If you are a creator, or just a creative person in general, you may have heard about design thinking and the process of solving complex problems in a creative, human-centric approach. But, how are individuals using design thinking for innovation, and what does this thinking process involve?

The design thinking definition introduces a strategic and practical process by which concepts are developed. It is practiced by prioritizing consumers’ needs before everything else and involves observation throughout a five step process. Most importantly, it is iterative and human centered to form new innovations that positively impact user lives. The constant observation provides concrete evidence of how people engage with products and services, leading designers to refine them to build successful results. In comparison to other design methods backed by ample amounts of research, this system promotes the advancement of experimental prototypes to continue identifying a problem and its solution.

We put together a step-by-step guide of everything you need to know about the Design Thinking process as this approach has been used for business and personal projects around the world. This methodology isn’t designer specific, it can be used by anyone to solve a business or creative challenge. While there are some different ways to approach the process, we break down the 5 main design thinking stages to follow.

1. Empathize

During the first stage, the designer forms an understanding of who the audience is and what they need. The designer gains an empathic understanding of what the problem at hand is in order to resolve it. They evaluate how real users interact with the product or issue by observing and interviewing them. Users being observed will generally fall into the category of the target group, which will allow you to set any assumptions aside to get a better insight of what actually is needed to begin the design process.

Furthermore, this stage can help the designer gain a better understanding from a different perspective the audience themselves could not express. As the designer gains user perspective, they’ll be able to understand the direct people affected by the problem.

2. Define

Using the information you discovered in the empathize stage, you’ll put your previous findings together to define what problem you are trying to solve. This is where you’ll synthesize your observations to create the ‘problem statement’ which outlines the issues you seek to address.

Once you are familiar with the general problem, this stage will help designers gather ideas to enable features and functions necessary to tackle the issue. This will be a framework to guide the designer throughout the rest of the design process.

3. Ideate

At this point in the design thinking approach, designers are ready to start brainstorming ideas. Designers have become very familiar with the user audience and what this audience wants out of the product or service. So, during the ideation stage designers try several different methods to generate the most ideas possible. Many sessions will take place in order to have a pool of ideas to choose from — needless to say designers will continuously refer to their problem statement to ensure accurate solutions.

4. Prototype

Stage 4 in the design thinking process takes the best ideas from the previous stage and transforms them into prototypes for users. For example, simple representations, landing pages, or interactive digital models are formed to demonstrate a scale-down version of the actual product. During this experimental phase, designers test how these prototypes are being accepted by users and observe them to gather feedback. This avoids spending extra expense and time on a product that may not perform as well as predicted. By weeding out less desirable products, designers can focus on those with positive responses and move forward to develop the whole product.

5. Test

Once the best prototype is pronounced, the design team can test the completed product. They will be able to observe how users interact with it and gather feedback on how receptive they are to the product. Remember- the testing phase highlights any faults or weaknesses within the product. This may require designers to revisit earlier stages to determine a better solution that meets the consumers needs.

As we mentioned earlier, design thinking methods use an iterative system. This nonlinear process may need to be repeated multiple times to produce a successful product. If you are looking to transition into a coworking environment that can inspire you to create the best ideas, you can check out COW-ORK and find the best location for you. The monthly membership is only $89 and lets you access a whole exclusive network of partners, including coffee shops, restaurants and cafes around Miami. You can find your nearest location here.