In a strict sense, the term “design thinking” refers to creative strategies that designers utilize during the process of designing, often to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions for clients. More broadly than within the professional design practice, design thinking has been applied in business as an approach and powerful tool for innovative thinking that can uncover creative opportunities.
Use of the term “design thinking” seems to have originated back in the ‘80s by Peter Rowe at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He coined the term to describe systematic design processes in architecture and urban planning. Published in 1991, his book, Design Thinking, examines many theoretical positions for solving problems with detailed observations of designers in action. Much has been written on the subject of design thinking since, and in recent years, many applications explored for business strategies.
So, how can marketers, specifically, apply design thinking to differentiate their brands? To summarize our findings, businesses and their brands benefit from design thinking principles applied in these ways:
• Focus on a customer-centered approach
• Make sure that benefits are intrinsically related to solving customers’ problems
• Value empathy, ideation and collaboration
• Be committed to using design to differentiate the brand
• Embed design into the organizational culture
Design thinking in branding involves a disciplined process. It doesn’t happen overnight. It employs the designer’s sensibility and methods to understand people’s needs. It also requires the development of a viable creative strategy that will ultimately lead to differentiation, customer value and market opportunity. Long term, the fruits of practicing design thinking in branding will lead to innovation and change.