Design Thinking in Top Industries

Design thinking is a structured methodology of using design to conceptualise and device products. Much of design thinking’s success owes to its ability to address latent human needs. It uses an iterative process driven by empathy, ideation, prototyping and testing to create products that deliver improved user experience. Companies using design thinking doesn’t just limit its use to designing the products but also how consumers interact with it and by extension with their brand.

Design thinking has become a pet phrase for many successful businesses today but its impacts are very circumstantial and differ for each industry. It helps brands stay ahead of the curve by driving innovation in a business environment. A human-centric approach towards problem-solving makes it an effective bridge between brands and customers. Experts use it for enhancing both physical and digital experiences of products and services. Companies resorting to design thinking consider design much more than a phase or a department –  in fact, it shapes the entire thought behind business goals. 
Building a design-optimised company culture will certainly drive more innovation and customer satisfaction. If you are wondering how different industries benefit from design thinking, we have compiled a list of case studies to help you understand how it can be applied in each context. 


The rise of online video streaming might have reached new heights today with players like Netflix and Amazon Prime leading the scene, but even a decade back satellite independent entertainment was an obscure idea. Today, consumers are watching their favourite shows at a time convenient to them and from locations/devices suitable to them. However, the scene was quite different a few years back, when entertainment was cable dependent and consumers couldn’t access their favourite shows at their own discretion. Back then HBO became the first brand to introduce the idea of satellite and cable independent subscription based entertainment. 

HBO turned to design thinking to revamp their product and user experience. Eventually it became a pioneer in the entertainment industry to introduce an on-demand online viewing experience. They used design thinking to understand customer behaviour and design a product that would address their customer needs aptly. They crafted the first-of-its-kind HBO original shows which were based on key customer behaviours and engaged audiences like never before. Design thinking helped HBO reimagine the audience experience and create a roadmap for delivering consumer-inspired products. As part of their design thinking strategy, HBO implemented iterative prototyping and saved considerable expenses while launching products that customers loved. 


In the 2000s PepsiCo was seen as a sinking ship which couldn’t retain its investors or sales. As a way to address this issue, PepsiCo shifted the brand’s focus towards a holistic consumer experience through design thinking. They tried to capture what appealed to their target customers and used that data to ideate for a renovated product. After cycles of prototyping what finally emerged was a series of products which established the brand’s values of putting the customer first. The Pepsi Spire was the first in the series of products to communicate these values to the consumer. Design was the key driver behind all their innovations leading to successful customer-product interaction. 
User experience was not a part of PepsiCo’s business strategy until the early 2010s. Whether it was their product packaging, form or function, a human element was missing in the design. Once they focused on customer experience and made design a priority, customers responded by engaging with the brand more. Today, a decade later PepsiCo has not only reclaimed their position in the market but also inspired other brands to introduce lines of products designed specifically for personalized consumer profiles. Read more about PepsiCo’s journey here. 


Persuading people to open bank accounts can be quite a daunting task, especially in a competitive market. In the 2000s Bank of America wanted to target a specific customer base and inspire them to open accounts with them. As part of their strategy, Bank of America utilised the ethnographic details of their customer base to understand their requirements and behavioural patterns. They moved their business to where it truly belonged- amidst people to observe how they interacted with money. A simple discovery, that people in charge of household finances round up their figures for easier calculation led to a very successful campaign – “Keep the Change”. This design thinking approach resulted in understanding customers better and delivering tailor-made solutions.
Empathy is the central motif in design thinking and Bank of America banked on it to convert potential customers. Once they realised that rounding up the numbers not only made calculations easier but also gave a buffer in spending, they approached these families with a customised service – expenditures made with a debit card could be round up and the overage amount would be transferred to their savings account automatically. Additionally, the bank would match up this transferred amount to a certain dollar amount. This scheme helped people who were struggling with savings and needless to say, became very popular and drew in thousands of customers.

Another bank tapping into Design Thinking is ABN AMRO, one of the leaders in the field of design thinking. A major proponent of Dutch design, ABN AMRO sponsors the Dutch Design Week. Services such as Apple pay, have become easy to use and are a preferred way to make payments, and banks need to adapt to these changing patterns. The bank has its innovation center, this trains employees to become design thinkers and come up with more innovative outcomes.


Design thinking can transform a company from being conventional to progressive. Even simple changes in product presentation can enhance customer experiences and improve sales. Airbnb’s rise in the travel and lodging industry was aided by simple design thinking elements. In the late 2000s, when the company’s sales were dropping to new lows, the founders started looking for flaws in their business strategy. What came out of their deep dive were simple yet non-scalable changes. However, the founders were quick to realize that not all business strategies need to be scalable to be successful. When they finally allowed themselves to pursue these non-scalable changes, Airbnb saw a steep rise in their revenues.
The changes that we are talking about here were design changes. A close look at their listings revealed that the property images were of low quality and obscure. When they replaced these amateur photos with high quality images, their revenues doubled within a week in 2009. People were finally willing to spend their money on what they saw and they saw high resolution images of quality properties. When the founders focused more on the customer experience and provided all kinds of product details to help them make an informed buying decision, sales and revenue shot up.

Another successful case from the travel and food industry is UberEATS. UberEATS designs improvements in the way people find their food. It combines brand new technology with the very old, fundamental activity of enjoying cuisine. Designers at UberEats love logistical challenges and culture. They take pride in being able to connect with people across the world, from various backgrounds and food habits. They have used various techniques such as A/B testing and Operations team experiments to come up with the most suitable strategies. Introducing design thinking to a basic concept such as food delivery has helped improve the brand to a great extent. The design team constantly seeks to innovate and were able to expand to 80 cities worldwide in a short span of time.


Design is not limited to the look and feel of any product but extends to its functionality. Chinese mobile brand Vivo understood how crucial design is for a product and crafted their products to target the young consumer market in China. Vivo built a brand experience that transcended their products and established a connection between the brand and its young customers. Vivo built a concept store as a way to promote their brand values in a more tangible way. A market research 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. Vivo’s concept store implemented design elements to feature photo booths, lighting technology and sound recordings. Customers engaged with these multimedia units to try Vivo’s improved user experience.
Design thinking helped Vivo to understand and connect with its customers in a highly competitive market. Thanks to the concept store, customers now associate the ideas of fun learning with the brand. 
Design thinking has the ability to transform businesses and improve sales. Certifications in design thinking can help professionals take their businesses to the next level and climb the corporate ladder faster. Institutes like Great Learning has helped professionals to become experts in design thinking and advance their careers and businesses. If design thinking has already piqued your interest, click here to learn more about it. You can also check out a design thinking program curriculum to understand what these courses offer. 



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