Design thinking: how to create a product that solves a problem

This article is about how to create or improve a product so that it solves the problem of your audience. We will create a product using design thinking.

Smart foreheads, who prepared the report “Global Monitoring of Entrepreneurship,” say: “In Russia, only 3.4% of entrepreneurs pass the threshold of 3.5 years, the rest leave the market.”

We can look for causes in a crisis and economic downturns, a change of generations from X to Y and Z, in astrological forecasts and even that "all buyers are goats." But. A business closes when its product does not solve the problem of the audience.

This article will help find the connection between a person, his problem and a product-solution.

Why am I telling you this? He studied design thinking from those who put it into practice: the creators of the creative space, the organizer of international digital conferences, and German experts who advise organizations and private firms.

Principles of design thinking

Design is not about graphics, websites or interiors. In DM, design is all that is created by man.

DM is a product creation method. And this is the worldview from which the method flows. DM as a worldview has certain principles.

  1. The man comes first. DM is always about a person. A quality product solves the problem of the audience and fits into the context, that is, in life.

Design thinkers do not believe that "there will be a buyer for any product." They act differently: they study the audience, identify the most acute problems and create a solution product for one of them.

  1. Bidirectional. In DM, two types of thinking are used: divergent (quantitative) and convergent (qualitative). First, we work on the number of identified problems or invented ideas, and then choose the best.
  2. To err is good. Design thinkers accept their mistakes, do not hesitate to them. Often, it is a mistake that leads to an outstanding solution.
  3. Prototype The prototype is not a product yet. This is what explains how it works. This is a picture, and an explanation on the fingers, and a drawing on the board. The main thing in the prototype is to explain how the solution will work.
  4. Test as early as possible. A prototype is created for the test. Made a prototype - conduct a test for the audience. Collect feedback. Improve. Do it again. Testing a prototype is cheaper than creating a product and saves from failure.
  5. Design never ends. Here you used the DM method, created a steep demand product, praised yourself. Do you think everything? No matter how wrong! First, everything can be done better. Secondly, your decision may be outdated. Therefore, seasoned design thinkers periodically repeat all stages from beginning to end.

To think from the product is when the mother prepares the boiled liquid oatmeal and says to the child: "I have to eat, I did." Also, a business sometimes creates a product that “must be sold” even when the buyer does not want to buy. And, as mom calls dad ("He does not listen to his mother, tell him to eat!"), So the business is called for the marketing department.

What exactly to do? This question is answered by the method of design thinking.

Design thinking as a product creation method

DM as a method consists of 6 stages: empathy, research, focus on the problem, the generation of ideas, the choice of ideas, prototyping, test. If you do everything right, you will receive a prototype product that solves the customer’s problem.

Stage 1. Empathy

Type of thinking: divergent, quantity directed.

The required time: from 15 minutes per person, from 10 representatives of Central Asia.

Required tools: notebook, pen, interviewed.

Additional tools: voice recorder, video recording.


Empathy is about feeling the customer and understanding his life. It’s not from your office to decide that a customer wants a new website design, but to go and see how he uses the old one. And if there is a problem, then solve it. In practice, this stage is easiest to implement in the form of an interview.

On the one hand, we draw a real portrait of the client and a "map of his problems." On the other hand, we investigate the relationship of the client, his problems and our product (if it already exists), the product of competitors.


The simple way is to ask about the latest audience experience related to the problem your product solves (in your opinion).

A tricky trick: buy coffee coupons or certificates for ozone in a trendy cafe and invite Central Asia (the target audience) to get an interview for bonuses.

If you offer English courses, ask when the person last learned the language and when they spoke it. If you repair a car, ask about breakdowns and about interaction with services. If you are a psychologist, ask about how a person copes with difficulties in life and what or who helps him in this.

At the stage of empathy, try to find as many diseased client sites as possible. Imagine that you are a doctor who is looking for all the sores. car mechanic who conducts a full diagnosis of the car. It is important that the list of diseases turned out as much as possible.


We sell smartphones online. It is important for us to know: for what and how a person uses a smartphone, how he chooses him and how he uses online stores.

Imagine yourself an anthropologist studying the tribes of the indigenous people of Africa. An anthropologist fixes and tries to understand everything, even that which is “already understandable.” For a time, forget everything you know about your customers and explore them again.

First we ask about smartphones.

  1. What are you using a smartphone for?
  2. What is the advantage for you of a smartphone over a regular phone?
  3. How often do you use a smartphone?
  4. What problems do you have in using a smartphone?
  5. What tasks would you like to solve using a smartphone, but it does not work? etc.

Then we ask about the latest experience of buying a smartphone and online shopping experience.

  1. How do you buy electronics?
  2. What problems did you have when shopping in regular stores? And what else could arise?
  3. What problems occurred when shopping online? And what could arise?
  4. How did you buy the latest smartphone? What did you like and what didn't?
  5. What is the problem when buying a smartphone for you is particularly acute? etc.

If this is our real customer, ask about the use of our product, that is, an online store.

  1. Tell us about the latest buying experience in our store.
  2. How did you open the site? From a smartphone, desktop, tablet? We passed directly, searched in search engines, from social networks? And why?
  3. Did you immediately know which item to buy or looked at on the site? Compared with other sites or aggregators of goods? How much time passed from the first viewing of the goods to the purchase? Have you doubted the purchase?
  4. Have you talked to a consultant online? How would you rate your communication? What did you like in communication? What did not like?
  5. What problems did you encounter when buying in our online store? What could be improved? What exactly can not be changed? What could we take from our competitors? etc.

Sometimes customers lie. And often not because they want to lie, but because they think too well or badly of themselves. So ask and watch. Notice where actions are different from words.

The principle is: get to the bottom of it. Learn about the client, even what he does not know. For a while, turn into a psychologist who learns from a client all about his life. Sometimes try to be silent on purpose so that the representatives of your audience speak for themselves. Ask if they want to add something else.

Step 2. Focus on the problem

Type of thinking: convergent, focused on quality.

The required time: from 40 minutes to analyze the collected data at the stage of empathy, from 1 minute to choose a problem.

Mandatory tools: collected data from the empathy stage, notebook, pen.

Additional tools: laptop, tablet, board.


If you did everything right at the stage of empathy, your notebook is filled with problems, desires, comments of your audience. When interviewing 10-15 people, you can identify which problem unites them. And if you interview a person from 20-30, you can segment your audience.

You do not need to select all segments, only a few basic, 2-3 basic ones can be quite enough.

We select several segments of the audience and mark what each of them does not like and what they like. So we will understand them better. The most important thing is to find the main problem.

After identifying the segments, we choose one. This may be the segment that most often uses our product or the one whose problem is most easily solved. Or any other choice is yours.


We take all our notes on the interview series and fill in the table: № - Full name. - contacts - a field of activity - age - a floor - the marital status - that is pleasant - that is not pleasant

Fill in the table for all respondents and look for a connection. They can be at work, marital status, average wage or something else. We are looking for links to identify audience segments. If the majority has some kind of problem, look what unites these people. Segments may be different, and the context of life is the same.

It is logical to take on the problem that repeats most often. Especially if it is in the responses of several segments of the audience


At the Uncle Bagel bakery at the corner of the street, the audience segments could look like this:

  • students from the nearest university. What I do not like: expensive and long to wait. What do you like: small lines, cool interior for photos on Instagram;
  • office workers opposite. What I do not like: it is already cold to walk down the street, at the lunch time there is a line of students. What do you like: good coffee at a good price, there are sandwiches that are good for lunch;
  • young girls 18-25 who come in the evening with girlfriends and guys. What I do not like: all the tables are often busy, you can not book a table in advance. What do you like: music, cozy atmosphere, inviting to communicate.

Office workers are more stable than students and young girls. And the average check is quite high. We take to work their problem. But there is another point. Perhaps some part of Central Asia does not go to us, because his problem has not been solved. For example, parents do not particularly love us, because there are no seats for small children. If we fix it, they change their attitude.

Professionals and workaholics can check the identified problem. Each time a representative of a selected audience segment comes to you, ask something like: “How do you feel about it. (Problem) ...? How would solving this problem improve the experience of interacting with us?”.

Stage 3. Generation of ideas.

Type of thinking: divergent, quantity directed.

Required time: from 10 minutes.

Required tools: notebook, pen, good sleep.

Additional tools: a set of techniques for creating ideas.


Everything is very simple. We have decided on the audience segment and the problem that we will solve for them. Now our task is to create as many ideas as possible to solve this problem.


In practice, this is the case. You either know how to generate ideas without additional methods, or not. If not, open the search engine and look for "methods of creating ideas." Find more than 10 already on the first page of Google, then choose the most convenient one for yourself and generate.

The first ideas are 5-10 standard and boring, and often 50. Write 100 ideas - there will definitely be a couple of interesting ones.


Imagine that we make custom-made furniture. We decided on the segment. These are women housewives who have high-income husbands. What they do not like: it is difficult to foresee what the result of the work will be, weak trust in the seller before the first purchase. What do you like: an individual design, a set of several sketches, the departure of the master at home.

Ideas (amounted to 5 minutes):

  1. Portfolio with orders made according to the most unusual wishes.
  2. 3 free sketches right away.
  3. Video guide on the purchase of furniture to order, which shows all the stages of work.
  4. Live broadcast from the workshop.
  5. Speaking on several TV shows, so increase customer confidence.
  6. To do with discount furniture in expensive cafes, provided that they advertise.
  7. Present in the beauty salons of premium class on a small sofa handmade, provided that they advertise.
  8. Start up with those who sew expensive items to order, especially pillows, blankets, rugs.
  9. Make small wooden accessories such as stands, holders and donate to flower shops, especially those with very expensive bouquets. For advertising.
  10. Blog about expensive custom-made furniture and how to make it.

10 ideas are not enough. Basically they are boring, although for some they can be a revelation. If I had created 100, among them there would be some very high quality ones.

Stage 4. Choosing an idea

Type of thinking: convergent, focused on quality.

The required time: from 10 minutes for a personal choice, from 40 minutes for a survey of the Central Asia segment.

Required tools: a printed list of ideas, a notebook, a pen.

Additional tools: voice recorder, good mood.


We have many ideas on how to solve the problem of one of the segments of Central Asia. Now it is important for us to learn from Central Asia, how they are interested in these ideas.


In practice, if we show or read a list of 100 ideas in Central Asia, they will be horrified. And the quality of the survey will be so-so. Therefore, we combine the most similar ideas into groups. For example, if ideas about partnership with someone, then this group of ideas is “partnership with institutions a, b, c, d”.

If you personally liked any idea, and the client rejected it - congratulations! You just avoided failure with design thinking.

When the client responds to one of the groups of ideas, we will announce the entire list. If we do everything right, in the end we will hear something like "Great! That's really cool!" Record all customer comments, they will come in handy at the prototyping stage.


We solve the problem of service for repairing Apple phones. Audience segment - students who bought an iPhone for the last money and now dine with Rolton. What they don't like: the price of repairs, the lack of a cool phone during repairs. What do you like: quick repair, courier picks up and delivers the phone.

When we read out ideas to them, a special response was found by ideas about installment payments and renting a telephone for the period of repair. And the students said that they would like to see the repair status online or to receive notifications in social networks.

Stage 5. Prototyping

Type of thinking: divergent, quantity directed.

The required time: from 40 minutes with a good deal.

Required tools: use whatever you like.

Additional tools: use even more than anything.


A prototype is an explanation of how the product will work. Well, if the product can touch, try. At the same time, even drawing on a piece of paper is also a prototype. Because he can explain how the product will work.


We create several product prototypes. The product may be an improvement of the existing one, its new version, additional service or new product. We can make prototypes based on some of the most sought-after ideas.

This is very important: first create a prototype, not a product. The probability that Central Asia will not like something in it is very high. If it were a finished product, it would be difficult to redo it.


We are a flower shop. Audience segment - husbands 30-45, who buy flowers only on holidays. Their problem - they can forget about the holiday, and sometimes they do not have time to buy flowers. We came up with a lot of ideas, they liked the idea of ​​reminding us about the holidays, bringing flowers by courier, where it’s necessary to have a personal account for them and information about past purchases and where the discount can accumulate.

A prototype is created in order to get feedback at the testing stage. It does not have to be perfect. The first prototype can be made "on the knee" in 10-20 minutes. If it receives positive feedback, you can create a more detailed prototype.

Let the prototype - not necessarily the product, but use as few words as possible. Create pictures, tangible materials, let the prototype involve as many feelings as possible.

The prototype for the flower shop we made. This is, on the one hand, a “description of the experience” of the client, on the other hand, a prototype of a mobile application made in the prototyping service.

Customer experience draw pictures. First, he registers in the application, then adds contacts to the application of those whom he wants to congratulate and notes with which holidays. Also chooses which time period to remind about a holiday: 14 days, 7 days, 3 days, 1 day. You can choose several. For a specified period of time, the client is reminded by a notification. And they offer several bouquets at once. After the gift, the client can indicate what he liked and what did not like in the bouquet, this will affect the recommendations.

Stage 6. Test

Type of thinking: convergent, focused on quality.

The required time: at least 60 minutes per person, and so test from 10 representatives of the Central Asia segment.

Mandatory tools: prototypes created, representatives of Central Asia, notebook, pen.

Additional tools: voice recorder, video camera. It is good to conduct a test in a place where this product will be used in real life.


The test phase is needed to collect feedback on the prototype. We show something tangible, real and ask: "How do you do it?".Even if the user liked the idea of ​​the product, his prototype may not like it. First of all it concerns new products for the market.

Already, robots can replace the medical staff in hospitals, which takes blood from a finger and from a vein. And in theory it sounds good, but in practice people are scared. They are not ready.


If possible, recreate the environment in which real users will use the product. Or show it. If this is a new cafe design, you can use 3D-models, turn on the noise of people in the background, bring coffee, croissants. If this is a new food processor, you can rent an apartment and carry out tests in the kitchen.

Record, remove everything that makes people during the test. Then you can analyze all test subjects and highlight patterns (repeating actions). In a review on a prototype, clients can lie, but not in their behavior.

When a user doesn’t like or likes something, he is always right. But not always able to express it in words. Our task is to find out exactly what makes the user experience positive or negative.

Prototypes can be of different levels of detail. Professionally conduct several tests at different levels. For example, at first these are drawings by the pen of the application screens, later drawn by the graphic designer of the model, then a working prototype and at the end a working application.


We make clothes. And they made a prototype of new fashionable jeans. Users liked the idea of ​​jeans for discos with large glowing patterns.

At first we drew such jeans. They were well appreciated, but they were asked to make the patterns larger in order to stand out more on the dance floor. We took into account the recommendations, showed drawings with patterns larger. Now everything was ok.

Next, we made 3D-models of jeans to show drawings from all sides. Users wanted the pictures to also be behind the gins. We did that. They asked to make part of the picture, which is behind, a little less. We have done. Ok, next test.

The creation of a prototype and its test are stages that repeat until the expected result is achieved.

We finalized the prototype and made it material. Now users could try on jeans. They were worried about the buttons, the lock and whether the pattern would be erased during the washings. We changed the buttons, the lock and gave them jeans to wear a month, they washed them every two days.

It is important to understand that users may have "bad taste". But if this particular segment of the audience likes a terrible design, and you want to make money from it, make a prototype and test it. Make two. With a good design and with a bad one. And ask what they will pay for and how much. Give them both for a month and ask how often and where each one was used.

Method check

First, design thinking is beautiful. Secondly, can newbies use it? Maybe it is only for professionals? I checked it during my master class and share with you the results.

The master class on DM came 40 people. I gave them a bit of theory, about three times less than you received now, and pushed him out of the warm theoretical nest into the cold and cruel world of practice.

Participants joined in pairs and within an hour accelerated all stages from empathy to testing. In pairs, one acted as a real client, the other was a design thinker. The topic that was studied was public speaking. Why? First, I rarely see people who say: "I have no problems with performances in public." Secondly, this is my work: I create, edit, and hone client appearances in public.

At the stage of generating ideas, everyone came up with an average of 10. These are 400 ideas in one audience in 5 minutes of the allotted time! What is not an alternative to brainstorming? ;-)

Here is a real example of the participant MK:

  1. Empathy. The latest experience of public speaking has been studied. Identified problems: lack of concentration, excitement, distraction, lack of contact with the audience.
  2. Focusing. The excitement problem is selected. In the process of research it turned out that it is based on self-doubt. Also, self-doubt affects the lack of contact with the audience and concentration.
  3. Generation of ideas. It was suggested: to be rude to those who step on the foot in public transport, to rehearse in public places, to rehearse in front of a mirror in a crown, and more.
  4. Choosing an idea. The client liked the idea of ​​rehearsing in front of the mirror in the crown.
  5. Prototype. A drawing of a cardboard crown and a mirror was made.
  6. Test. The client liked the idea even more: “Very interesting! It can really help me!”


Design thinking works. Its principles are logical and problem oriented. And the method is easy to use - tested on 40 beginners during the master class. So you too succeed.

Using the DM method, you can create or improve products that really solve the problems of the target audience. Solve their problems - get more profit and gratitude, turn customers into fans, followers, advocates of the brand.

That's all. Perseverance teaching, perseverance in design thinking!

P. S. I will be glad to your questions, comments and repost.

Watch the video: Product Design Process: SOLVE PROBLEMS AND MAKE DECISIONS FAST Lightning Decision Jam. Aj&Smart (February 2020).


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