Design Thinking in office space design

According to the methodology, the office design process should begin with an analysis of the situation and the needs of space users. It is worth studying work organization in the given company, analyze a typical workday and consider the tools that employees use most frequently.
  • Design Thinking - what is it and where does it come from?

  • 5-stage process

  • How to apply this methodology in office design?

  • Benefits of Design Thinking

Design Thinking - what is it and where does it come from?

The notion of Design Thinking is becoming more and more common both on the Internet and in specialized publications. This concept is recognized by numerous authorities and proven useful in various processes. What exactly does it mean? How to effectively make use of this methodology in office interior design? What conclusions should a furniture producer arrive at?

Design Thinking constitutes a way to approach problem solving. At its core lies a focus on the real needs and motivations of the recipient. Exploring them leads to finding a solution and, consequently, to a satisfactory final result. While designing furniture and office spaces, it is crucial to know the work environment in advance in order to tailor-make solutions that will improve employee comfort of work. For instance, desks with electric height adjustment are created as a response to the sedentary work style.

In the 1960s, the concept of Design Thinking developed and gained popularity at Stanford University in California. David M. Kelley – a professor and co-founder of IDEO (one of the world's leading innovation and design companies) has contributed to spreading it around the world. He has been successfully creating new products and services for companies such as Apple, Shimano and GE. Donald Norman, an American researcher and professor and the author of "Design of Everyday Things", has also significantly contributed to implementing user-centered design. In his work, he presented a system of reflective holistic and functional design based on seven action steps that put the user in the center of development work. In theory and practice, the previously known "user tests" have been replaced by the concept of "user experience," to emphasize the key role of the user.

Design thinking can be implemented into many areas of life. It is used in project management, business development, product creation as well as private and commercial interior design. J. Kolko, the author of the article "Design Thinking Comes of Age" published in the Harvard Business Review, claims that Design Thinking can effectively support processes of project implementation, particularly in the area of innovation and creativity stimulation. This plays a particularly essential role while designing modern office interiors as they, above all, foster productive work and support the efficiency of employees. Thus, well-designed office furniture should not only look good, but also, boost work comfort and ergonomics.

5-stage Design Thinking process in interior and furniture design

Design Thinking features these two types of actions: a specific process divided into stages and a distinctive mindset with the right attitude. This methodology highlights the importance of collecting all project details, which are then profoundly analyzed. This serves to clarify not only what is necessary to solve the problem, but also to boost the efficiency. This way, the designed office furniture is functional and comfortable.

Design Thinking comprises of five basic pillars, the application of which determines the effectiveness of the method. These include:

- empathy

- problem definition (needs analysis)

- ideation

- prototyping

- testing

Let's take a closer look at each of these stages.


- Empathy is commonly understood as the ability to sympathize with others and understanding people’s feelings as well as perceiving the reality from their points of view. This is the base of any project made with Design Thinking. In order to find the right solution, put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. At this stage, it is worth analyzing the behavior of potential users. It might inspire you to investigate the ways to improve existing solutions. It is immensely relevant while designing comfortable office spaces.

- Problem definition (needs analysis) - the empathizing stage should be completed with the collection of data that constitute a starting point for building a realistic description of the situation with special attention to problematic elements. Inaccurate analysis may result in only a superficial solution to the problem, which will then translate into the failure of the entire project, thus unnecessary costs. Office furniture will not serve its purpose if it does not respond to the real needs of employees. The spaces not corresponding to their needs will not be used with pleasure.

- Ideation - the identified problem needs to be addressed properly. Getting rid of different kinds of limitations encourages new ideas. An illustration of a departure from a standard way of thinking is a conference table with a drywipe board function. The foldable structure and the possibility to make a whiteboard from a table responds to the need for more efficient space use and having multifunctional furniture pieces. Putting emphasis on the users' needs (in this case the need to quickly take notes) is combined with the right technology (dry-wipe top surface and folding system) as well as the requirements of work mode (business meetings).

- Prototyping is a stage that not only saves time and money, but also brings the project closer to the expected result. When the developed idea deviates from the real needs, presenting the prototype to the customer gives us an opportunity to make modifications to further work. When designing office interiors, a 3D visualization/model of the space allows the recipient to get acquainted with the proposed solution.

- Testing - during testing, the user should have a possibility to give feedback on the prototype so as to assess whether the proposal is an actual answer to their needs. If the prototype does not meet their expectations, the project should return to earlier stages. If it is approved, it can be implemented.

Design Thinking in designing office spaces - step by step

According to the methodology, the office design process should begin with an analysis of the situation and the needs of space users. It is worth studying work organization in the given company, analyze a typical workday and consider the tools that employees use most frequently. Employees drive businesses. Therefore, creating optimal working conditions for them translates into better functioning of the entire enterprise. MARO Office Furniture Factory offers to conduct a Work Environment Effectiveness Assessment, thanks to which designing a new office space or redesigning the current one will be much easier. Well-defined existing or potential problems contribute to limiting the risk of project failure.

The next step is to determine the objective. It is vital to think about the project creatively and cross-disciplinarily - using knowledge from various fields, such as sociology, HR, culture, architecture, space planning or technology. In the center of the whole process should be a person - the employee. The employee is the person who uses the space, so the solutions we introduce should be tailored just to their needs, and, at the same time, intuitive and easy to use for them. The goal is to create a space that employees will enjoy using. Insightful observation and an empathetic approach make it possible to understand motivations of the employee and better recognize their needs. Often, the users themselves are not aware of them and unable to point them out. Using our expertise, at MARO Office Furniture Factory, we are able to recognize these latent needs and design office furniture that improves the quality and ergonomics of work in modern spaces.

Our more than 30 years of experience in the office furniture industry helps our clients to design and rearrange their offices. Our guiding principle is to satisfy the users. We focus our efforts on the employee at every stage of the project. When creating new office spaces, we immerse ourselves in the client's world and their daily office life. It is of huge importance that the space designed with our office furniture responds to the needs of the users in the best possible way and benefits their work. After defining the existing problems, we find comprehensive solutions to them: we create a space design allowing for its effective use. Our prototype is a visualization, which allows you to see the new office in the form of a 3D model. Space visualizations engage emotionally and help to evaluate the project.

Design Thinking benefits

A study carried out by Ohio State University and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health found that improperly designed work spaces increase stress levels in employees. Design Thinking method, which puts the user's feelings in the center of attention, facilitates the design of a friendly environment that encourages the well-being and productivity of employees. Thanks to this methodology, we minimize the risk of unsuitable space arrangement as proper need identification in the initial design stage guides us towards the right solutions.

Another benefit of the application of Design Thinking approach is that it contributes to finding out-of-the-box solutions. Diverse user needs require openness in the exploration; hence the use of cross-field knowledge can be a major facilitator in coming up with the right solutions.

Design Thinking is a methodology worth using when designing office spaces. Not only does it make it possible to find innovative solutions, but also to verify and reject unhelpful ones. Thus, we avoid unnecessary costs and reduce the amount of extra work. The value of Design Thinking lies in its flexibility and shifting approach to problem solving.