Design Thinking and Visual Thinking

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Often, I am asked what the differences are between design thinking and visual thinking, which seem very similar. Both are increasingly used to stimulate innovation and creativity within organizations. They place the human at the center and encourage collaborative work. They promote "out of the box" thinking by relying on graphic and visual representations.

These two approaches are distinguished by their process and their purpose. Design thinking is an iterative process that seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions that can be prototyped and tested. It is an analytical approach that follows successive stages, from understanding the client's needs to designing and testing innovative solutions. Moreover, design thinking is beginning to lead to dedicated university degrees (e.g., Stanford's, while visual thinking is not yet represented in academic curricula.

On the other hand, visual thinking is a more intuitive approach that uses visual methods and tools to make group work easier and more effective. It aims to capture, organize, understand, and memorize ideas and information, stimulate everyone's creativity and participation, and provide visibility and readability. Visual thinking does not necessarily follow a linear process, but it uses all "visual" cognitive resources to better think, understand, learn, memorize, and communicate.

Although design thinking and visual thinking share many common points, especially the importance given to the human and collaboration, they are distinguished by their process and their purpose. In the end, they enrich each other and are very complementary.