by Danae Vélez de León - Interior Designer at Ikea México

Starting to create new ideas is always a complicated step, whether it´s to create a product, project, business, etc. Design can be a potential tool to shape an idea and be able to communicate it to others in a particular and essential way. The concept of “design” is often used in the context of arts, architecture, graphics, among other disciplines, precisely because design implies a visual representation of an idea. However, what is the role of design in the creative process and how can it influence a project or business?

Apart from being a way to visually communicate an idea, design is also a tool that guides our thoughts towards possibilities. One of the methodologies most used by companies is called “Design Thinking”, which, by using essential elements for a design, such as empathy and experimentation, can lead to innovative solutions.

This methodology was created at Stanford University in California, however, it was the design consultant IDEOU who first applied it to commercial projects. Initially this methodology was only related to product development, but today it is also used for the development of services, processes, experiences, business models, etc.

Using design tools makes it easier to identify what is currently desirable, from a user / customer-centered point of view, with what is technologically feasible and economically viable (1). This methodology inspired by the design process, can be divided into 6 actions:

  • TO EMPATIZE. The first step is to understand the context in which our problem arises, and to be clear about for who the idea, product, service, project, etc. is for, in order to analyze their needs and aspirations.
  • TO DEFINE. To filter the information collected about our context and user/client, in order to define the problem and understand the possible reach.
  • TO DEVISE. To generate ideas that can solve our problem no matter how crazy they sound, always keeping our user/client in mind.
  • TO PROTOTYPE. This will help us quickly convert an idea or concept into a physical and tangible form. At the same time that will allow us to identify the technological scope of our idea.
  • TO TRY. It is advisable to test the prototypes with real users/clients, to be able to improve all versions for their final release.
  • TO IMPLEMENT. To put the vision into practice.

A case of business success through “Design Thinking” is the example of Airbnb, which in 2009 did not generate much profit. However, whe

n one of its founders (Joe Gebbia) learned about the methodology at the Rhode Island School of Design, they began to focus more on the user´s experience, improving the quality of the photos, and modifying the star rating system by hearts, a week later the profits were doubled (2).

Contrary to popular belief, design is much more than aesthetics and colours. It also involves functional and technical issues, by solving problems through a process that allows to understand and to connect with the user/client in order to generate innovative ideas to create or improve projects, services, experiences and/or businesses.


  1. IDEO.
  2. Díaz, Javier. Negocios y emprendimiento. Airbnb, un caso de éxito del Design Thinking. Enero de 2017.
  3. Nielsen Norman Group. What Is Design Thinking, Really?


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