How Design Thinking Changed the Game for These Top 5 Brands

How Design Thinking Changed the Game for These Top 5 Brands | Product Design & Innovation | Emeritus

Wonder why different companies like Apple, Samsung, Google and PepsiCo all seem to be consistently on top of their game? It is because of one common factor – thinking out of the box or disruptive design thinking. These are companies who put their customers, their needs and expectations first – at the centre of the creative process.   

Decoding Design Thinking

The specific term “design thinking” was coined in the 1990’s by David Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO, with Roger Martin. It summarized methods and ideas into a single unified concept. Wikipedia defines design thinking as a “term used to represent a set of cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts (proposals for products, buildings, machines, communications, etc.) are developed.”  

While this holds true in theory, design thinking has evolved into an innovative concept that’s being used to:

  • shape new business opportunities
  • grow core businesses
  • generate profits from new products and services, and more

Design thinking market size is anticipated to rise at a considerable rate during the forecast period, by 2027. In essence, design thinking uses a human-centred approach to analyse customer needs and creative problem-solving to develop and provide value-based products and services that are technologically feasible and economically viable, instead of relying on statistical data or business assumptions. When you ask the right questions, you can arrive at the right answers to deliver results. 

product design coursesThe solution-based methodology of design thinking involves five basic stages, 

  • Empathise 
  • Define  
  • Ideate  
  • Prototype 
  • Test  

The Impact of Design Thinking

5 world renowned brands have applied design thinking to turn the tide and make an impact. Such as: 


On the verge of a crisis in 2009, the founders of Airbnb realized that there was a need to improve their product design process. Using the five-stage Design Thinking process, they began to identify the flaws that were responsible for not garnering enough views or footfalls. Their ads featured property images that were plagued with issues – from poor image quality, missing images, and obscure smartphone images. This helped define their core problem. 

AirBnb then replaced these amateur photos with high-quality images on their site and began to see revenues doubling quickly. Customers were able to view and choose what they wanted and in turn were willing to spend their money accordingly.  


Apple was facing a lot of competition in the 1980s and the early 1990s with its traditional approaches to develop its products. It eventually transformed under the leadership of Steve Jobs and is currently valued at close to$2.08 trillion as of March 2021. The company has consistently used design thinking to drive its processes and uses a customer-centric approach to build prototypes and test them with end-users to understand consumer needs. 

For instance, the “I” in its specialized line of products is a simple testament to the personalized and empathetic use of design thinking for its products and services be it iTunes, iPhones, or iPods. 

Pittsburgh Hospital  

MRI scans can be a nerve-wracking medical procedure for both kids and adults. Spending up to an hour in a closed space with a loud noise can be uncomfortable. When the hospital realized that this was proving to be a major deterrent for kids especially, they chose to come up with a creative solution called gamification for smaller patients. 

They transformed each MRI device into kid-themed play areas such as a pirate ship, a spacecraft, or mermaid kingdom. What was an uncomfortable procedure is now fun!  Additionally, through this, they noticed a reduction in usage of sedatives composing drugs 19% less often. They did all this without reworking the expensive MRI machines.  


Indra Nooyi used solution-driven design thinking to revive the sales of the company. She helped re-define its innovation process and post-production experience for customers.  Pepsi Spire is a classic example of design thinking done the right way. The company’s new touch screen fountain machine became interactive for its consumers. It can track purchases and make suggestions based on previous consumption history to create a new way for customers to experience Pepsi. (Source)  

Bank of America 

It was getting increasingly difficult to get people to sign up for new accounts in the bank back in the early 2000’s. Bank of America was targeting a specific customer base and wanted to ensure they would open accounts with them. Using customer-centric creative design thinking, they analysed the ethnographic details of their customer base, understood their needs and behavioural patterns with regards to money. 

Based on these results, Bank of America came up with a very successful campaign – “Keep the Change”. This empathy-led approach helped them understand customers better and deliver tailor-made solutions and convert potential customers. 

How can you learn?

As you can tell, design thinking isn’t just about redesigning products or packaging, but creating better experiences for consumers. You can do this through interactions with their brands and services by creating seamless processes and designs. Companies see greater ROIs, enhanced customer loyalty, foster a work culture of creative storytelling, problem-solving, innovation and so much more.  

Related Content: What is Product Design and is it a Good Career?

Keeping up with the dynamic trends, Emeritus offers top-line courses that can help you gain expertise in this dynamic domain. Click here to learn more: Innovation and Design Thinking

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About the Author

Editor, Emeritus Blog
Preethi is the chief brand storyteller for Emeritus, who steers the editorial ship using her 14+ years of experience in leading content teams. She has written extensively for reputed publications as a journalist and was at the helm of content strategy for fast-growing brands. She pursues good stories and loves bringing unique ideas to life. Emeritus has affirmed her faith in the life-changing impact education can have on people. Preethi is also a dedicated plant parent and obsessed with all things Turkish. Çay, anyone?
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