During the entire project, design thinking teams work with an iterative approach: redefining the problem, needfinding, ideation, building of protoypes and testing with the user. The iterative approach enables a higher expertise in the field of human needs and supports a variety of results.

(Re)Define the problem

The problems you are trying to solve are rarely your own – they are those of a particular user. In order to design for the user, we must understand who they are and what is important to them.

You might also ask yourself: are we actually asking the right question here? The example with the toothbrush describes it quite well. Why do we limit ourselves to the object of a toothbrush if we are actually trying to find solutions for dental care?

Needfinding & instant expertise

Watching what people do and how they interact with their environment gives you clues about what they think and feel. It also helps us to learn about what their needs are. By watching people you can capture physical manifestations of their experiences – what they do and say. This will allow you to interpret intangible meaning of those experiences in order to uncover insights. Understanding human behaviour is key to generating the best possible solution.

Brainstorm & ideation

Ideate is the point in the design process at which we focus on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes – it is a mode of “flaring” rather than “focusing”. Ideation provides both the fuel and source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.


Even if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, the act of picking up materials (post-its, tape, and found objects are a good way to start!) is good enough to get you going. Don’t spend too long on one prototype. Move on before you find yourself emotionally attached to it. Build with the user in mind. What do you hope to test with the user? What sorts of behaviour do you expect? Answering these questions will help you to focus your prototyping and generate meaningful feedback in the testing phase.


Put your prototype in the users’ hands and don’t talk (yet). Watch how they use (and misuse!) what you have given them. How they handle and interact with it. Listen to what they say about it and to the questions they pose.
ask users to compare. Bringing multiple prototypes to the field for testing gives users a basis for comparison and often reveals latent needs. Identify what is being tested with each prototype. A prototype should answer a particular question when tested.

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