I'm confused. I have been searching a lot and can't find the difference in between them.

Even the processes are quite similar. 1. Empathy/Analysis/Research 2.Define 2.Ideate 3. Prototype 4. Test

Change the words but the design process is basically the same. They both have the user as the key center point.

What is the difference in between them?


3 Answers 3


Both DT and UCD is about putting your self in the shoes of the user.

I would say the main difference is that Design Thinking is a method to develop solutions which nail the actual problem which the user has, which are not mainly User Interface related. It can be service design orientated, or to come up with a new product idea, etc. I would even take the bold move to say that DT is mainly about Ideation.

Whereas UCD focus area is HCI (human computer interaction). It has indeed the same process steps. But UCD is way more restrained in terms of "when to use which method or tool" since it is clearly focused on User Interfaces. Other than that, the toolset which Design Thinking brings to the table is extremely valuable for the discovery/research phase in UCD.

In my career as an UX specialist I've been often asked to explain the Design Thinking methodology. It is heavily related to each other, but UX has it's clear focus on User Interfaces. Well at least if you want to make this clear definition of what UX is ;) I'm not a friend of this "UX is everything" talk, this doesn't help anyone understanding UX ;)

  • 2
    +1 I like the explanation, and perhaps to clarify I think both DT and UCD are philosophies/approaches to design that can be implemented through various methodologies (like Agile and Lean). As UCD is not only limited to UX but about CX as well, I would say that the focus on UI is mainly due to the fact that we haven't explored enough options outside the glass screen when it comes to user interfaces.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 0:15

There isn't much difference, but I have found a pretty good blog post that I think explains it well.


  • +1 for informative link, but I think a good answer should also contain brief summary of linked content. The relevant part from link is "In effect, IDEO have developed a bit more the “ideate” phase, and a lot of tools are available to designers for it (...) So, from my viewpoint, “Design Thinking” is one specific implementation within the UCD framework. "
    – tlegutko
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 12:26

Hi :) I agree that there isn't much difference. They both embody the same principles of incorporating empathy into a design (here is an awesome infographic on design thinking to help you out: http://ux.walkme.com/the-5-pillars-of-the-design-thinking-process/), along with incorporating user feedback. In addition, one of the major concepts is simply incorporating the mindset that the product is being designed for the user in order to satisfy their needs and desires.

  • Could you copy and paste (or describe) some of the relevant information.
    – Mayo
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 14:08
  • I strongly suggest clicking the link, I can't copy the infographic which really does contain a lot of insightful information.In a nutshell however, a design approach is solution-focused versus problem-focused and is geared toward ensuring a more groundbreaking future for the company. The framework allows for innovative designs geared toward the user and improving their experience. Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 15:26
  • 1
    Hey Megan, the reason why you need to either copy and paste or describe the link is because if the link were to, for some reason, be removed, the OP has a way of understanding your answer without a third party link.
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 13:07
  • Please add more detail to this answer. See this post on the main Meta site for details as to why link-only answers aren't really answers: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8231/…
    – JonW
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 13:49

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