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What’s the difference between human-centered design and design thinking?

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving. It’s the backbone of all our work at IDEO. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are purpose-built to suit their needs. Human-centered design is about cultivating deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually, putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

Design thinking, as IDEO's CEO Tim Brown explains, is a human-centered approach to innovation. It draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. Successful innovations rely on some element of human-centered design research while balancing other elements. Design thinking helps achieve that balance. It lets people find the sweet spot of feasibility, viability and desirability while considering the real needs and desires of people.