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How To Develop Great Design Thinking

  • Design thinking is a process with a methodology.
  • Fostering great design thinking is a delicate balance of the elements of a design-focused culture.
  • Design thinking can grow a company’s bottom line.

Great graphic design is never an accident.

But how, exactly, does a company get great results consistently? If it were as simple as hiring amazing designers, the challenge would be completed with large amounts of money.

But there are companies both large and small, with huge profit margins and narrow ones, that foster great design thinking. And many that don’t, regardless of the budget.

What gives?

The secret is more than just getting all the best designers together on one team. Skill matters, of course, but there is another element: great culture.

Culture is what sets creative environments apart. It does no good to hire the best designers if they have no intellectual space at the company, no design-oriented leadership, and no accountability.

The main component of a culture that fosters design thinking so that designers can succeed is methodology. It turns out that there is a method to the madness of creative work, after all.

Why Foster Design Thinking?

Design thinking does several things for a company. It creates a culture that is growing, fosters creativity so that designers can grow also, and promotes innovation. We all know that innovation is key to business success.

Innovation needs structure, though. You don’t want to innovate randomly at a company. You want to innovate in areas that create more revenue and unique value.

Here are some key components of innovation frameworks at a company.

  • Discovery workshops
  • Adaptive process
  • Solutioning
  • Collaboration
  • Literal drawing and testing as a routine
  • Vision workshops
  • Professional brainstorming

A company will ideally develop its own unique way of structuring innovation. They might use one or more of these processes, adding a style that works for them. The idea is to take a lot of the work out of innovation by creating systems that allow for more creativity and less red tape.

Culture, Strategy, and Structure

Culture, strategy, and structure are essential for a productively creative company. A culture of creative support means several things.

At a basic level, companies have to hire people for their professional creative skills. Professional design takes certain types of experience and out-of-the-box thinking. Creating on a deadline is different from working when the inspiration strikes you.

Professional creatives flex their design muscles often, finding ways to produce polished and well-thought-out material on a regular basis. They know how to work in a creative capacity and produce results for other people, not just themselves.

Creatives need the support of other creatives to keep working on tough projects and grow as designers. So it’s important to build culture by hiring people that can produce professional results consistently. They should have their own ideas, experiences, and styles to bring to the group mix.

If you’re thinking about the way this all fits together, you’d be right in assuming that creatives don’t work well professionally without leadership. Leadership is very important in design.

The culture of successful design leadership creates space for designers to work and doesn’t micromanage. At the same time, design leadership often means thought leadership. This can look different in different companies.

But the truth is that standing up for ideas in design can come across as very firm sometimes. And it is tough to hold people accountable in design. Ideas are going around at a rapid pace in companies that have a strong design culture.

Methods for Design

Leaders in design have established that the most basic elements of design methodology can be broken down into five steps.

Empathizing as it relates to the audience is the first step. The designer should have more than a passing understanding of the problem at hand. They need to do research with an emotionally intelligent perspective.

Defining and visualizing comes next. This part of the process is pretty self-explanatory, and it is arguably one of the busiest parts of the process. Defining takes a good deal of work.

Ideating and collaborating means to look at each and every idea and evaluate it together. Teams add to each other’s ideas in this phase.

Creating a prototype and testing it is the last step. Repeat as many times as necessary for a successful design! The more teams work together, the easier the process becomes.

A Productive Cycle

This process is integral for every design team. Things take on their own style at each company, but the aspects of innovative structure, culture, and leadership are present at every company that consistently creates. Successful teams develop a workflow that makes it easier and easier to come up with ideas as time goes on.

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