The 5- stage model of design thinking

A design methodology that focuses on solving problems based on a solution-based approach is called Design Thinking. This methodology is extremely effective for handling problems that are extremely complex in nature and which are considered unknown or ill-defined. It can tackle problems like the human needs to involve understanding, by re-framing the obstacles in a human-centric way, or by creating multiple ideas in brainstorming periods, and can also help by adopting a direct approach along with prototyping and testing. To apply the Design Thinking methods we must first understand this 5- stage model of Design Thinking that will allow anyone to solve problems that are complex which occur around us like in our companies or in our countries or also those who surmount our planet.

Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford ( had proposed a model on the five-stage Design Thinking. is one of the leading universities that expertise in teaching design thinking. 

According to this university, the 5-stages of design thinking includes

  • Empathize
  • Define 
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Let us have a closer look at each of the five stages of design thinking.


In Design thinking, the first and foremost step is the process of achieving an empathic approach to the problem that is bothering you. This step requires us to consult the experts and find out the problem areas by thoroughly observing the situation, empathizing, and engaging with the people so that we understand their experiences and motivations. It also helps us to immerse ourselves in the physical environment which will lead us to attain a further personal understanding of the situation. 

This step is considered a crucial step to a human-centered design process like design thinking. It allows design thinkers to keep their assumptions aside so that they can get aware of the users and needs. In this stage, a considerable amount of information is collected to proceed with their next step with ease. It helps in developing the best possible way to understand your users and what they expect from us in return. This also helps us in understanding the problem that underlies the particular product


During the second stage-Define, we need to gather all the information that has been gained in our Empathise stage. Here we need to analyze your observations and synthesize them to understand the core problem. Later we need to characterize the problem in a human-centered manner. 

Most businesses would regard the issue as a single task to be completed. However, we need to produce ideas about the uses, features, and other essential components that will enable them in solving the dilemma of supporting customers in resolving difficulties with minimum help or challenges at this stage in the Design Thinking process. Designers can also begin preparing for the third stage by generating questions that can aid in the creation of answers at this time.

Along with this, in this stage, you will start the process for the third stage. While doing so, you need to ask questions that can help to enlighten you with ideas for finding solutions like, “how can we encourage our employees to provide such services that can benefit them as well as our company, product, and service?”

3. Ideate

Until the third stage, you are already aware of the design thinking process and the ideas to generate solutions. You are familiar with the ideas, users’ minds, needs since the empathize stage. Now you and your team can focus on thinking “out of the box” ideas and find new solutions to all the questions and problems you have perceived through the various steps. Toward the end of the ideation aspect, you should select different ideation techniques so that you can investigate and test the ideas in order to determine the best solution or provision of the elements necessary to circumvent a problem.

Fortunately, design teams have a variety of approaches for coming up with new ideas. Brainstorm, SCAMPER, and Worst Possible Idea are a few of the most prominent ones. While each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, it’s critical that the design creates as many ideas or solutions as possible before going on to the next level of prototyping.


At this stage of the prototype, you are ready to generate various inexpensive, scaled-down versions of your or customers’ product as a whole or some specific features within the product. This is a problem-solving stage. Your design team can consult these prototypes internally, with other departments, or even with a small group of people outside the design team. A prototype is also considered as an experimental stage wherein you focus on identifying the finest possible solutions with the help of the previous three steps. 

The process includes a step-by-step implementation of solutions and investigating their results. These implementations can be either accepted, improved, be re-examine, or can also be rejected if found not an appropriate solution. 

This will give the design team a better understanding of the constraints of the product along with the problems that exist and will allow them to develop a better sense of how users will behave, feel, and think as they interact with the end product. To understand this topic deeper, you opt for the best design thinking courses online.


As part of the fifth and final stages of the design process, the team thoroughly tests the final product using the solution selected during the prototype stage. Due to the fact that testing must be repeated several times, it might be tedious and monotonous.

The findings of the testing are then utilized to review problems and update customer perceptions of the product and the settings under which it is used. At this point, the product is still being updated and developed in order to rule out any potential issues and gain a deeper knowledge of the consumers and the product.

It’s worth noting that, while these five processes were presented in sequential order, the design approach is flexible and adaptable. The design team, for example, may complete all of the phases at the same time. Designers may also continue to gather information and create prototypes throughout the project, allowing them to visualize each bottleneck and its accompanying remedy. The results of the testing stage may lead to fresh ideas and the beginning of a new stage of brainstorming or prototype development.


However, it is not compulsory to always be sequential with these five stages. You do not always have to follow the specific order and can make them parallel and repeat iteratively. The outcome of the project is more important than following the sequential order. Stanford executive education design thinking helps your expertise in these stages to extract the best result. 

Meanwhile, it is also important to understand that these steps are for your reference and better understanding as they are systematic and can give you a clearer picture of the project. Each project will demand specific activities to develop the product problems in which the idea as a whole remains the same.  The first thing you should ask yourself while developing a solution for a business requirement is, “What is the human need underlying it?” Once you are aware of it, Design thinking can be one of the finest tools that organizations can ask for producing extraordinary customer encounters and fostering a responsive, customer-centric corporate culture, as evidenced by the above claims.

James Jackson

James Jackson is passionate about exploring the latest advancements in technology and sharing his insights with the world. From AI and blockchain to cybersecurity and IoT, James Jackson strive to deliver informative and engaging content that empowers readers to navigate the ever-evolving tech landscape. Join me on this exciting journey of discovery!
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