Design Thinking is simple

“Less is more” is an over-used adage. The architect Mies van der Rohe said it as an argument in favor of minimalist design. We tend to link “design” with the less-is-more aesthetic because good design is focused and free of unnecessary elements.

Like this typewriter.

Design Thinking is a method for tackling challenges in marketing, that is focused and free of unnecessary elements.

As a discipline, Design Thinking emerged in the 1980s as a human-centered extension of the iterative design engineering process. Design Thinking steals designers’ work methods and uses them to tackle business, personal, or education challenges rather than product engineering problems. Here’s how it works for marketing (with an example):

  1. We actively understand what problem we need to solve (how to sell more books).
  2. We observe and put ourselves in the shoes of the people (empathize with the readers–their habits and desires)
  3. We dream up a prototype of a plan of action (let’s sell books at a discount online with cheap shipping)
  4. We test our prototype to validate it (we run a sample website for our employees to see how it works out)
  5. We modify (iterate) until we’re happy and then implement our plan (launch a website that takes over the world)

Step 1 is by far the most important one, and if you undertake a Design Thinking approach you drill down until you are sure you’ve defined the right problem–that you’re asking the right question–before you go any further. In this example, the problem might really be “how can we circumvent the clubby monopoly of publishers and booksellers,” or any number of things.

Design Thinking is simple. It’s what we tend to do in marketing anyhow. But the framework is a useful construct for organizing any marketing work you have in front of you because it incorporates the creativity of exploration rather than focusing on goals, which can be self-limiting:


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