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16/100 - Design Thinking Process Explained with Stages and Toolkit

Updated: Jan 14

Design Thinking Process Explained and Toolkit

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is ‘problem solving approach’ which utilizes a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and generate prototypes of novel ideas to test.

Design thinking helps to solve ‘wicked problems,’ a problem that is difficult or looks impossible to resolve due to complex, incomplete, contradictory, interconnected and ever-changing requirements that are often difficult to identify. A human centered design process.

Problems in web3 space like interoperability, mass adoption or metaverse UX issues are good use cases to implement design thinking process.

The three models of Design thinking are the also known as IDEO or Stanford model which we would be discussing here, Double Diamond model and Darden University model.

Design Thinking Process Stages

There are 5 steps in the Design Thinking process as per the IDEO model -

  1. Empathize

  2. Define

  3. Ideate

  4. Prototype &

  5. Test


Detailed observations, interviews, or surveys are employed during this phase to discover the characteristics of the target audience for the product. In this manner, you can discover specific information about the product's users and their needs.


In this step, the team should define the needs of the users. In order to create the issue statement and design brief, the team should conduct a synthesis of the knowledge gathered in the previous stage, empathize. Like a project charter, the design brief should include precise goals to achieve, scope, limitations, outcomes, timelines etc.


In this stage we should develop as many creative ideas as possible. Good idea generation demands not only subject-matter expertise, but also innovation, creativity, and originality. This phase should be concluded by analyzing and selecting the best idea, from which a prototype can be developed.


In this stage, team develops one or more solutions to address the problem statement and to provide users with visual solutions for quick feedback. A prototype does not need to be constructed with the final materials. High and low fidelity model prototypes are the commonly used approaches.


The prototype should be provided to the original user to test its functionality and receive feedback during the final phase. The objective is to test the solution's functionality in the actual environment where the product will be used. Inputs are fed back to other stages and iterations are repeated for prototype refinement or start of actual product development.

What Wicked Problems Are and How Design Thinking Can Help Solve Them?

When it comes to user experience design process, there are certain problems that arise that cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach. These types of problems are called "wicked problems," and they require a different type of thinking in order to be solved effectively. Enter design thinking.

Design thinking is a method for solving complex problems that takes into account the user's needs and emotions. It is an iterative process that begins with understanding the problem, generating ideas, prototyping solutions, and testing those solutions with users. Design thinking has been proven to be an effective way to solve wicked problems in user experience design.

Let's take a closer look at what Wicked Problems are and how design thinking can help solve them.

What are Wicked Problems?

Wicked problems are complex, multi-faceted problems that cannot be solved with a single solution. They are often deeply rooted in emotion and can be hard to define. Wicked problems require out-of-the-box thinking in order to be solved effectively.

Some examples of wicked problems in user experience design include:

  • How do we design a website that is both visually appealing and easy to use?

  • How do we create an app that is addictive without being harmful?

  • How do we make a complex system easy to understand for the average user?

These are just a few examples of the types of wicked problems that ux designers face on a daily basis. As you can see, they are not easy problems to solve!

How Does Design Thinking Help Solve Wicked Problems?

Design thinking helps solve wicked problems by taking into account the needs and emotions of the user. The first step in design thinking is understanding the problem from the user's perspective. This involves talking to users, observing their behavior, and truly understanding their needs.

Once the problem is understood, the next step is generating ideas. This is where creativity comes into play. There are no wrong ideas at this stage – all ideas are welcome! The next step is prototyping the solutions and testing them with users. This feedback loop helps to improve the solutions until they finally meet the needs of the user.

Wicked problems in user experience design are complex, multi-faceted problems that cannot be solved with a single solution. They require out-of-the box thinking in order to be solved effectively. Design thinking is a method for solving complex problems that takes into account the user's needs and emotions.

It is an iterative process that begins with understanding the problem statement, generate ideas, prototyping solutions, and testing those innovative solutions with users. Design thinking has been proven to be an effective way to solve wicked problems in user experience design.

Implementing Design Thinking in Web3 Projects

Here are some examples in which design thinking can help in web3 projects.

1. Empathy Mapping

This technique involves creating a visual representation of the needs, wants, and pain points of the target user group. In a web3 project, this could be used to understand the needs of decentralized application (dApp) users and develop features that address those needs.

2. Rapid Prototyping

This involves quickly creating a prototype of the product or feature to test with users and gather feedback. In a web3 project, this could be used to prototype a dApp's user interface and gather feedback from potential users.

3. User Testing

This technique involves gathering feedback on a product or feature from a group of users. In a web3 project, this could be used to gather feedback on a dApp's user experience and identify areas for improvement.

4. Iterative Design

This technique involves making adjustments and improvements to a product or feature based on feedback. In a web3 project, this could be used to iteratively improve a dApp's user experience and functionality based on user feedback.

5. Journey Mapping

A journey map is a visual representation of the steps a user takes to complete a task or achieve a goal. This technique can be used in web3 projects to understand the user's experience of using the decentralized application and identify any pain points or areas for improvement.

6. Scenario Planning

This technique is used to imagine and plan for possible future scenarios that the dApp may face. It helps to identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them.

7. Personas

Creating personas is a way to represent the different types of users that will be using the dApp. This helps the team to understand the needs and goals of different user groups and design features that cater to those needs.

Design Thinking Tools List

Here is an indicative list of many tools to choose from.






Explorative interview,

Ask 5x why,

5 WH questions,

Jobs to be done,

Extreme users/lead users,

Stakeholder map,

Empathy map,

Persona/user profile,

Customer journey,


Trend analysis.

“How might we…” question,


Context mapping,

Define success,

Vision cone,

Critical items diagram.


2x2 matrix,

Dot voting,

Brainwriting/6-3-5 method,

Special brainstorming,

Analogies & benchmarking as an inspiration,


Blue ocean tool & buyer utility map.

Exploration map,

Prototype to test,

Service blueprint,

MVP – minimum viable product.

Testing sheet,

Feedback capture grid,

Powerful questions for experience testing,

Solution interview,

Structured usability testing,

A/B testing

The design thinking approach has grown in popularity over the past few decades and must be equally embraced into web3 projects to solve many existing challenges with human centered designs.

Recommended Resources

Coming up in the next blog - 'What is a Design Sprint?'.

Note 1: This blog is part of a 100 Days of Learning Series on Web3 Project Management frameworks and best practices published on Program Strategy HQ. For more details on the 100 days of blogging campaign check out Blog 0.

Note 2: Reach out to info@programstrategyhq for any queries.

Note 3: Program Strategy HQ Disclaimer for Reference.


  • (2022). THE DESIGN THINKING METHOD AND ITS STAGES. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2022].

  • Dam, R.F. and Siang, T.Y. (2019). What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular? [online] The Interaction Design Foundation. Available at:

  • IDEO (2018). IDEO Design Thinking. [online] IDEO | Design Thinking. Available at:

  • Lewrick, M., Link, P. and Leifer, L. (2020). Design Thinking Toolbox : A Guide to Mastering the Most Popular and Valuable Innovation Methods. S.L.: Wiley & Sons Canada, Limited, John.

  • Plattner, H. (2010). An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE. [online] Available at:

  • Terrar, D. (2018). What is Design Thinking? [online] Agile Elephant making sense of digital transformation. Available at:


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