What is 'Design Thinking?'

Blog Post

What separates expert designers from commodities? Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is simply using design to solve real business problems, to think of the root cause to the issues businesses are facing. It's also part of the reason clients trust certain designers as experts to think outside the box in searching for better solutions.

We think of design as this: to devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.

Design thinking requires that we look at all problems as being inter-connected systems. Often enough the problems our clients face go much deeper than the surface level.

Why Design Thinking?

It puts people first

The closer you stay to a person and their stories, the better the solutions you provide will be. Creative elements are often used to target certain audiences of people, so it's important that we're putting them first.

Replicatable success

Design Thinking is a systematic process used to uncover information; it can be applied to solve many different types of issues.

Gets to the Root

Design Thinking helps to find the root cause of issues. It takes us to beyond the surface and beyond self-diagnosis to find the real solution.

Let’s talk about an example where Design Thinking was used in real life at The Washington Monument.

The team that maintains the Washington Monument noticed that the monument itself was starting to chip & crumble. The maintenance team thought that this might be because of the cleaning chemicals they use to keep the monument clean. So they thought about changing or reducing their use of said chemicals. (Notice how the team jumped to solving this issue at the surface.)

Luckily, a Design Thinker asked the question: “Why do you need to clean it so often with those chemicals?”

The maintenance team replied: “It’s because of the pigeon poop.”

The Design Thinker responded: “Why are the pigeons there? There’s not really anywhere for them to sit on the monument.”

The maintenance team replied: “They like to eat the spiders around the monument.”

The Design Thinker responded: “Why are the spiders there? There’s lots of foot traffic, it doesn’t seem like a great place for spiders to congregate.”

The maintenance team replied: “The spiders are there to eat the moths.”

The Design Thinker responded: “Why are the moths there?”

The maintenance team replied: “The moths are there because of the massive lights pointed at the monument, they come on just before dusk.”

The Design Thinker responded: “Why not just turn off the lights?”

The maintenance team took the analysis and tested the theory; after 3 weeks of not turning the lights on there was an 85% reduction in moths, which lead to less spiders, which lead to less pigeons, which lead to less pigeon poop, which lead to there being less of a need to clean and use harsh cleaning chemicals, which lead to slowing the damage on the Washington Monument.

The outcomes: Less money spent cleaning, and less damage to the monument.

Design Thinking, and Design Thinkers themselves go beyond the surface by asking the right questions. By doing this they uncover novel solutions that everyone else missed.


As always, I hope this article brought a new perspective and gets you excited to build something great. To be notified when we post new articles just fill out the email newsletter form towards the bottom of this page.

December 22, 2022

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