Design Thinking: How Designers Solve Problems

Emilie Johnston

Designers have a unique way of seeing the world and that perspective can add some major value to the business. But a traditional task-oriented design mindset won't get you there. Here are some of the ways great designers innovate their way to the top.

Make problem-solving the priority

The colors, the creativity, the endless possibilities for how to make a product better, easier, sexier. Hands down, the BEST thing about design, is that it's fun. Really fun. The problem with it being fun, is that you could literally spend hours obsessing over fonts, and never solve a single problem for your users.

Great designers relish the details, but never lose sight of the bigger picture. They know that while tools and tricks may come and go, the big picture is always the same: Solving a problem for your user.

Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter which platform you use, or color palette you choose, it's all about how those design elements make life better in the real world. Or to put it in the words of UX guru and author of Don't Make Me Think, Steve Krug, “usability is about people and how they understand and use things, not about technology.”

Start with 'What if'

Mona Patel is a designer, consultant to Fortune 500s and the author of Amazon-best seller, Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate and Think, a book that aims to teach anyone how to use design thinking to solve any business problem.

One of Mona's core methodologies is to help leaders develop a more robust way of thinking by asking as many "What if" questions as possible for just three minutes. This helps the designer (or design thinker) develop a broader, more divergent view of the problem they're looking to solve. Then, through a process Mona refers to as the 'funnel vision method' she helps them distill that big picture into core ideas based on more convergent thinking.

The ability to move with ease from a place of big broad thinking to smaller actionable insights is a fundamental characteristic of every great designer. Just ask Gentry Underwood.

In a Wired article on why designers make great entrepreneurs, the former IDEO-er and co-founder of Mailbox was quoted as saying, "thinking like a designer means being better suited for the open-ended ambiguous problems that epitomise the startup journey and having the skills needed to iterate towards product-market fit."

Don't be afraid to go rogue

Don't get us wrong. Traditional market research and design methodologies are great. But sometimes you need to unchain yourself from the rules in order to get those juicy creative insights.

Leading product designers like Kelvin Tow at Pinterest and rockstar consultant, Jordan Kanarek aren't afraid to look for innovation in strange places. In our recent chat with them, they revealed that sometimes the best inspiration doesn't come from landscape research, but from the real world outside.

Great designers use real world insights to build products people can relate to on a deeper level. And sometimes that involves going a little off the grid. For example, taking a metaphor from a local vintage boutique and using it to design a major e-commerce platform.

To sum up, great design thinking isn't about closing doors, but boldly walking right through them when other people don't even know they're there.

Where did your last great inspiration come from? Share your favorite design tip in the comments!

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