Design thinking Process Model

Searching the web, you will see a plethora of design thinking process models that help explain what happens, when, to what, and why in the design process. When we use models, we aim to define steps in the design process. They can be linear, circular or iterative. Over the years, design thinking models have used a variety of terms, and they have differences and similarities in their stages. There is no one ‘right’ model. You may even be tempted to develop your own to suit a new context. The Table presents some of the best-known ones.[i] Analyzing the stages, Waloszek concludes that, despite some differences, the main stages in the design thinking process are similar among all models.[ii]

For a quick overview of a variety of process models, see Yavari, H. (n.d.). Design thinking methodologies.

Variety and similarity among design thinking process models

YearSourceComponents of the process model
2001IDEO/ Deloitte/ (Deepdive)Understand and observe > Synthesise > Visualise > Prototype, evaluate, and refine > Implement[iii]
2005British Design CouncilDiscover > Define > Develop > Deliver[iv] StanfordEmpathise > Define > Ideate > Prototype > Test[v] ParisInspiration (Understand, Observe, POV) > Ideation (Ideate, Prototype, Test) > Implementation (Storytelling, Pilot, Business Model)[vi]
2011Hasso Plattner Institute of DesignUnderstand > Observe > Point of View > Ideate > Prototype > Test[vii]
2011KolkoDefine > Discover > Synthesise > Construct > Refine > Reflect[viii]
2012HCD - Human Centred DesignHear > Create > Deliver[ix]
2012IDEODiscover > Interpret > Ideate > Experiment > Evolve[x]
2013Google VenturesUnderstand > Define > Diverge > Decide > Prototype[xi]
2014Designing for GrowthWhat is? > What if? > What wows? > What works?[xii]
2015PontisUnderstand > Empathise > Define > Ideate > Prototype > Test[xii]
2016Meinel, Von ThienenEmpathise > Define persona > Ideate > Test prototypes > Bring home[xiii]

We have integrated these models, and in Figure we present the seven-step ‘Etappe Design Thinking Process Model’ (etappe references the title of this book, Entrepreneurship Theory Process Practice, and also means ‘step’ in French) with its associated steps, goals, and methods.[xv]

Design thinking Process Model
The Etappe design thinking process model. Frederick, H. H., O’Connor, A., & Kuratko, D. F. (2019). Entrepreneurship Theory Process Practice (5th Asia-Pacific edition). p, 198. Retrieved from

See also The Mind of the Design Entrepreneur

[i] For a quick overview of a variety of process models, see Yavari, H. (n.d.). Design thinking methodologies.; Drahun, G. (2017). Design thinking diagrams.

[ii] Waloszek, G. (2012, September 12). Introduction to design thinking. .

[iii] Kelley, T. (2001). The art of innovation: Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading design firm (Vol. 10). Broadway Business.

[iv] British Design Council (2005). The design process: What is the double diamond?

[v] Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (2010). An introduction to design thinking process guide.

[vi] Paris (2011). Design thinking.

[vii] Plattner, H., Meinel, C., & Weinberg, U. (2011). Design thinking : Innovation lernen – Ideenwelten öffnen. München: mi-Wirtschaftsbuch.

[viii] Kolko, J. (2011). Thoughts on interaction design. Elsevier, 44.

[ix] IDEO (2015). Design kit: The human-centered design toolkit. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from; Acumen + HCD (2009). The human-centered design toolkit.

[x] IDEO LLC, & Riverdale Country School (2012). Design thinking for educators toolkit, 15.

[xi] Knapp, J. (2013, June 24). How to conduct your own Google Ventures design sprint.; Knapp, J., Zeratsky, J., & Kowitz, B. (2016). Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days. New York: Simon & Schuster; Sniukas, M., Lee, P., Morasky, M., Andres Pabon, T., & LLC Gildan Media (n.d.). The art of opportunity: How to build growth and ventures through strategic innovation and visual thinking. Gildan Media, LLC

[xii] Liedtka & Ogilvie (2014). Designing for growth.

[xiii] Pontis, S. (2015, June 4). Design thinking revised. Retrieved from Mapping Complex Information. Theory and Practice website:

[xiv] Meinel, C., & von Thienen, J. (2016). Aktuelles schlagwort: Design thinking. Informatik Spektrum, 39(4), 310–14.

[xv] Sources relied upon for this model: Plattner, Meinel, & Weinberg (2011). Design thinking : Innovation lernen – Ideenwelten öffnen; hannacharlottes (2014). Design thinking – Prozess | Denkwerkzeuge im Wissensmanagement. Retrieved from; Liedtka, Ogilvie, & Brozenske (2014). The designing for growth field book; Ratcliffe, J. (2009). Steps in a design thinking process: Process model from design thinking : Innovation lernen – Ideenwelten öffnen. Retrieved from; Pontis, S. (2015, June 4). Design thinking revised. Retrieved from; Thoring, K., & Mueller, R. (2011). Understanding design thinking: A process model based on method engineering. Paper presented at International Conference On Engineering And Product Design Education, E&Pde’11. Retrieved from

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