5 design thinking examples from real-life companies

Ana Vilar García

Design thinking is now an old acquaintance for many, partly thanks to the many success stories from companies that used it. Let’s take a look at 5 different examples of design thinking, applied to companies from different industries: traveling, banking, electronics, food ordering, and hardware.

1. Airbnb

Joe Gebbia and Paul Graham, co-founders of Airbnb, have explained how going through graphics, prototypes, and especially user experience, helped the company go from making 200$ a week to what it is today.

One key moment of Airbnb’s design-thinking process was realizing the hosts’ pictures were throwing off users. Users weren’t booking apartments because of the lack of appeal of the images, so the team went to the hosts so they could look more attractive to users. Said and done — Graham and Gebbia went to New York, rented a camera, and replaced the amateur photos with professional-looking ones. 

After this move, Airbnb’s revenue doubled.


This Spanish bank is a good example of design thinking used to improve user experience, but also employee experience

In 2014,  BBVA wanted to develop a new app that could help users in a quicker and better way. This seed ended up being the start of a design-first approach for the whole company. The bank opted for focusing on attracting UX designers, an agile mindset and an operation based on design thinking

An outcome from this design-first approach is the improvement of BBVA’s ATMs. Along with IDEO, BBVA redesigned their ATMs, resulting in a simplified service, with more privacy and a better visualization. This improvement came from a deep study of the field and a prototype that focused deepy on the user.

According to Víctor García, Design & UX Discipline Manager at BBVA, all the design thinking efforts carried out at the company increased brand recognition by 90%.

3. Braun & Oral-B

Braun is one the most design-conscious brands there are, and this spirit is still present today in the shape of design thinking. Back in the 60’s and the 70’s, Braun’s industrial designer Dieter Rams revolutionized the look and feel of day-a-day tools such a hair dryer, a squeezer, or a shaver. 

But their revolution didn’t end up here. Braun keeps on being one of the most innovative companies in its sector, and still leads it. One good example of this is the ideation of the Oral-B toothbrushes for children. In order to encourage children to brush their teeth properly, Oral-B started a research phase based on design thinking. With its outcomes, Oral-B spotted some obstacles regarding the shape of the toothbrush and the children’s hands, and came up with a toothbrush that features a better holding, oriented to kids. 

Apart from this revolutionary change in design, Oral B is also responsible for coming up with the best-seller electric toothbrush, and later on for upgrading it to a smarter toothbrush, with technology that features a sophisticated data-tracking system or detects sensitive gums, among others. 

4. UberEats

UberEats’ design team often talks about the importance of design thinking in the ideation of the services and its further iteration. UberEats is based on an immersive design technique that analyzes the field, tests, and iterates constantly.

Paul Clayton Smith, Head of Design at UberEats, says it is essential to immerse the team in the places where Uber Eats’ customers eat, so they can understand different markets, how the product fits the context, and understand the experiences of every user.

Apart from being loyal to the design thinking process, UberEats also goes for corporate innovation, by holding innovation events where team members from different departments can brainstorm and spot improvements for the service.

5. Apple

Another example from IDEO — the Apple mouse. During the 80’s, Apple needed to design a mouse to be used along with Macintosh, and IDEO was responsible for it. The challenge was not only to come up with an idea of an almost new object (the Xerox Alto in 1973  was one of the first computers that incorporated a mouse), but also to execute it with 10% of the budget, compared to previous models.

In order to achieve this, IDEO designed a simple nucleus that featured different elements to use the mouse: a ball that allowed movement and a tactile system to interact with the screen. David M. Kelley (CEO at IDEO at that moment) said the testing phase was crucial in this case, for instance in order to determine the relation between the screen dimensions and the mouse movement dimensions. The team soon understood that the human brain would fix the differences in distances, and hence be able to move the cursor through the screen without difficulties.

This process contributed to reducing production costs and to ideate one of the most iconic tools from the last decades.

If you too are looking to disrupt your own sector and like Corporate Lab's methodology based on design thinking, drop us a line.

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