Design thinking is a method of generating innovations. This method combines the expertise of the areas design, social sciences, engineering, and economics in a problem-finding and problem-solving process with interdisciplinary teams. The focus lies on the user and innovative products, systems, and services are developed through multidisciplinary collaboration and iterative improvements.


The goal is to create innovations, which are useful for the user. In the Design Thinking process, the aim is to identify and define the problem and to find a solution.


The following rules exist within the design thinking process. All activities focus on the user and his knowledge as well as needs. In order to develop innovations, experimentation at the limits of knowledge and control and with the freedom to see things differently is needed.

In order to cope with the constant changes in technological and social circumstances, all results must be iteratively improved and extended by further design thinking processes. Ideas that are developed in the Design Thinking process should be made tangible to enable discussions about them.

Design Thinking is performed as follows. First, the problem is defined. It is described using use cases or scenarios. Then, general hypotheses or theories regarding the problem are formulated. Finally, a summary of the knowledge is created.

In order to define the solution, multiple ideas are formulated and assessed through design and prototyping techniques. Thereby, the ideas are made tangible.

Then, an iterative approximation to the problem definition and solution definition is executed. Discussions within the design team and with users, customers, and experts are possible with the help of the drafts and prototypes.

Thereby, the contact with the environment of the problem is maintained and information can be used to optimize the selected solutions.

Firstly, the problem is defined, and then the needs of the user are analyzed within that context. Then, multiple solutions are developed and made tangible, as well as tested through prototypes. Afterward, the resulting findings regarding the problems are considered, and iteratively a new design thinking process begins because: “Design never ends.“


Core Literature

  • [1] Meinel, C.; Leifer, L. (2011): Design Thinking Research. In Plattner, H.; Leifer, L.; Meinel, C. (Eds.), Design Thinking Understand – Improve – Apply (pp.xiii-xxi). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
  • [2] Lindberg, T.; Meinel, C.; Wagner, R. (2011): Design Thinking: A Fruitful Concept for IT Development?. In Plattner, H.; Leifer, L.; Meinel, C. (Eds.), Design Thinking Understand – Improve – Apply (pp.3-18). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
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