11 sectors that have been revolutionized by design thinking

Updated: Sep 17


Design thinking leads to innovative solutions, success and business growth across industries. It helps with conceptualizing and devising products while giving a voice to the end-users. Nowadays organizations consciously include the people they design for in shaping the decisions when it comes to creating new digital and physical experiences. The unprecedented success of design thinking lies within the iterative process driven by empathy, ideation, prototyping, and testing to deliver services and products that satisfy people’s desires, as well as their latent needs.


The method’s impact differs for each industry, but it systematically helps brands stay ahead of their game. Combining individual skill sets, extraordinary minds, perspective, and background help harvesting the fruits of creativity. Even though you might find the implementation of the method challenging at first, if you are aiming for innovation and customer satisfaction, building a design-optimized organizational culture is certainly a must.


But you don’t need to take our word for it. Take a look at this list of industries that have been uplifted by the implementation of design thinking and are now bringing extraordinary results to the table:


1. Health Care and Medicine


Design thinking is piercing various aspects of our lives, including healthcare, even though adopting approaches that can make everyone’s life better takes time. Many medical professionals across the world are implementing the method as a way to make the patient’s hospital experience and healing process more pleasant. Believe it or not, there are hospitals that no longer look at the patient as if they were an ATM machine that they can drain financially by forcing them into healthcare programs that are not relevant to their treatment. Also, medical students are now using empathy to address the voids when it comes to patient care, especially if the suffering feels a bit alienated from the outside worlds by the illness.


According to the Board of Innovation, 2020 will be dedicated to health technology with a human touch. The rising trust in technology is finally triggering a disruptive change in the healthcare industry. There are a few startups that are using people’s health-related information in order to predict illnesses or medical conditions. For instance, Startup Ciitizen is working towards giving cancer patients access to their own health records and the Medopad company has developed an app that compiles and analyzes health data from patient wearables, mobile devices, and medical bodies to predict chronic diseases. Soon online doctor’s visits and non-invasive operations via robots will also be possible across the world because of 5G. Thus, healthcare corporations and startups should no longer think only about the treatment and diagnosis of the patients, but also about providing a reliable, easily accessible, and user-friendly patient environment with short communication lines and personal interactions.


2. Public sector


Governments across Europe are now turning to design thinking when it comes to policymaking and designing efficient public services. The main goal is to equip themselves with innovative approaches to face contemporary challenges, related to economic, social, environmental patterns, as well as to regain the trust of citizens. Framing the problem correctly from the start is a pre-condition for effective policy formulation, development, adoption, and implementation. Professionals, citizens, and representatives from the private sector are all included in the process. They are no longer considered merely passive receivers at the end of the regulatory, administrative and public service delivery chain.


It is quite remarkable that the governments of countries like Denmark, Finland, Estonia, France, Latvia, and Ireland are adopting design thinking. It is a well-known fact that in 2012, when Helsinki was proclaimed the world's design capital, Finland invested an unprecedented € 17 000 000 to promote service design opportunities. Several years ago, the Irish government also invested € 5,000,000 in raising awareness of the benefits of design thinking. The impact report from this national campaign shows that 370 new service design companies have been created.

3. Space exploration


The topic of space exploration thrills people around the world because of the new missions being designed and new careers being foreseen. There is also a possibility that humans might start living elsewhere. Space exploration will require - and has always been about - reaching the limit of our technology and bringing people beyond. Individuals facing these challenges must train their creativity, critical thinking, perseverance among other important skills.


In recent years space exploration is driven not only by scientific genius but by artists and designers. They collaborate with astrophysicists to create visuals that explain the concepts of a certain mission more clearly. Some of NASA’s scientists have also established a “storytelling initiative” that empowers their colleagues. By understanding and articulating the bigger picture behind their concepts, scientists ground their genius with human needs. “So when these missions materialize for the rest of the planet, these ideas are not alien abstractions, but public admiration”, points out an article in Digital Surgeons.


4. Education


Design thinking has the ability to reconnect educators to their creativity and aspirations so that they can help the students develop their own skills further. A lot of practitioners are now flexibly customizing the design thinking process so that they could fit their specific environments. There are 4 essential modes that teachers are focusing on when implementing the method: leading with empathy, challenging assumptions, making experiments happen, and sharing their creative progress.


Empathy is the root of human-centered design and professionals cultivate it by listening to their students more. They believe that learning should not adapt to pedantic or regulations, rather to the student’s needs. Challenging assumptions and reframing the problems is also critical for letting children innovate and learn by experimenting. But design cannot thrive in isolation, so teachers and professors share their experience with implementing the design thinking approach so that they can inspire others to try and benefit from using the method.


5. The world of retail


For the Swedish furniture giant Ikea design thinking is at the heart of the company’s creative process. All of its products are designed according to the five dimensions of their “Democratic Design” principle: form, function, quality, sustainability, and affordability. The story behind the creation of a product can be crucial when deciding if you are going to get a certain piece of furniture or not. Storytelling also creates a strong emotional connection with the customer.


Design thinking is also assuming a more prominent role when it comes to fashion. For instance, Nike, which we mentioned in our previous blog post, has a team of more than 1,000 designers who strive for innovation and experimentation. “The company partnered with DreamWorks to build a 3D digital design system and its Nike By You Studio, which uses augmented reality, object tracking, and projection systems to allow users to make custom shoes they can then pick up just an hour later, has won over customers with its “live-design experience”, says an article in Brain Station.


6. Food and beverage industry


Previously, we also talked about Indra Nooyi’s impact on the development of PepsiCo when she implemented design thinking at the core of creating every product and service related to the brand. Before she came along, the company was perceived as a sinking ship that couldn’t retain its investors or sales. PepsiCo tried to capture what appealed to their target customers and use that data to renovate their products. Sales grew up to 80 percent during the 12 years Nooyi served as CEO. Now the company has not only reclaimed its position on the market but has also inspired other brands to create personalized customer experiences via design thinking.


The method plays an essential part of Starbucks’ success as well. In 2008 they had to close more than 600 shops after the economic collapse and the shift in senior leadership. After conducting research with their customers, they realized they needed their stores to better reflect their local environments. This posed a problem considering their designers were all based at their Seattle headquarters. Now the company has designers all over the world and has launched a series of impressive design studios.

7. Entertainment


Netflix and Amazon Prime have reached new heights when it comes to online video streaming. Their audiences are watching their favourite shows when it is most convenient for them from any location suitable. But only several years ago things were way different because entertainment was cable dependent and consumers couldn’t access their favourite shows whenever they had free time to spare.


The first brand to introduce the idea of satellite and cable independent subscription-based entertainment was HBO. The company turned to design thinking to reshape the shows and user-experiences. The tailor-made original programs were based on the customers’ needs and behaviors. That’s how the company was able to revolutionize the audience experience and come up with consumer-inspired solutions. Moreover, HBO opened up to iterative prototyping and saved considerable expenses while launching products that customers loved.


8. The banking industry


The financial sector isn’t always associated with progressive problem-solving, but in recent years the world’s biggest banks have seen the benefits of implementing design thinking. Following the footsteps of Bank of America, who obtained thousands of new customers with their “Keep the change” program, other major actors were also able to see the disruptive nature of the method.


Capital One contacted design firms Adaptive Path and Monsoon and focused on empathy and user-centricity in order to create a series of new digital features, including an emoji-enabled chatbot and GPS-tracked transaction histories. Two years ago the company launched a 42,000-square-foot Innovation Center. On the other hand, investment company JPMorgan Chase hired former Yahoo design executive Tim Parsey. Soon after that, they updated its app with features meant to improve the mobile banking experience by weaving in local imagery. They wanted to create an experience that started with emotion and thrived to humanize the user experience.


9. Travel and hospitality


Airbnb’s rise in the travel industry was possible by improving customer experience. Only a few years ago, the company’s sales were dropping. Although they started looking for cracks in the business strategy. It turned out that the listings had low-quality pictures attached to them. When the company replaced the amateur photos with high-quality images, their revenues doubled within a week in 2009. The company also focused on the user and provided all kinds of product details to help them make an informed buying decision, sales and revenue shot up. In fact, co-founder Joe Gebbia says that it was design thinking that helped the company grow from a struggling startup to a billion-dollar company.


Another success story - Hyatt Hotels connected with the Design School at Stanford University in 2011 to explore the human-centered innovation concepts and later focused on creating caring experiences for both guests and employees. They also turned 10 of their properties into innovation labs, where they experimented with lighting, furniture, and rooms. At the same time, Crowne Plaza teamed with the design firm IDEO to improve the experience of its business travelers. The result was a free-to-use new meeting and working experience housed in Crowne Plaza lobbies that includes meeting spaces, food, and beverage options, full service, and digital features.

10. The Tech Industry


Ever since Thomas John Watson Jr. of IBM claimed that “good design is good business,” design thinking has become a pillar principle for successful tech companies worldwide. Design thinking has helped the Chinese mobile brand Vivo to understand and connect with its customers in a highly competitive market. The company realized how crucial the method was and started crafting their products to target the young consumer market in China.


The company built a concept store as a way to promote their brand values in a more tangible way. A research the company made revealed that young customers look for opportunities that will expose them to new experiences, enrich them personally and help them build their knowledge and skills. So Vivo created multimedia units that customers can interact with in order to improve their overall experience. Design-driven companies have maintained a significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P 500 by 211 percent between 2005 and 2015, according to the Design Management Institute.


11. The Automotive Industry


Only a handful of companies can match the audacity of Elon Musk and Tesla Motors when it comes to big, bold and extraordinary ideas. The company is using design thinking to create industry-shifting innovations and inspiring user experiences throughout its stores. Interestingly enough, when Franz von Holzhausen joined Tesla in 2008, the company wasn’t exactly thriving. Nowadays Tesla is making futuristic vehicles with gorgeous designs and using a holistic approach to meet the rising needs of its customers. In February 2019, the Model 3 passed the Chevrolet Volt to become the all-time best-selling electric car in the U.S.


Audi and Hyundai have recently opened new design studios and Toyota has the intention of creating a prototype of the city of the future, where it will test autonomous vehicles. Even traditional companies are shifting their focus towards the iteration method. “Design thinking is about addressing a number of layers in a problem,” says designer Jim Hackett who was hired as CEO by Ford. He announced that he will use design thinking to keep the 100-plus-year-old automaker relevant.


Design thinking has the ability to transform businesses and improve sales. The method can help professionals take their businesses to the next level while saving a lot of money, effort and time in the long run. Any conventional company can turn into a progressive organization when it starts using design thinking. Design is not limited to the look and feel of any product but extends to its functionality. Even simple changes in product presentation or customer experience can enhance the way people see your company.


- Fabrica 360

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