How design thinking can be a differentiator for your agency

Design thinking is to promote people’s well-being as much as possible by solving their problems; know the methodology and know how to apply it to your agency

Design thinking is a set of methods and tools that combine empathy, creativity and rationality to meet users’ needs. Within the branches, it can be used both to improve internal processes and to solve customer pain, in an innovative way.

When it comes to innovation, design thinking is a recurrent theme in the discussions. It is always remembered as one of the possible ways to generate value and create differentiated solutions. By the way, Tim Brown , CEO of IDEO , one of the pioneers in the subject, argues that this is a powerful method to decree the end of old ideas and solve problems in a creative and innovative way. WOOW!

What is design thinking?

Even though the name “design” is associated with the beauty and/or quality of a certain product, in this context it has a much broader meaning. Its purpose is to promote people’s well-being as much as possible and solve their problems. The design here, more than beauty, proposes a new work culture.

From a more practical point of view, we can say that design thinking is a set of methods, tools and techniques that guide thinking and create solutions based on the customer’s needs, desires, problems and concerns through a series of surveys, generating ideas, prototypes and tests. The difference here is that this process is organized based on empathy.

But what is so special about design thinking?

This whole frenzy about design thinking happens because it encourages the company to adopt a more humane way of working and with an intense perception of others. It places the human being (customer, user, beneficiary) in the focus of the solution. In other words, it’s what we call Human Centered Design, or human-centered design. And it is by promoting this “empathetic look” that the solutions arising from this process tend to add value in a more perceptible way to the user. That’s where the magic lies.

But it is precisely because it is a methodology so focused on solving the other’s problem that its success begins with a good briefing. After all, without understanding the reality of the client/user, there is no way to help them in the best way, right?

Furthermore, the methodology adopts principles that make the work more dynamic and participatory. Its premises are:

Integrative thinking

The more multidisciplinary the teams, the greater the possibility of generating ideas that complement each other and create something new.  

Test of possibilities

One of the pillars of design thinking is that ideas are put into practice first in low-fidelity prototypes, in order to be tested with users to refine them and come closer to the ideal. This allows us not to invest large resources in ideas that we don’t know will work.

Creativity to solve problems

Practice combines divergent and convergent thinking systematically, which helps in the search for more creative solutions.

Visual method

We love post-its! The premise of always leaving ideas visible to everyone and the famous “I’ll draw it for you to understand” works – a lot.

Encouragement to put ideas into practice and learn from mistakes

The generation of knowledge and value happens because ideas are tested. And when they work, great! But eventually some things will turn out differently than expected and it is necessary to learn from this.

And how does design thinking apply to the reality of agencies?

Design thinking is a viable and practical alternative to open new paths for innovation in the business world. Especially in such competitive environments as marketing agencies. Differentiating itself from the competition through better services and products, more creative and with a high standard delivery and strictly aligned with the customer’s needs is more than necessary: ​​it is a sustainable path for growth.

Marketing agencies and service providers face daily challenges with their customers, who are increasingly demanding and have endless options for self-service solutions, competition from other agencies and freelancers vying for space in the market. For this reason, the need to differentiate itself in this market and innovate in its products and services is becoming increasingly latent.

But how to generate value for the company and its customers? Here we have separated 4 situations in which agencies can take advantage of this powerful methodology to do this:

Content production

The way to consume content has changed. We currently have many channels, platforms, media and resources to do this. And this huge amount of options is a lot to make mistakes in trying to generate buzz and viralization of content. They can even have consequences, such as using language and means that are not suitable for the audience that needs to receive the message. Or, in the worst-case scenario, you don’t even know who will get the message.

Design thinking can help you with content production like rudn . It allows us to better understand who the target audience is, how they behave, what media they consume, what language they speak and, above all, what they understand. So you can work on producing more interactive, functional and visual materials.

Another important point is to explore what can be done differently and better to obtain greater assertiveness in the transmission of certain content. An example? EBooks are great tools for imparting knowledge and serving as rich materials. But if your audience is more teen, maybe content in videos, games or multiple media is much more effective. By the way, we’ve already written on the Resultados Digitais blog about creative ways to produce content. How about creating other shapes using these as a base?

Customer projects

When it comes to client projects, just applying a Ctrl C + Ctrl V doesn’t work very well. After all, each customer is unique and has its infinite peculiarities.

Using design thinking to understand customer needs and develop creative solutions that are highly aligned with their goals is an excellent way to deliver a value-added result.

In this case, there is the possibility of doing immersion workshops together with the client or even with the target audience he works with in order to achieve maximum empathy through the application of appropriate techniques and tools. This participatory process helps to create solutions that are more connected to the needs of users and allows the people who will use the product/service to be able to give, from the beginning, the necessary alignments and subtle perceptions that often the briefing made by the agency’s service can’t capture.

Consequently, this is a way to seek more assertiveness, less rework and a better delivery approval rate. Not to mention customer satisfaction, with the best results that will be delivered.

Creation of new products and services

And why not start looking for differentiating services and products that the agency already offers, and create new ones? Doing what everyone else is doing is very obvious and over time it becomes outdated.

Bringing the team together in structured co-creation sessions and developing internal projects aimed at finding new solutions — or improving current ones — can be a viable path. In addition to having a low cost, it can generate results where people will feel more ownership of the process. And, consequently, they will be more motivated to work with them.

For this, people need to have a minimum of knowledge about how design thinking works and its main mindsets. They also need to be equipped with tools and some facilitation guidelines, and be willing to put many ideas into practice.


As important as having a relevant brand and/or name, good branding and providing the market with an image that truly corresponds with the company is crucial. Brands are seen by people, and more than that: they are felt, reinforce lifestyle, set the tone for the business and attract thousands of followers who identify and buy their causes. They are alive.

When we talk about promoting experiences to brand advocates, design thinking again fits like a glove. Through its steps and tools, it is possible to understand who these people are who interact (and love) the brand, and from there, create new experiences for them. And if the brand is still seeking positioning and identity, the study is even more necessary, precisely because it offers subsidies and relevant information, and seeks to understand the reality that the other sees.

Case: design thinking in practice

One of RD’s partner agencies, A2C, has been generating more and more value by using Design Thinking in projects. We spoke with João Menezes, the agency’s UX design leader, who told us how the approach was incorporated by A2C.

In the beginning, all designers were part of the creation team, without well-defined profiles, that is, each one did a little bit of everything. But, over time, the team started to grow and the profile of the clients began to change to a more robust profile: bigger clients with more complex challenges. At the same time, about five years ago, one of the designers came into contact with design thinking in his postgraduate studies. And with that, some valuable insights began to emerge:

“Why not have the client (user) test the solutions while they are being built?”

In the previous process, the teams received the planning of the solutions and then started to prototype them. But when the customer and customer-to-customer became involved, feedbacks were much faster—avoiding a lot of rework.

A while later, João also specialized in design thinking and then the approach was inserted in the organization in a more consolidated way. Currently, the creation and UX design team are independent, working focused on their skills, and the company has people thinking about the process in a much more oriented way. In addition, João said that DT today goes beyond creating projects for clients: seeking innovative solutions and using empathy permeates the most diverse areas of the organization, such as internal improvements at work, customer relations and fostering intrapreneurship.

More than a set of methods and tools, the adoption of the design thinking work approach is an invitation to organizations that seek to be more strategic in their performance in the market, especially when they are concerned with creating value and creating a new future, in various aspects.

Seen only as a “method”, design thinking may be just another management tool that will soon be shelved like many others. But when we internalize its purpose and incorporate into our DNA that innovation is strongly linked to understanding the other, and the entire organization starts to pursue the best result for its customers based on their needs, we begin to understand why some companies manage to develop and be so innovative, while others are mere copies in the market.

Which side do you prefer to be on?


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