Unlocking Creativity: Exploring the 5 Phases of Design Thinking

You have probably heard of design thinking by now. A growing number of industries are adopting a human-centric approach to evolve their existing products and develop new ideas to serve their clients more effectively. Many design teams at some of the most successful tech companies in the world are using it. In this blog, we will give you a detailed definition of design thinking. We will also explore the 5 phase Design Thinking model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centered path to innovation. This methodology employs designer thinking and tools to adapt to the requirements of people while simultaneously keeping a balance between what is technically feasible and possible from a business perspective.

Phases of Design Thinking in Lean UX

As described by Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (aka, design thinking is a five-phase process. Empathize, Define, ideate Prototype, Test.  

Please note that Design Thinking is not a linear process. Instead, the process is dynamic and flexible, looping back and forth within itself, which means teams often run these stages concurrently, out of order, and repeat them iteratively. Here is a closer look at each of these phases-

Phase 1: Empathize-Conduct User Research

Design Thinking projects begin with an empathetic understanding of the problem you are trying to address through user research. The goal of this user research is to determine the end-user goals and needs regarding a particular problem. The purpose of this phase is for the improvement project team to ‘become the user,' putting their preconceived notions about the problem aside to define the unmet or unarticulated requirements of those who are experiencing it.

Phase 2: Define- Describe the needs and problems of your users.

In this phase, thoughts and observations from the Empathize phase are gathered and examined to identify the key challenges. This phase is concerned with gaining an understanding of the problem to make sense of it. The team combines the information and insight gathered to frame the problem and create a clear problem statement.

Phase 3: Ideate- Challenge Assumptions and generate Ideas

The ideation phase marks the shift from identifying problems to exploring solutions. Idea generating is the focus of this phase. Teams form logical ideas using the knowledge gathered in the previous steps. The goal is to produce as many ideas as possible, thinking outside the box to uncover potential solutions to the problem statement provided in the define phase. Teams shortlist the best ideas for fixing the challenge at the end of the ideation phase.

Phase 4: Prototype-Create Solutions

It is an experimental phase in design thinking. The goal is to find the best solution for each problem encountered. To test the concepts you have produced, your team should create several low-cost, scaled-down replicas of the product. It might be as simple as prototyping on paper. Having a prototype should allow you to understand what works and what does not.

Phase 5: Test- Test your solution

The prototypes undergo rigorous testing by evaluators. Even though this is the end of the process, design thinking is iterative: teams frequently use the outcomes to reframe one or more problems. As a result, you can go back to earlier phases to make more iterations, changes, and refinements or to rule out alternate alternatives. This phase continues until they achieve the desired results.


Overall, it is vital to recognize that these phases are not sequential steps but rather diverse modes that contribute to the overall design project. It is imperative that you gain a comprehensive understanding of the users and their ideal product.

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