Research | Open Access | Updated: 21 May 2023

Implementation of the design thinking process

Shamit Surana


Design thinking is being used in many fields. This article aims to traverse a specific implementation of design thinking in a product. The product we created was a custom mechanical keyboard, which targeted a small, but user-centric market. The thesis goal is to walk through an example of the design thinking process in a project and the benefits and key takeaways of how to effectively use it, while addressing some of its limitations and downfalls.

Explanation of Design Thinking Process:

Design thinking is a user-centered problem-solving approach that involves a structured framework of different stages. The five stages of the design thinking process are empathizing, defining the problem, ideating, prototyping, and testing (Brown 2008).

During the empathizing stage, designers seek to understand user needs and perspectives through research methods such as interviews, surveys, and observation. In the defining stage, designers synthesize research findings to establish a clear problem statement and criteria for design (Cross 2006).

The ideating stage involves generating a wide range of ideas and solutions to the problem, often using divergent thinking techniques such as brainstorming and sketching (Nijstad et al. 2003). In the prototyping stage, designers create tangible representations of their ideas, such as sketches, storyboards, and paper or digital prototypes, to explore their ideas in a low-risk, low-cost way.

Finally, during the testing stage, designers evaluate the effectiveness of their prototypes through user testing and feedback to inform further iterations of the design. This iterative, user-centric approach to problem-solving encourages creativity, experimentation, and user feedback to create solutions that meet user needs and deliver value (Liedtka 2015).

Introduction to Project:

The project in which we explore the design thinking process is the development of a custom mechanical keyboard. A niche, but saturated market, custom keyboards are highly community driven products. Hence, the usage of the design thinking process was especially effective as the effects and limitations were extremely apparent.

I started the project off with the first step in the design thinking process: empathy. Using polls and forms, I was able to gain a quick understanding into the struggles people faced with current mechanical keyboards. However, online interactions weren’t able to provide the insight that truly helped me understand why people felt a certain way. Hence, I conducted studies and observations in the real environments people faced. My selection range was extremely broad, from keyboard enthusiasts to people who had never given a thought about what they were typing on. The process gave me an insight into the struggles people faced with a keyboard and the tactical feel that they yearned for.

A specific example in which this observation process showed variances in emotion and words of users was in the design of a knob for the keyboard. Fig 1 depicts an online poll in which users were instructed to rate a knob design from 1-10. They rated it 7.93 on average, with a standard deviation of 2.10. However, the significance of this data starts to fall apart when looking into the subjectiveness in number ratings. The criteria for one person to rate a knob differs from another person.

The issue is that real world consumers behave differently due to many uncontrollable factors. Hence, in market research specifically, it is far more valuable to study tangible interactions with current products as there is far more information to study and account for. In the case of the knob, these tangibles include how easily they could turn it, their expressions when using it, etc. Through this real world interaction, we came up with multiple common observations that allowed us to improve on the design of our product.

Fig. 1

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