Design thinking is a strategic approach that prioritises solutions over problems. It’s human-centred, focusing on understanding the user, identifying their needs, challenges, and desires, and creating a solution that aligns with these. You have to have a deep and thorough understanding of who you are designing for, making sure that they are at the heart of every stage of the design process.

By thoroughly understanding your users, you’ll gain invaluable insights that will drive the creative process and give you innovative solutions to meet your users’ needs. You can create products and experiences that enhance the lives of your consumers.

Design Thinking allows for more creativity and innovation. It encourages you to think outside the box to create more meaningful products and services. It fosters a mindset where creativity and empathy drive decision-making.

For individuals, it’s a way to unleash their creativity and make impactful changes. For businesses, it’s a way to stand out. Rather than following a traditional approach, you can be fresh, innovative, creative, and actually address the needs of your customers.

The Five Stages of Design Thinking

Design Thinking has five stages: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Empathise: This is where you put yourself in the shoes of your consumers. By truly understanding their needs, desires, and challenges, you can design solutions that resonate with them.

Define: Here, you gather all the information you’ve collected and pinpoint the problem you’re trying to solve. You will also clarify what your consumers truly need and want. This stage sets the foundation for the rest of the process.

Ideate: In this stage, you brainstorm ideas. The goal is to come up with as many possibilities as you can and throw ideas out without judgement; this is how you’ll come up with creative, unexpected, and innovative ideas.

Prototype: Now it’s time to turn your ideas into prototypes. Prototyping allows you to test your concepts and identify any improvements needed.

Test: Put your prototypes to the test! Gather feedback and make any changes that are needed.

Remember, Design Thinking is non-linear; you can revisit any stage at any time. You can go back to change or alter until you get to your final product. Failures and challenges should be viewed as opportunities for learning and adapting. Take a look at some of these real-life business that are applying Design Thinking principles.


Airbnb didn’t become a hit overnight. Back in 2009, the company struggled to gain traction. One day, the team was going through their site, trying to figure out what wasn’t working. They decided to look at it through the eyes of their users and realised that the photos of the listings were poor quality, often taken on a phone or even taken from other sites. Their solution was to send a team on a trip to New York City, armed with a rented camera and a mission to improve the photography of their listings. They spent time with property owners, understanding their needs and capturing stunning, high-resolution images of their spaces. This simple yet strategic move paid off immensely. Following the replacement of the photos, their weekly revenue doubled. 


PillPack noticed a common issue with managing medication: the hassle of long pharmacy queues, tracking expiration dates, and juggling different dosing instructions. They realised the whole process was overwhelming, so they adopted a human-centred approach to simplify it.

Their solution? A convenient home delivery system. Your doctor sends your prescription directly to a PillPack pharmacist, who then organises your medications—refills, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements—into pre-sorted, personalised packets. These packets are labelled by date and time and delivered right to your doorstep.

PillPack also offers round-the-clock access to pharmacists via phone or email, providing a human touch to their service. Their approach resulted in a set of tools that reflected a true understanding of PillPack’s customers, a well-articulated product and service, and a human-centred approach.

In June 2018, Amazon bought PillPack for $1 billion.


Although many companies have successfully used design thinking, Netflix has repeatedly leveraged it to become an industry giant. During the company’s inception, its main competitor, Blockbuster, required customers to drive to brick-and-mortar stores to rent DVDs. The process was the same for returns, which was a major pain point for many. Netflix eliminated that inconvenience by delivering DVDs directly to customers’ homes with a subscription model.

While this revolutionised the movie industry, Netflix’s real success has been in its innovation over the years. For example, when the company realised DVDs were becoming outdated, it created an on-demand streaming service to stay ahead of the curve. This also inadvertently eliminated the inconvenience of having to wait for DVDs.

Subsequently, in 2011, Netflix took its design thinking one step further and responded to customers’ need for original, provocative content that wasn’t airing on traditional networks. Later, in 2016, it improved its user experience by adding short trailers to its interface. Each of Netflix’s major updates was in response to customers’ needs and driven by an effective design thinking process.

Future Proofing

With the rise of AI, human creativity is irreplaceable. While AI excels in many areas, it cannot replicate human creativity. It can serve as a helpful ally enhancing our creativity and helping us come up with truly innovative ideas.

Embracing continuous learning can help you adapt to new technologies and remain relevant. Each new skill and each piece of knowledge you gain adds to your value and versatility in the workplace.

Focusing on soft skills is critical in differentiating ourselves from AI. Machines lack uniquely human skills like communication, critical thinking, empathy, and problem-solving, which not only set us apart but also enable us to thrive as human beings.


In today’s rapidly changing world, where industries are constantly evolving, you need to adapt to stay ahead of the curve. This is where upskilling comes in. Upskilling is learning new skills so that you remain up-to-date with the demands of the job market. It can help you stay relevant. It has the potential for more growth, which can lead to better job satisfaction. It can bridge the gap between what your employer wants and your capabilities, and it can future-proof your career by giving you the skills that are needed today.

Tips for upskilling

Online courses are a great way to gain new skills. They’re easily accessible, and you can do them while working your everyday job. Design Thinking is available as an online short course at Red & Yellow. It’s in partnership with leading agency dY/dX and in just ten weeks you’ll be equipped with the foundational theories and methodologies to approach complex problems from a completely different perspective, learn how to conceptualize innovative, creative, and powerful solutions, and be able to create a functioning website.

Design Thinking principles are also taught through our Advanced Diploma in User Centered Design. In this one year online qualification, you’ll learn how to design products, services, experiences, and processes that focus on satisfying and solving user needs and challenges – turning them into loyal fans.

Networking is another powerful tool. You can attend industry events and online forums to connect with people working in your desired field. Building relationships will give you opportunities to seek advice, and gain insights. You could also get a mentor who can help guide you from their own experiences.

You need to be curious, seek out new challenges, and actively participate in opportunities for growth and development. You should have a willingness to learn and embrace change with an open mind. By embracing these strategies, you can future-proof your skills and position yourself for success in an ever-changing professional landscape. 

In this fast-paced, rapidly evolving world, Design Thinking is more important than ever. We need customer-centric, out-of-the-box, creative, fresh, innovative ways to solve problems. The future belongs to those who embrace their creativity, focus on continuous learning, and hone in on their unique human qualities.