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The Role of Design Thinking in Branding

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

What is Design Thinking?


Contrary to what its name suggests, design thinking is not limited to designers only — it is a tool that is extremely useful for innovation and product development.


Design thinking is broken down into a five-step process that involves empathising, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.


Empathising with your target audience involves some measure of research, and this includes gaining real insight about users and what their needs are.


The next step is defining the problem — from the insights gained, what are some issues you’d like to help users resolve?


Okay, so you’ve identified a problem. Now it’s time to really put that thinking cap on! This forms the ideation stage of the design thinking process, where innovators should formulate creative strategies to address the problem. Think out of the box, because the aim is to find new ways to solve an existing issue.


Armed with your creative solutions in mind, you can now build a prototype, which is essentially a simple sample or model to test the functionality of your idea. Prototypes are great because they transform your ideas into a physical, tangible product. By creating a prototype, you can learn how to improve and refine your ideas.


Lastly, test your idea to make sure that it works. Testing an idea is also a great way to garner feedback, and then you can tweak your product or service to either address issues or to make the user experience even better.


Why is it important in branding?


We’ve talked about how brands need to create conversations with consumers, and here’s where design thinking plays a huge part.


When a brand integrates design thinking into the brand-building approach, it starts with the people. As they say, a brand is not what YOU say it is — it’s what THEY say it is. So for effective branding, a consumer-centric approach is key.


Marrying Good Design and Brand Identity: Dyson


Consider Dyson, the British technology company that makes drying your hair after a shower a luxury experience.


Their Supersonic Hair Dryers retail for SGD $599, and sold like hotcakes when they first arrived on our shores. Dyson branched out from vacuum cleaners to hand dryers, and subsequently other hair tools.


Dyson applies design thinking in their brand identity — by offering excellent quality and applying quality engineering to their products, they’re able to command a premium price for their innovations.


That’s not all. Dyson also engineers an amazing user experience. Their demo concept store communicates their luxurious brand identity effortlessly, making each product look immersive and advanced.


An example of how Dyson effectively executes design thinking was their joint project with Kings College London about the air quality on London’s streets.


Dyson has since engineered a wearable sensor attached to a child’s backpack to measure the surrounding air quality on their way to school. This is a wonderful example of how companies can gain real insights of problems their customers face, before finding solutions to combat them.


Airbnb


Let’s look at travel company Airbnb.


Airbnb's VP of design, Alex Schleifer, recognised that users often faced the problem of browsing the portal yet never finding the right home.


Schleifer mentioned that as a 21st century company, Airbnb had to adopt more community-driven behaviours and values to cater to their stakeholders — the Airbnb community.


After identifying the problem, Airbnb decided to develop an extension to its offerings by introducing Airbnb Plus. This new initiative countered the problem by curating and verifying high-quality homes by means of in-person inspection.


The user interface of the app itself was a product of design thinking. By prioritising User Experience, Airbnb focused on making the app easy to navigate, informative and user-friendly.


Design thinking, as we've mentioned, is an excellent approach to business innovation. When you zoom into real problems faced by real customers, you'll be able to craft specific solutions to cater to their needs.


Take that first step towards applying design thinking by understanding who your consumers are! Find out how to create conversations with your consumers here.