Design Thinking for You (and Your Business)

Part 3 of 3 - You made it!

There is something purely gratifying about about design thinking into our planning and putting something new out into the world. For some, it is an award-winning piece of industrial design or a streamlined mathematical proof (thank you, Ed Witten). For some, it’s the mathematical proof of validity for life on a moon around Jupiter (true story, the person was 9).

Personal accomplishment is a powerful driving force. Think of your past managers. We all have that “one” boss you’ll never ever EVER want to work for again. But also, we have those bosses who inspire us and encourage us to explore our skills and ideas even further.

Design Thinking - solution focussed or problem focussed

Don't ask what. Ask why.

We talked about this in our last article, but felt it is a perfect point to repeat. It’s that important.

Do we have to paraphrase our own work? Oh well, let’s do it anyways. “Toyota does it with asking why 5 times consecutively. Asking “Why?” is the chance to reframe the problem. It allows you to question what is the root cause of the issue.”

For example, our team travels all across the continent, meeting with clients and producing work in collaborative environments. But at night, all we want is a good night’s sleep. Now, my wife, she prefers only Hilton (her company has some great perks).

Now when design thinking on how to improve a Hotel’s experience, think about the importance of a fancy hotel lobby over a good night’s sleep in a comfy bed.


Asking “Why?” may annoy your colleagues who just want to move on. But it will delight the end-user (the real ones paying your salaries). Sure, balance is important, but discoveries happen most often by accident. Why not leave a little room to grow in your process? Besides, there is nothing more frustrating than coming up with the right answer to the wrong question.  Start with the why. Your branding team will love you for it. We promise.

See the sounds. Hear the colours.

We spend most of our lives not noticing the important things. Think of marriage. The more familiar we are with a situation, the more we take for granted. Innovation begins with attention to detail.

Good design thinkers observe the problem at hand. Great design thinkers observe everything. I knew precisely when I became a design thinker. I wasn’t even in the room when it happened. But, the story goes: a now ex-girlfriend asked my mother why I am so different. My mother, a person who I wouldn’t say, had the best relationship with me, turned to her and said.

“You and I are very much the same. We may look to the sky and see a star. We may think of that star and how there may be people on a planet, living around it. We may think of who they are, what they look like, and maybe what life is like for them. That’s us.”

“Now, my son, he looks to the sky and understands how all the stars and all the worlds are connected. He’ll appreciate things we never thought to ask. He will categorize and comprehend things we may never understand if we live to be a hundred. Just because you can’t understand it doesn’t mean you can’t love him. It just means you’ll never know him.”

Since that day,

I’ve been my mom’s number 1 fan (my brothers may fight me on that thought though). It took over 35 years before I heard that, but when I did. It changed everything. Besides, she told me not to waste my time with that girl, and now I’m happily married, own an asterism (thank you NASA for the help) and have a baby on the way. Maybe I learned my design thinking way of life from my mom? That was some long game strategy she played.

When design thinking, start with easy questions. Why are wheels round (ok maybe not that easy)? Why are the maintenance hole covers round? Why do Canadians apologize so much? Why are pizzas round, cut into triangles and served in square boxes? I still ponder about that one regularly.

As accessible designers, our team takes it a step further. When we design websites, we think of things like contrast, fonts types that help people with dyslexia, even what would it be like to be colour-blind? Sure, Google Page Speed is an issue and making things accessible isn’t always the most optimized option, but there is integrity in what we do when we create inclusive solutions. Take pride in your thoughts and choices.

*We’ve included a free Dyslexia font type download at the end of this article.

Make it visual.

Record your observations and ideas visually. Every designer on our team has notebooks upon notebooks of ideas, images, sketches. That will never end. Being visual allows us to look at a problem differently. If you have a problem, draw it out.

This little change in your daily routine can yield great rewards in your progress. Think of how impactful infographics have become over the last decade. This is design thinking at its finest.

Build on the ideas of others.

We mentioned this earlier; all of us are smarter than any individual one of us. When working in collaboration, no idea is a bad idea. Try building on each idea. Give it the ol’ college try. Seldom, if ever, would the original idea be the end product, and if it is, you’re doing something wrong.

Think through it with others. Look for support in your thought process to help you grow. Don’t settle for the first good idea that comes into your head. Work to achieve greatness.

Build a balanced portfolio.

When you design something, document it. Archive your process and add it to your portfolio. Be sure to document the process as it unfolds. In design thinking, the journey is just as important as the destination. As your portfolio grows, look at the work that inspired you the most. You’ll begin to see your style blossom and take shape.

To design or not to design, is it even a question?

We don’t know all the answers, and that’s ok. What we are looking at is how to find answers to specific problems. Design thinking has its origins in the training and the professional practice of designers. That doesn’t mean that it is only for designers.

Design thinking is meant to engage with people on a personal level. I am proudly autistic, and I would love to discuss the challenges I’ve faced with my disability. Relating to people, it’s tough bananas. But, when people take the time to understand me, something magnificent happens. I make a friend, and that friend introduces me to another and another.

Like any good design team, we can have a sense of purpose. I used to think making friends was a singular event in my mind. However, I’ve come to realize, we collaborate and grow with each discussion, and I am now also a friend to each one of those amazing people. We help each other overcome obstacles together. If that isn’t design thinking at its finest, well, I am not sure what is.

Designers work within the constraints of nature and are learning to mimic its elegance, economy, and efficiency. If you don’t believe us, we can introduce you to Scotty. He’s currently working on a Ph.D. in chemistry, and his depiction of the biology of the universe will make you ponder every decision you’ve ever made. He’s intense and awesome!

Play the game. Level up!

As design thinkers, we can conduct experiments, make discoveries, and change our perspectives. Perspectives are never meant to be finite. We can look for opportunities to co-create and build on ideas. We can learn that reward comes in various ways to each of us. It could be by developing a prototype, improving on an old design, or working with a team to solve a problem no one thought to ask.

In closing, we thought we’d revise our initial thoughts on design thinking from article 1. Design thinking is a role-playing game (RPG), where each character has their own skills and strengths that will benefit the team. A team grows with experience. Always challenge the status quo, always learn, ask why, and, if given the option, watch a little Golden Girls. 


PS, Don’t forget to answer our optional question and download your free typeface.