“Design Thinking”]’ (Dorst, 2011 , p. 531) and design thinking was sometimes over-simplified as ‘as a clear and codified process of methods, tools, and steps that can be learned by nondesigners’ (McCullagh, 2010 , p. 38). This further increased the difficulty of conceptualising and theorising design thinking.

Nowadays, more and more researchers have realised the importance of clarifying the origins of design thinking (Micheli et al., 2019 ; Oxman, 2017 ). Attempts have been made to distinguish design thinking in management and design research paradigms. For example, Johansson‐Sköldberg et al. ( 2013 ) suggest using the term ‘design thinking’ in the management discourse and a new term ‘designerly thinking’ in the design discourse. Nevertheless, as Lucy Kimbell pointed out in her paper ‘Rethinking Design Thinking’ published in 2011, ‘[design] thinking … remain undertheorized and understudied; indeed, the critical rethinking of design thinking has only just begun’ ( 2011 , p. 301). In this regard, some researchers who attempt to use design thinking as a methodology for business model innovation have recognised that it is under-theorised (Amano, 2014 ; Simonse et al., 2012 ). In recent years, many design researchers have tried to better understand design thinking from multiple perspectives, such as revisiting the most influential design thinking publications (Huppatz, 2015 ), mapping out the design cognition landscape (Hay et al., 2020 ) and further conceptualising design thinking (Micheli et al., 2019 ).

Since the theorisation of design thinking is still in progress, researchers have not yet reached a consensus on how to define it. The lack of a unified definition of design thinking has increased the difficulty of knowledge creation and accumulation. For instance, in practice, many organisations had different understandings of what design thinking is and found that it is difficult to measure its impacts on innovation (Schmiedgen et al., 2016 ). Nevertheless, it is unwise to unify the definition of design thinking in the early stages of theorisation—embracing the existence of multiple definitions can help explore its potential. A practical approach is to emphasise the context of research and application when exploring design thinking and ensure that its academic roots are clear. It also applies to the application of design thinking in business model innovation.

In order to provide a comprehensive perspective to help unlock the potential of design thinking and address some of the challenges it faces in its application, a thorough literature review is needed. The next section reviews existing research on applying design thinking for business model innovation, exploring how researchers have defined the role of design thinking in business model innovation, their research and practice on applying design thinking for business model innovation, and how the impact of design thinking on business model innovation can be measured or evaluated. The researcher also seeks to distil some key research themes of applying design thinking for business model innovation from the literature review for future exploration.

Literature review

Research methodology.

The researcher used ScienceDirect and Scopus databases for the literature searching and “business model”, “design thinking” and “innovation” as keywords for Boolean searches (Boolean search: TITLE-ABS-KEY [“business model” AND “design thinking” AND “innovation”] for journal and conference papers). The researcher divided “business model innovation” into two keywords “business model” and “innovation” because in some literature, the creation of new business models is not directly described as business model innovation (Bason, 2012 ; Emili et al., 2016 ). Using business model and innovation as two search keywords can reduce the omission of relevant literature. The Boolean search returned 417 papers from ScienceDirect and 79 papers from Scopus (search date: December 20, 2021; only papers written in English were considered).

The researcher noted that some design research papers do not use the term “design thinking” when discussing how to design business models (Bason, 2012 ). Broadly speaking, the use of design methods to solve management problems can be seen as an application of design thinking (Johansson‐Sköldberg et al., 2013 ). Therefore, the researcher directly searched the websites of some top design journals (searching journals with article titles) and conference proceedings using “business model” as a keyword and included the search results in the review (search date: December 20, 2021). A total of 32 papers were found—all of which were published after 2010. The search results for design journals are (number of papers in brackets): Design Issues (1), The Design Journal (1), Design Management Review (0), International Journal of Design (0), and CoDesign (2). The results for design conferences are (the number of papers is shown in brackets): DRS (3), DRS Learn Xdesign (0), EAD (2), DMI: Academic Design Management Conference (19), ADIM (4) (Note: proceedings for DMI: Academic Design Management Conference published prior to 2012 are not available).

Table 1 shows the search results for ScienceDirect, Scopus and Design Journals and conferences (see Additional file 1 : Appendix A: Sheet 1 for the complete dataset). The search identified a total of 514 papers for review.

As shown in Fig.  1 , publications on the link between design thinking/methods, business models and innovation have grown significantly since 2014, and this trend continues (see Additional file 1 : Appendix A: Sheet 2 tab for more information on the number of publications).

figure 1

Timeline of publications by directory

The researcher conducted an initial review of the 514 papers and found that most of them could not be used for analysis (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab). The reasons were as follows: not relevant to applying design thinking for business model innovation ( n  = 451), not available ( n  = 17), not an English-language paper ( n  = 1) and not a conference or journal paper ( n  = 2) (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column B). The final number of papers used for analysis is 44, including 36 empirical studies, 7 conceptual studies and 2 literature review studies (1 of which is also a conceptual study) (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column X to column AC).

The analysis of the papers applied a structured content analysis method. Content analysis can be used as a quantitative and qualitative method: quantitative content analysis uses a deductive approach “ based on previous research, which allows for formulating hypothesis about relationships among variables ”, while qualitative analysis adopts an inductive approach, using “ research questions to guide data collection and analysis but potential themes and other questions may arise from careful reading of data ” (White & Marsh, 2006 , p. 35). The analysis approach for this study was to read each paper to answer the following research questions:

How do researchers define design thinking in their papers?

What design thinking publications, scholars and thoughts are mentioned in the paper, why is design thinking valuable for business model innovation, how can design thinking be used for business model innovation, how can the impact of design thinking be measured and evaluated.

The researcher conducted a descriptive statistical analysis to answer the first and second questions. Given the exploratory nature of the next three questions, content analysis was used as a qualitative method. As explained by Hsieh and Shannon ( 2005 , p. 1278), qualitative content analysis is “ a research method for the subjective interpretation of the content of text data through the systematic classification process of coding and identifying themes or patterns ”. Table 2 shows the list of code categories created by the researcher in the course of reading the 44 papers to answer these questions.

The review found that of these 44 papers, 40 mention the term design thinking and 18 provided one or more definition(s) of design thinking ( n  = 14) or attempted to define design thinking ( n  = 4) (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column D and E and Definitions tab). Table 3 shows the definitions of design thinking in the 18 papers and the sources of the definitions (where applicable). The academic roots of design thinking and the practical value of design thinking in the business world are reflected in the cited literature (e.g. Simon, H., “The sciences of the artificial” ( 1969 ) and Martin, R., “The design of business: Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage” ( 2009 )).

The researcher calculated the number of citations to design thinking publications describing what design thinking is in the 44 papers. In total, 88 publications were found. Some of these ( n  = 25) were cited more than 1 time ((see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Pivot tables tab/column A and B). Table 4 shows the publications that were cited more than 2 times ( n  = 13). Publications that focused on the practical value of design thinking to the business world and social innovation ( n  = 5) were cited most often (e.g. “Change by design”, “Design thinking” and “The design of business: Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage”). Academic publications ( n  = 8) that contributed to the conceptualisation of design thinking were also cited several times (e.g. “The core of design thinking and its application”, “Rethinking design thinking: Part I” and “Wicked problems in design thinking”). These citations reveal the equally important impact of the practical value of design thinking and the conceptualisation of design thinking in the application of design thinking for business model innovation.

In addition to the number of citations, the researcher analysed the thoughts from these 88 publications that were cited by the papers reviewed (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Pivot tables tab/column D and E). The researcher analysed all the thoughts by using NVivo 12 to generate a word cloud based on word frequency (see Fig.  2 ). As shown in Fig.  2 , the most frequently used words highlight the application of design thinking as a human-centred problem-solving process or approach.

figure 2

Word cloud created based on word frequency

The analysis of the 44 papers shows that the value of design thinking (or designers’ way of problem-solving) for business model innovation has been widely explored (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column H and I). Table 5 shows the categories and codes generated during the data analysis process, as well as examples of the values identified (for more details, see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Value of DT tab). The numbers in brackets indicate the number of papers that include relevant data. The results show that all the papers examined explored the methodological value of design thinking for business model innovation, and 2 of them also explored design thinking as a way of thinking.

Table 6 shows the categories and codes created during the data analysis process to understand how design thinking can be used for business model innovation. Five categories were created: designers, design activities, design artefacts: design tools, design artefacts: design approaches, and design artefacts: design outputs. Numbers in brackets indicate the number of papers containing relevant data (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column J to S for model details).

The main results of the data analysis are as follows:

Designers . The majority of the 44 papers show that companies or organisational users are the main designers of their business models (e.g. senior managers, business case representatives, managers, CEOs, CSOs, organisational leaders, social innovators, senior staff, design entrepreneurs, the strategic planning and development groups) ( n  = 32), design researchers/experts are the business model design facilitators ( n  = 28) and multiple stakeholders are participants ( n  = 36). Seven papers show that multidisciplinary teams are the main designers of business models.

Design activities . Three types of design activities were identified in the data analysis—participatory design activities ( n  = 37), design research activities ( n  = 25) and design activities ( n  = 41). Most papers describe design activities conducted by the main designers of the business model ( n  = 41), as well as participatory design activities involving multiple stakeholders, such as workshops ( n  = 37). In addition, 25 papers demonstrate the importance of design research activities for business model innovation, such as participant observation, shadowing and open-ended qualitative interviews. (For more details on participatory design activities and design research activities, see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column L)

Design artefacts: design tools . The results show that the majority of papers ( n  = 40) describe the use of design tools to facilitate business model innovation (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column N). Of these, 29 papers describe the use of existing tools for business model innovation (e.g. Business Model Canvas and Customer Journey), 18 papers show the application of new business model design tools (e.g. Free Format Sketching and Value Transaction Mapping) (for more details, see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Using existing tools for BMI tab and New BMD tools tab), and 5 papers mention the use of business analytics tools to support business model innovation (e.g. SWOT analysis, Benchmarking, Logical Model, Social Reporting Standard). There are also 2 papers describing the application of new tools for enabling business model innovation and 1 paper shows the use the existing tools for enabling business model innovation—these tools were not used directly for business model innovation, but for creating new products and services.

Design artefacts: design approaches . Of the 44 papers, 41 describe design approaches for business model innovation (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column P). 31 papers describe the use of new business model design approaches, of which 18 describe general approaches to business model design and 13 describe user case-specific approaches, such as those for developing sustainability and product-service systems (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: New BM design approaches tab). The results also revealed several other new approaches to business model innovation: new frameworks of using design approaches for business model innovation ( n  = 2), new design approaches to make business modelling tools ( n  = 1) and new design thinking and innovation approaches ( n  = 2) and new product and service design approaches ( n  = 1). Existing design thinking and innovation approaches ( n  = 3) and existing product and service design approaches ( n  = 1) were also used to enable business model innovation.

Design artefacts: design outputs . All 44 papers describe the design outputs of business model innovation (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column R). Most of them emphasise the importance of prototypes in business model innovation—35 papers mention prototypes of new products and services, 34 describe prototypes of new business models and 1 mention prototypes of value propositions. About half of the papers describe the creation of new products and services ( n  = 23) and business models ( n  = 23). Fifteen papers notes that design activities can lead to opportunities for transition to new business models. The data analysis also provides an overview of how new products, services and business models can be co-created:

27 papers show that new products and services can be prototyped in the process of business modelling;

4 papers indicate that new business models can be devised around the new products/services;

1 paper gives an example of how new business models can be devised around a new way of co-producing new products/services;

1 paper suggests that the creation of new business model can empower the development of new products and services;

1 paper suggests giving shape to new products/services together with new business model and using new business models as a framework to direct the development of new products/services.

Table 7 shows the results of coding on how the impact of design thinking (or designers’ way of problem-solving) to business model innovation can be measured or evaluated (see Additional file 2 : Appendix B: Data analysis tab/column T to W for details). All the 44 papers describe the impact of design thinking (or designers’ way of problem-solving). 33 papers measured or evaluated the impact—design thinking or designers’ way of problem-solving can help create new products and services ( n  = 29) and new business models ( n  = 33), and by applying design thinking or designers’ way of problem-solving, companies and related stakeholders can learn new knowledge and skills for business model innovation ( n  = 6). The measurement and evaluation methods used are observations ( n  = 32), case studies ( n  = 29), feedback collection ( n  = 9), experiments ( n  = 5), documentary analysis ( n  = 4), reflections ( n  = 3), informal interviews (follow-ups) ( n  = 1) and literature review ( n  = 1). The other 11 papers identified the potential positive impact of design thinking (or designers’ way of problem-solving) on new product and service development and business model innovation, but did not provide evidence to measure or evaluate this impact.

Key theme 1: Design thinking as a mindset and a methodology

The review shows that in the context of business model innovation, design thinking is often regarded as a valuable methodology and/or a way of thinking. In fact, design thinking is often regarded as a mindset characterised by a series of important design principles that are useful for enhancing design processes (e.g. reflective practice, communication through visualisation, empathy, fail quickly and cheaply, and structuring the problem-solving process) (Brenner et al., 2016 ; Gudiksen et al., 2014 ; Lehmann et al., 2015 ). However, the boundaries between design thinking as a way of thinking and as a methodology has not always been well described by researchers. For example, Simonse ( 2014 ) notes that designers’ approach to generative modelling and visual thinking (i.e. communication through visualisation—as part of the design thinking mindset) can be used to make new discoveries about business model inventions.

A promising future research direction could be to explore the value of design thinking as a mindset for business model innovation. Jenkins and Fife ( 2014 ) indicate that design thinking, as a synthetic, holistic and heuristic mode of thinking, complements the analytical thinking that managers rely on when solving problems and making decisions. Wrigley et al.’s ( 2016 ) research points out that design thinking is a necessary mindset for business model innovation and represents the willingness to explore future possibilities. It is worth noting that in recent years, design researchers have expanded their understanding of ‘design thinking as a way of thinking’ (Howard et al., 2015 ; Schweitzer et al., 2016 ). For example, a recent study showed that there are as many as 22 constructs of design thinking mindset (e.g. tolerance for—being comfortable with ambiguity—uncertainty, embracing risk, human centredness, empathy/mindfulness and awareness of process, holistic view [considering the problem as a whole] and problem reframing) (Dosi et al., 2018 ). These constructs of design thinking as a mindset can be further explored in business model innovation research.

The review shows that researchers have extensively explored the methodological value of design thinking for business model innovation. Gudiksen’s ( 2012 ) categories of design thinking—design reasoning, design problems, design learning approaches and design making essentials—can be used to organise some of the key findings, as shown below.

Design reasoning: Applying abductive reasoning (e.g. switching between divergent and convergent reasoning) can lead to the emergence of new business scenarios in the business model design process (Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ). The knowledge funnel is also considered valuable for business model innovations. For example, it has been used by Deloitte to create the Deloitte Digital Business Model Mind Map (Gilbert et al., 2012 ).

Design problems: Several researchers (Bason, 2012 ; Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Gudiksen, 2012 ) pointed out that business model design problems are ill-structured problems or wicked problems. Reflection-in-action can lead to the co-evolution of solutions (various future scenarios and business model prototypes) and problems (business model design problems) (Amano et al., 2017 ; Bucolo & Wrigley, 2012 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Simonse & Badke-Schaub, 2014 ).

Design learning approaches: Designers’ ‘learning through doing’ strategy and material culture are useful for business model innovation. The designers of business models can apply some learning approaches by using specific design methods, design tools and play design games, such as: (1) visual learning through sketches and drawings, e.g. using the Business Model Canvas (Buur et al., 2013 ); (2) tangible learning through materials, e.g. playing design games such as the Distribution Channel Sandplay and Pinball Flow Game (Buur et al., 2013 ); (3) embodied learning or bodystorming, e.g. the design methods of tangible value network mapping and staging business relations (Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ).

Design making essentials: In terms of design making essentials, designers can use certain mechanisms (e.g. design games and prototyping) to create ‘what-if scenarios’ or ‘future scenarios’ dialogues among stakeholders (Amano et al., 2017 ; Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Gudiksen, 2012 ; Gudiksen et al., 2014 ; Jenkins & Fife, 2014 ). Business model prototyping is a key mechanism throughout the business model design process. Prototypes can be used as learning tools in business model development (including implementation), characterised by an iterative process (Amano et al., 2017 ). Adopting an evolutionary perspective is necessary for the iteration of prototypes—it can deconstruct and rebuild the organisational situation to identify new opportunities for business model innovation (Amano et al., 2017 ). There are many other benefits to using a business model prototype. For example, low-cost business model prototypes allow companies to test and improve them before implementation (Jenkins & Fife, 2014 ).

Key theme 2: Designers of business models

In recent years, design researchers have also paid more attention to investigating the capabilities of designers as the primary agents of design activities (Kimbell, 2011 ; Pandza & Thorpe, 2010 ), to understand the socialised, situated, contextual and contingent nature of design activities (Adams et al., 2011 ; Pandza & Thorpe, 2010 ; Smulders et al., 2014 ), and to explore the roles of design artefacts in the design process and different ways artefacts emerge (Kimbell, 2009 , 2011 ; Pandza & Thorpe, 2010 ). This trend is also reflected in the literature applying design thinking for business model innovation (Bason, 2012 ; Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ; Jenkins & Fife, 2014 ).

Most of the papers reviewed have shown that CEOs and senior managers, design researchers and experts, and the company’s key stakeholders all play an important role in the design of business models. CEOs and senior managers who are the key decision-makers in their businesses can be the primary designers of their business models (Bason, 2012 ; Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ; Jenkins & Fife, 2014 ). The facilitation of design experts can help them to apply design thinking for business model innovation (Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ; Gudiksen, 2012 ; Jenkins & Fife, 2014 ; Komatsu et al., 2016 ). The design process could engage multiple stakeholders as they can provide various perspectives of value proposition, creation, capture, delivery and exchange, and contribute their knowledge, skills and resources networks for business model innovation (Cautela et al., 2014 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ; Gudiksen, 2012 ; Gudiksen et al., 2014 ; Simonse et al., 2012 ). Multi-disciplinary team collaborations are also valuable for business model innovation (Bryant et al., 2020b ; Unterberger et al., 2018 ).

Key theme 3: Design activities for business model innovation

The review has shown that participatory design activities and design research activities can promote business model design and innovation. Participatory design activities can help design business models by creating settings and activities and developing and using design tools that lead to quality dialogues among participants (Blois, 2015 ; Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Gudiksen, 2012 ; Gudiksen et al., 2014 ; Suteu & Perondi, 2016 ). In participatory design activities, professional designers can play the role of facilitator and observer (Gudiksen, 2014 ; Suteu & Perondi, 2016 ). Well-designed workshop protocols can encourage synergy between disciplines and knowledge domains (Blois, 2015 ). Feedback can be collected from participants to improve workshop frameworks and design tools (Bryant et al., 2020b ; Chen et al., 2016 ; Price et al., 2013 ).

Moreover, managers can initiate design research activities to trigger new product and service provisions and business model innovations and to address challenges facing their organisations (Gilbert et al., 2012 ). Various design approaches and methods can be used in research activities (e.g. qualitative and ethnographically inspired design research, user research, co-design processes, rapid prototyping, visualisation, experimentation, and interactive and tangible workshop formats) (Bason, 2012 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ; Gudiksen, 2012 ; Simonse et al., 2012 ). In design activities, traditional market research tools and the tools of business analytics can be used to support business model innovation, such as collecting and analysing customer data, identifying target markets, conducting future competitor analysis, exploring revenue potential, describing potential cost profile, and developing progression pathway for developing new business models (Garrett & Wrigley, 2019 ; Jenkins & Fife, 2014 ).

Key theme 4: Design tools for business model innovation

The review has shown that a variety of new design tools can be created for business model innovation. The main research findings of new design tools are as follows:

Design tools can be developed and applied to explore and deal with business model problems and to uncover, create and advance perspectives on new business models (Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Ceschin et al., 2014 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ; Gudiksen et al., 2014 ; Simonse & Badke-Schaub, 2014 ).

Design tools can also be developed for connecting a company’s strategies, business model(s) and operational activities (Bucolo & Wrigley, 2012 ; De Reuver et al., 2013 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ), or, in other words, market product strategy, business model and organisation design (Gudiksen, 2012 ; Jenkins & Fife, 2014 ).

Design tools can be created based on designerly adaptation and reinvention of methods from other fields. For example, ethnographic methods can be transformed into cultural probes and context mapping tools (Simonse et al., 2012 ).

Many design tools have been proposed and developed for managers to use, such as Business Model Canvas, Actor Maps, Role Perspectives, Activity Maps, Distribution Channel Sandplay, the Partnership Game, the Pinball Flow Game, the Design Led Innovation Integrated Business Model Prototype, the Value Mapping Tool and Business Model Roadmapping (Bocken et al., 2013 ; Bucolo & Wrigley, 2012 ; De Reuver et al., 2013 ; Emili et al., 2016 ; Garrett et al., 2016 ; Gudiksen et al., 2014 ; Komatsu et al., 2016 ; Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010 ; Short et al., 2012 ; Simonse, 2014 ; Simonse & Badke-Schaub, 2014 ). Some specific design tools were also proposed for non-profit organisations to use, such as Komatsu et al.’s ( 2016 ) Adapted Social Innovation Business Model Canvas and Suteu and Perondi’s ( 2016 ) Business Model Canvas for Non-profit (BM4NP).

The users of design tools can also contribute to the creation and improvement of design tools (Emili et al., 2016 ; Gudiksen, 2014 ; Suteu & Perondi, 2016 ).

Key theme 5: Design approaches for business model innovation

As aforementioned (Sect.  4.2.4 ), researchers created and tested many new generalised or customised design approaches for business model innovation. In addition, researchers have tried different approaches to create design approaches. Some researchers have explored design-led approaches, such as Buur and Gudiksens’ ( 2012 ) design thinking approach with hands and body, which can innovate business models through using design materials to engage cross-disciplinary stakeholders to play with hypotheses and experiment with scenarios; and Bryant et al.’s ( 2020a ) replicable, reflective design-led approach, which uses key tools to implement business model innovation. Jenkins and Fife ( 2014 ) proposed a customer insight-led business model innovation approach and a futures-led business model innovation approach. Some researchers have combined traditional analytical and designerly approaches. For example, Simonse et al. ( 2012 ) adopted the business model concepts from the strategic management fields and adapted the accompanied analytical approach to a designerly modelling approach. Similarly, Komatsu et al. ( 2016 ) made a business model design approach that combines the traditional analytical perspective with a designerly approach through a toolbox. Some researchers have created transdisciplinary research approaches for business model innovation, such as Unterberger et al.’s approach ( 2018 ), which includes the following three phases Co-Design, Co-Production, Co-Communication and Transdisciplinary Re-Integration. The different directions explored by researchers suggest that creating design approaches for business model innovation is an interesting topic that can be further explored.

Key theme 6: Co-creation of new products, services and business models

The review has shown that new business models, new products and new services can be co-created in five different ways: (1) new products and services can be prototyped in the process of business modelling; (2) new business models can be devised around the new products/services; (3) new business models can be devised around new ways of co-producing new products/services; (4) new business model can empower the development of new products and services, and (5) new products/services can be given shape together with new business models, and new business models can be used as a framework to direct the development of new products/services. Each approach is proposed in a specific context and has its own application scenario; for example, some researchers demonstrated that new approaches of product and service development, production, marketing and distribution (e.g. open business models and stakeholder engagement) could lead to business model innovation (Cautela et al., 2014 ; Pisano et al., 2014 ). The review also shows that researchers tend to explore opportunities to create new products and services as a starting point for business model innovation (Bason, 2012 ; Blois, 2015 ; Ceschin et al., 2014 ; Emili et al., 2016 ; Gilbert et al., 2012 ). Since business model innovation often involves the development of new products and services and the creation of business models, it is valuable to further explore how design thinking can support the co-creation of new products, services, and business models in design activities and in the real business worlds.

Key theme 7: Evaluating and measuring the impact of design thinking

Finally, the review shows a number of methods, such as case studies and feedback collection, that can be used to measure and evaluate the impact of design thinking (or designers’ way of problem-solving) on business model innovation. Instead of directly measuring the impact of design thinking, most papers provide case studies of using design thinking (or designers’ way of problem-solving) for business model innovation and describe how design tools, design activities and participatory design activities support the development of new products, services and business models based on observations (Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Simonse et al., 2012 ). Researchers sometimes collect quantitative and qualitative data through questionnaires and interviews to assess the impact of design workshops, approaches, methods and tools on business model innovation (Bucolo & Wrigley, 2012 ; Buur & Gudiksen, 2012 ; Geissdoerfer et al., 2016 ). In the future, evaluation and measurement frameworks can be developed to support the development and improvement of design approaches and tools that use design thinking as a methodology and mindset for business model innovation.

This paper has argued that business model innovation can be regarded as a subject of design research and has discussed the extensive application value, the strategic role and the application challenges of design thinking in business model innovation. It has also provided a comprehensive overview on applying design thinking for business model innovation, based on a literature review. The literature review has revealed how researchers define and describe design thinking in their papers, why they believe design thinking is valuable for business model innovation, how design thinking has been and can be used for business model innovation and how the impact of design thinking can be measured and evaluated. Based on the literature review, this paper has also identified seven key research themes on applying design thinking for business model innovation: (1) design thinking as a mindset and a methodology; (2) designers of business models; (3) design activities for business model innovation; (4) design tools for business model innovation; (5) design approaches for business model innovation; (6) co-creation of new products, services and business models, and (7) evaluating and measuring the impact of design thinking. The seven research themes can be further explored in future research. A special attention can be paid to the socialised, situated, contextual and contingent nature of design activities and extend the application of design thinking to the co-evolution of products, services and business models. Overall, this paper will benefit researchers and practitioners who are interested in applying design thinking for business model innovation, whether they have a background in design, organisational research or management.

Availability of data and materials

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This project is funded by InGAME: Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise, part of the AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Programme. Grant Reference AH/S002871/1.

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How Indra Nooyi Turned Design Thinking Into Strategy: An Interview with PepsiCo’s CEO

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CEO Indra Nooyi believes that each PepsiCo product must engage customers so directly and personally that they fall in love with it. So in 2012 she hired renowned designer Mauro Porcini as PepsiCo’s first chief design officer. Nooyi says that design thinking now informs nearly everything the company does, from product creation, to the look on the shelf, to how consumers interact with a product after they buy it.

Design thinking is apparent, for instance, in Pepsi Spire, the company’s touchscreen fountain machine that gives consumers the visual experience of watching flavors get added to a beverage before the finished product is dispensed. And design thinking is an integral part of what Nooyi says makes women embrace Mountain Dew Kickstart—with its slim can, higher juice content, and lower calorie burden—as a product they can “walk around with.”

But design is not all about the way a product looks, according to Nooyi. She says that PepsiCo has delivered “great shareholder value” on her watch because the company also offers consumers true choices, as evident in its “good for you” and “fun for you” categories of products—and because she has led her workforce to adapt strategically to consumers’ constantly evolving aspirations.

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“A well-designed product is one you fall in love with.”

Just a few years ago, it wasn’t clear whether Indra Nooyi would survive as PepsiCo’s CEO. Many investors saw Pepsi as a bloated giant whose top brands were losing market share. And they were critical of Nooyi’s shift toward a more health-oriented overall product line. Prominent activist investor Nelson Peltz fought hard to split the company in two.

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Recruiters want candidates who can communicate through designs and explain themselves clearly and appealingly. While skimming UX portfolios , they’ll typically decide within 5 minutes if you’re a fit. So, you should boost your portfolio with 2–3 case studies of your work process containing your best copywriting and captivating visual aids. You persuade recruiters by showing your skillset, thought processes, choices and actions in context through engaging, image-supported stories .

Before selecting a project for a case study, you should get your employer’s/client’s permission – whether you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or not.

Then, consider Greek philosopher Aristotle’s storytelling elements and work with these in mind when you start building your case studies:

Plot – The career-related aspect of yourself you want to highlight. This should be consistent across your case studies for the exact role. So, if you want to land a job as a UX researcher, focus on the skills relevant to that in your case studies.

Character – Your expertise in applying industry standards and working in teams.

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Melody – Your passion—for instance, as a designer, where you prove it’s a life interest as opposed to something you just clock on and off at for a job.

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Spectacle – The plot twist/wow factor—e.g., a surprise discovery. Obviously, you can only include this if you had a surprise discovery in your case study.

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You want an active story with a beginning, middle and end – never a flat report . So, you’d write, e.g., “We found…”, not “It was found…”. You should anonymize information to protect your employer’s/client’s confidential data (by changing figures to percentages, removing unnecessary details, etc.).

You can use German novelist-playwright Gustav Freytag’s 5-part pyramid :

Exposition – the introduction (4–5 sentences) . Describe your:

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Stages 2–4 form the middle (more than 5 sentences) . Summarize the process and highlight your decisions:

Rising action – Outline some obstacles/constraints (e.g., budget) to build conflict and explain your design process (e.g., design thinking ). Describe how you used, e.g., qualitative research to progress to 1 or 2 key moments of climax.

Climax – Highlight this, your story’s apex, with an intriguing factor (e.g., unexpected challenges). Choose only the most important bits to tighten narrative and build intrigue.

Falling action – Show how you combined your user insights, ideas and decisions to guide your project’s final iterations. Explain how, e.g., usability testing helped you/your team shape the final product.

Stage 5 is the conclusion:

Resolution – (4–5 sentences) . Showcase your end results as how your work achieved its business-oriented goal and what you learned. Refer to the motivations and problems you described earlier to bring your story to an impressive close.

Overall, you should:

Tell a design story that progresses meaningfully and smoothly .

Tighten/rearrange your account into a linear, straightforward narrative .

Reinforce each “what” you introduce with a “how” and “why” .

Support text with the most appropriate visuals (e.g., screenshots of the final product, wireframing , user personas , flowcharts , customer journey maps , Post-it notes from brainstorming ). Use software (e.g., Canva, Illustrator) to customize good-looking visuals that help tell your story .

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Make your case study scannable – E.g., Use headings as signposts.

Remove anything that doesn’t help explain your thought process or advance the story .

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Remember, hirers want to quickly spot the value of what you did— e.g., research findings—and feel engaged every step of the way . They’ll evaluate how you might fit their culture. Use the right tone to balance your passion and logic in portraying yourself as a trustworthy team-player. Sometimes, you may have to explain why your project didn’t work out ideally. The interaction design process is iterative, so include any follow-up actions you took/would take. Your UX case studies should project the thoughts, feelings and actions that define how you can shape future designs and create value for business.

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Did you know the average UX recruiter spends less than 5 minutes skimming through your UX portfolio? If you want to join the growing and well-paid field of UX design, not only do you need a UX portfolio— you’ll need a great UX portfolio that showcases relevant skills and knowledge . Your UX portfolio will help you get your first job interviews and freelance clients, and it will also force you to stay relevant in your UX career. In other words, no matter what point you’re at in your UX career, you’re going to need a UX portfolio that’s in tip-top condition.

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By the end of this practical, how to oriented course, you’ll have the skills needed to create your personal online UX portfolio site and PDF UX portfolio. You’ll receive tips and insights from recruiters and global UX design leads from SAP, Oracle and Google to give you an edge over your fellow candidates. You’ll learn how to craft your UX case studies so they’re compelling and relevant, and you’ll also learn how to engage recruiters through the use of Freytag’s dramatic structure and 8 killer tips to write effectively. What’s more, you’ll get to download and keep more than 10 useful templates and samples that will guide you closely as you craft your UX portfolio. To sum it up, if you want to create a UX portfolio and land your first job in the industry, this is the course for you!

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